Highball Fabricators

Our Story

THE MAN ON TOP OF THE BALL

By Tim Frey

THE PASSION

Seeking employment as a young boy, after having tried several different occupations, from milking cows, to produce farming, to woodworking, I was offered an assembly job in a welding shop. (19 years ago on this day, 04/11/19)

I took the opportunity, and was soon offered a chance to weld a little. I well remember my bosses uncomplimentary comment, after leaving me to myself for a couple pieces. He said, "I thought you said you could weld, that looks like the pigeons roosted here". Nevertheless, he gave me a couple tips and pointers, and I was soon welding on my own.

It wasn't long until I was getting compliments, but it wasn't until later years, that I grew to believe, that, "welders are born not made" and I was just lucky enough to be born that way. I couldn't understand why some people couldn't seem to get it, no matter how I explained, demonstrated, etc. I guess it's a little like the Jeep bumper sticker, you know, "It's a jeep thing, you wouldn't understand." For me, "IT'S A WELDER THING, YOU COULDN'T POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND".

One especially memorable compliment, was actually only shared with me second hand, (you know how old fogies can't compliment anyone). My uncle, told my cousin, who shared it with me, "I've had all kinds of welders in here, but when Tim welds something, it's going to hold , till it rusts away to nothing, but a pile of weld". Isn't it funny, how even secondhand compliments, can leave an impression that last for years?

GROWTH

Time went on, I was running the shop mostly by myself, had gotten married, and was blessed with a baby boy, when my boss bought a farm out of state, and made plans to move. This left us, with the opportunity, to purchase the property, a few basic pieces of equipment, and go into business for ourselves, building commercial gates. So we borrowed a little money, and started T & S MFG CO.

Life was good, three meals a day at home with my wife, and by this time two children, and all the work I could handle. I soon hired an employee, to help meet the demand for gates. Business was booming!

FAILURE

I well remember my boss telling me, "Gates are feast or famine, you’re going to want to find something to supplement the business". The second year in business was 2008 steel prices spiked, and this poor uneducated boy, forgot to follow the trend. Long story short, some gates were built at little more than material cost.

The spring of 2009 rolled in, and the booming business just didn't come as it had in '07 and '08. The years '09 and '10 were just a time of survival, business got slower, not knowing where to turn I just kept plodding, work lost it's appeal, bills kept piling up, vendors started demanding payment before delivery... Finally, in late 2010 I heard of an open construction job position, and summed up the courage to call about it.

I got the job, and at-least had an income again. Somewhere in there, I turned all the book work over to my wife, basically accepting defeat.

OVERCOMING FAILURE

I kept looking for better work, and in spring of 2011 I heard of a welding shop position, and called about it. I got the job, and resumed my love affair with welding. I was soon sharing tips, demonstrating techniques, and generally helping where I could.

Here I was introduced to more of a general fabrication environment, starting of with raw steel and building something. Here is also where I first was introduced to GTAW (tig welding), I was soon the tig welder for the shop.

In October of 2011, a tragic accident left an unfilled foreman position. I filled it, and was therefore doing less welding and getting more into a “swing man, trouble shooter” type of position.

After almost 6 years of working for the other guy, and paying off bills, my urge had come back, to be my own boss, make my own decisions, and not have to answer to anybody, as to why I handled a given situation, in a given way.

I had a few things lined up, and had the desire, (like a boy wanting to jump of the high dive but not quite having the nerve) and with a little nudge from elsewhere, I did it.

LESSONS LEARNED

As we started our venture, anew, 10 years wiser, it was with trepidation. But, we had both learned a few lesson, from our fall, for the wife, one of them was, to be involved, she now takes care of accounts payable. I have learned, to give the idea time to mature, and to weigh the pro's and con's of the idea. Another thing that we learned from the first venture, was “If you always did, what you always done, you'll always get what you always got”.

So, not long after committing, and telling my ex-boss see-ya, I made a phone call, that was, one of the smartest phone calls I ever made. The lesson I had learned, after almost starving, is to go look for new accounts, ask someone for financial advice, make that phone call. You never know when you might make the perfect call, and find someone that needs a service just like yours! It never hurts to ask.

During my employment I had a chance to take, and Pass the Prestigious AWS/CWI . This widened my welding horizons dramatically! With everything I learned from becoming a CWI , my biggest take home is (I HAD NO CLUE THERE WAS SO MUCH, I DIDN'T KNOW). The same in business management, the more I learn, the more I realize, how little I know.

Today we have hired a coach, to help us see some of the pitfalls a business brings, before they become a crisis. We are trying to exercise patience in the hiring field, setting a really high standard for prospective employees. We try to keep the A.R.T. Of "People Centered Leadership" as the foundation of our day to day interactions with employees and clients... More could probably added, but, you might start thinking we have all the answers. We, in no way, pretend to have all the answers, we are simply students, trying to make the world a better place.