How Tom McCoy went from a cook at McDonalds to running Southeast Industrial Solutions
Published by Atlanta Business Chronicle on December 11, 2017
Phil W. Hudson, Staff Writer Atlanta Business Chronicle
Meet Tom McCoy, president of Southeast Industrial Solutions.
Welcome to Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Meet the C-Suite,” where each week we feature one of the city’s high-profile executives.
This week, meet Southeast Industrial Solutions President Tom McCoy.
Name: Thomas (Tom) McCoy
Company: Southeast Industrial Solutions
Background: I graduated from Southern Polytechnic with a Mechanical BSMET degree. Later in my career, I returned to school earning an M.B.A. from Georgia State University in the Executive M.B.A. program at the Robinson School of Business. I consciously tailored my career focusing in multiple highly regulated industries: Automotive, Telecommunications, Aerospace, and Defense. The first four years of my career, I worked as an Engineer within the Automotive industry and was part of opening a new plant in Georgia for a Japanese based supplier. I probably learned more in that four-year period than any other single period within my career to-date. After that, I transitioned into an Application Engineering Sales role based in Detroit, MI followed by various management roles culminating into a Business Management role where I was responsible for engineering, marketing, and profitability of product lines.
First job: My first real job in high school was as a cook at McDonalds on the closing shift. Prior to that I would worked on my uncle’s farms baling hay, cutting tobacco, and doing what ever needed to be done.
Education: Southern Polytechnic State University, BS Mechanical Engineering Technology. Georgia State University, J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Executive MBA Residence: Dunwoody, Ga.
How’s business: Business is very good. Based on the number of inquiries I am receiving from companies seeking representation, the manufacturing economy is coming back strong in the Southeast. There is a clear need for quality technical representation beyond merely order taking. Customers are transitioning out of the “Lowest price” mentality and considering more of the total cost of procurement. Many manufacturers now realize that the cost of extensive supply chains is far more than the quoted price. Repeated reliable sourcing of products without surprise mistakes adds tremendous value to a company operating on thin margins.
Biggest challenge for your business: The amount of time and expense to establish a new principal I am representing in a new market. Many small companies expect quotes to begin flowing in within weeks. What they don’t understand is cold calling is not a viable method of breaking into new customers. For the millennials, it’s all about the digital presence. Cold calling on this generation is done through the web. Today, a purchasing manager will search for new suppliers over the Internet, and if you don’t give them the information they need within their first 30 seconds at looking at your capabilities, they are going to the next web page that results from their search. What’s going to change at your company in the next year: Within the next year, I will bring on one key primary principal to represent. The challenge is to represent a balance of principals where they do not compete in the market, but have a similar or complimentary customer base. Finding high quality companies that really understand quality manufacturing can be tough.
Company goal yet to be achieved: I would like to have enough of a book of business to bring on another engineer to cover more territory within the next 1-2 years.
Guiding principles for good management: Treat people as you wish to be treated. With any employee, set specific goals and objectives to be accomplished within a time frame, and measure to these. As an Executive Manager, your duty is to enable individuals to meet their goals and objectives. Things often change over time, sometimes making goals unobtainable, in those cases you must adjust the goals with input from the individual to support their ability to be successful. Again, your job business leader in management is to help to make others successful.
Best way to keep competitive edge: I like to approach customers with ideas and “what if’s.” Rather than just taking a print and quoting to it, I like to explore what parts and pieces are connected to the part or program need. Sometimes you can save a customer significant money by combining multiple pieces into one assembly or set of components. Often, exploring additional processing can be a huge benefit for a customer.
Why people like working for you: I trust that individuals are experts in their field of work, and let them perform how they see best to achieve results. Many managers will not trust a person until they prove themselves. I say if you are doing that, why did you hire them in the first place? Others like to control how individuals do a job and want it to be done the way they would do it. This limits creativity and results. At the end of the day, it is about making an impact and achieving objectives.
Most inspiring entrepreneur: Richard Branson and his Virgin brand. He took the idea of his brand, from a record store, and has applied it successfully across hugely divergent businesses. He does this by investigating a market, discovering what the competition is doing wrong, and entering that market successfully by delivering a specific quality to the end customer that the competition does not offer. A simple formula that his now Virgin Group has successfully repeated many times. Many Venture Capital firms miss the mark by looking to drive out cost, without enhancing the quality to the end customer.
Best business decision: Marrying my wife 26 years ago, and spending time with the family.
Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it: If a plan is not working, change it. There is a fine line between sticking it out, and staying with it too long.
Toughest business decision: Not to go back to the comfort of the corporate world. There, you can see your future more clearly than when you are building something on your own and for yourself and your legacy.
Biggest missed opportunity: Not venturing out on my own sooner. Ten to 12 years earlier might have been better timing, but things happen for a reason!
Like best about job: Working with my principals and customers. I deal with so many different issues; there is no one customer or day that are the same.
Like least about job: Dealing with militant managers that think beating on your head is going to force you to lower your price below profitability levels.
Pet peeve: People that think they can lie, and it will not catch up to them. In this business, honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity are everything. First choice for a new career: Some sort of wildlife biologist. I enjoy being out doors.
Most influential book: Leading with Honor, Leadership lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, by Lee Ellis.
Favorite cause: Charities and organizations that openly publish their operating costs. If over 90 percent of their funds go directly to the cause, its worthwhile. People don’t investigate this enough before they support a charity.
Favorite restaurant: My grill on my deck. We have multiple grills, and no one can match that meal we are creating better than us. We have done it all on a grill at one time or another. My wife is an excellent cook also. When she decides to do something special, it’s always over the top good. With a team like ours, we can’t go wrong.
Favorite way to spend free time: We spend a lot of time at our kids softball, baseball and basketball games. Its funny, each season as the season nears its end, we get a little burned out, but within 2 weeks of it ending, we are going to see friends and neighbors play ball. We can’t get enough. We also like to get away from the city with family and friends either at the ocean or in the mountains. It is the sure fire way to recharge the batteries for all of us.
Favorite music: My music tastes have always ebbed and flowed. I tend to move from classical to classic rock to southern rock to jazz. I don’t understand how only one genre of music can satisfy a person over time. These are my staples I always return to.
ABOUT SOUTHEAST INDUSTRIAL SOLUTIONS (SEIS)
Southeast Industrial Solutions (SEIS) is a professional Manufacturers’ Representative firm, servicing principals with engineering-level coverage for technical, custom products. With over 25 years of experience, SEIS specializes in consultative sales and developing innovative solutions to foster a long-term, collaborative partnership between the manufacturer and customer.
For more information about SEIS, contact us.