They discuss generation gaps, the dynamic between parents and children when working together, and what Brandon had to consider when switching from a job at Google to a family business. Mark and Brandon say they have different communication and work styles due to their generational gap; for example, while it would be natural for Mark to call a customer or vendor, Brandon would rather email them. Furthermore, due to the fact that Brandon used to work at the multi-billion-dollar entity that is Google, financial resources have never been a constraint for his prior working experience. Therefore, he would rather pay more money to save time, while Mark would rather spend more time on a process to save money. When it comes to bridging their gaps, Mark says compromise and trust are key.
If you are considering joining or starting a family business, Brandon and Mark agree it is crucial to consider how other people like extended family members may be affected (spouses, children, grandchildren, etc.). Before Brandon transferred to SPS, he created a document for his wife outlining how the transition from Google to SPS would work and how to mitigate the risk of joining a smaller family business.
Ultimately, Brandon and Mark have been able to maintain their close father-son relationship and have learned to trust and respect each other’s skills and contributions. They say keeping lines of communication open, holding each other accountable, prioritizing the right goals together and discussing one another’s visions for their lives within and beyond the company is pivotal to successfully running a business with family.
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Welcome to The Ripcord Moment. I'm your host, Joe Seetoo. Today I'm joined by Brandon Hyman and Mark Hyman. They are the founder and president,
I should say Mark is the founder, president of Alliance Finished Manufacturing and also Stainless Process Systems, SPS. SPS designs, engineers and fabricates
sanitary processing systems for the pharmaceutical, biotech, aerospace and nutraceutical industries and additionally, Alliance. It's been involved in designing
and scaling environmentally friendly electroplating solutions for structural composites for commercial applications and for military aircraft. Mark, why don’t you spend just a minute talking about your background because it's fascinating.
We’ll talk about you Brandon in just a second. So you have a background in chemical engineering from UCLA. You went on to do your Masters of Science
in chemical engineering and then a doctor of philosophy and materials in mechanical material and mechanical engineering at UCLA. And you've also been a co-inventor in a number of patents.
And then on the flip side, you know, Brandon, with your background, you are the COO of Stainless and you really lead the creative engineering and technology teams that are driving the scale of the company's operations to meet the growing demand in the biopharma and aerospace industries.
You also have a very successful track record with some Fortune 500 companies on these large projects, taking them from sort of a start up through finish. So it seems like a great father son team, a great dynamic. I'm looking forward to our discussion today, guys.
Thank you for having us.
Well, Mark, let's maybe start with you with, you know, your spirit of being an entrepreneur, but you've been doing this for a few years. Now you've got Brandon on the team, sort of what keeps that spirit alive at this stage of the game for you?
Well, partly why I started my own business is I was an aerospace engineer. They actually sent me to get my degree and then subsequently they laid me and 10,000 other engineers off when there was a transition from Ronald Reagan and Star Wars to George Bush. And there was no need for the weaponizing space. So I had to figure out what was I going to do with all of this education. And so one of the things I realized when I was working in a large aerospace company is if I was going to work
this hard, I wanted to control my own destiny and I wanted to control my own wealth. So that's what actually led me to actually one, being unemployed, but two, that was my motivation for actually starting my own company. And what basically gives me the desire that I wake up enthusiastic every morning is that I have my own freedom. I don't have to call into a boss and fake that I'm sick. I can control my own freedom. I can go into any industry that makes financial sense. And I also have the opportunity to explore different ways of moving the company. But when you're in a corporate environment, you basically do what they want you to do, and that's a little bit different.
Yeah, so it sounds like to you not being boxed in, I can almost see with your hands there feeling like that freedom speaks to who you are and what motivates you every day. And whether that was ten, 20, 30 years ago and even today, that's something that that drives you forward every day.
And now, what's the transition been like for, you know, bringing Brandon into the mix?
Well, it's been it's been a blessing. And it's also had its challenges. Brandon did not grow up in any of my businesses. So it's a little bit different than a family run business where traditionally the offspring, you know, start either out of their college education, getting involved in the family business.
Brandon forged his own path at these Fortune 500 companies, and so he has a completely different perspective. So but I enjoyed his perspective because it's innovative, it's high tech, but it's also scary for somebody who's coming from an old school environment.
Yeah. I mean, Mark is absolutely right. I grew up honestly not wanting to go into these businesses. You know, Mark would go into work on the weekends and it was this place that I resented because it took my father's time away from hanging out with me on the weekends. And so I actively pushed these companies and these ideas away.
And it wasn't until I was much older that I actually learned to. I started getting curious about what are these companies? Why does he care so much about them?
And I think that's really kind of been a through line.
Like at Pixar, I worked with a lot of technical and engineering teams and then I went from Pixar to Google, and there I went even more into deeper engineering problems and working with various systems and various customers.
I just, I became more and more interested in sort of what these technical teams do and how they build these very sophisticated products. And, I took that information
and those questions and I kept asking Mark about what he's doing and why he's doing them.
And that ultimately led me to getting more interested in the companies themselves and why they're actually important and why he's passionate about them. And so for me, I think it’s honestly been a multi-decade journey to find out what these companies are and why they matter. And so the transition was, okay, I’ve got this education, I’ve got this experience at these other companies. But, now let me see if I actually learned anything in those experiences and apply them to sports and Alliance
and it’s been a huge learning opportunity. I think a big thing for me is I learned to appreciate a much deeper level how much understanding
my dad has of chemical engineering, of process engineering and mechanical engineering that I think I really took for granted honestly before actually
joining the companies. And because what he does at the companies is so complex. There's actually very few people on the planet that understand it. Yeah, it's a huge strategic advantage for the companies and I didn't know that when I made the leap.
I had an idea of it and I saw some kernels of it. But really it was, you know, actually working side by side with them on a daily basis in these meetings with customers. And they run into problems either before they've even started the project or whether in the middle of the project. And Mark is actually the only one on the call that can solve them. And I think it's in those moments where I recognize that, oh, wow, these multibillion dollar pharmaceutical aerospace companies, they don't have all the puzzle pieces. Yeah. And because of Mark's unique background and because he's done this for more than 30 years, he is able to solve problems that it just
seems like no one else is able to solve. And it's that respect and that, I guess, admiration that I didn't really appreciate before actually
being involved with them on a daily basis.
That's just so heartwarming. But it also it's so interesting how, you know, I think it's sort of the journey many of us go through in life, which is we you know, we have our own idea. You know, we sort of veer away from what is known to us for whatever reason. We aren't able to appreciate it until much, much later in life. But you used the word just a minute ago that and we talked a little bit about it in the past, how I think you guys have a really unique skill set.
I think you identify it where, you know, Mark, you have tremendous technical expertise deep within the industry and then branding. You have a really interesting skill set related to technology and scale. Talk to us a little bit about that dynamic, sort of how you see that helping to position SPS and even Alliance
for future success going forward?
Yeah, I think as I was kind of saying earlier, Mark is incredibly good at solving these very, very complex engineering problems. And I think a lot of what I'm doing is
honestly just making sure that we for lack of a better description, get paid for that. Because Mark likes solving those problems. We've done a tremendous amount of research or upfront work, and in certain respects we haven’t necessarily got as well compensated for it as we could.
Sure. And in these conversations with customers, it becomes apparent that there aren't actually a lot of people on the planet that are able to solve these problems
the way that we are. And these problems are giant, whether it's, you know, building, you know, 200 of these very complex types of vessels or whether it's plating these certain types of composites that no one else in the world can actually plate. And so a lot of what I'm doing is simply trying to focus what's already there in a way that really optimizes the companies as well.
And Mark, to that point, I mean, you know, I want to get your perspective on how for years. Right. Many entrepreneurs have to wear all the hats, have to do everything. And now you're getting to a point where you're having Brandon, who can focus on certain aspects of the business that allow you to really drive strategic value into focusing on the things that you do best. Mm hmm. That had to be somewhat of a transition, though. And how so?
Yeah, well, it's different.
Brandon and his generation, they're very intelligent. They have tools that they can ask questions. They immediately have information
at their fingertips. I came from a world where you had to actually go read an encyclopedia. But what I find is in there's two aspects in Brandon's aspect. He has access to a lot of information, but they don't know how to use the information, so they like how to apply it? Yes, as an example. Brandon feels very comfortable as a lot of my employees do, where they'll send an email and then I'll say, Well, what's their response? And the answer is, Well, I don't know. I haven't heard back from the email. My response is pick up The phone. And call and talk to these people. And it's like I'm asking them to do something that they're totally uncomfortable with. Or sometimes when I'm talking to a group of young engineers and I say something immediately, they're on their phones verifying things with Google, and they look at me and go, How?
How did you know that? And I said, Well, back in my day and age, we remember stuff. And so we didn't have these tremendous tools. So they feel very comfortable
with this technology, but because they feel comfortable, they're highly reliant upon it. And so when Brandon talks to me about very unique words like metrics or value added, I and I answer like, did I get paid for it? Right? And so even when he tries to talk to me about you know, what the accounts say, you know, we made this much money and we have these receivables. I say, what's in my bank account? Because that's real for me, right?
You know, some of this other stuff, you know, like a receivable report is is real to him. But that assumes that they're going to pay me on terms. When they don't pay me on terms as an example, then it's not real. You're holding back. So part of what Brandon's brought to this is different than a regular employee because he didn't grow up in the industry. He looks at it from the outside with no biases whatsoever. If he grew up in the industry, he would see some of the things that I see. He does a lot of questions like, Why do you do that? Or Why don't you do it this way or can you do it easier? And and those things are foreign to me because easy and the example of the email isn't always easy to me.
So let me ask you this one and putting your father and son dynamic aside or maybe even, you know, really can't put it aside. But does that frustrate you? How does that, how do you guys deal with that?
Yeah, I mean, honestly, I have to give Mark a lot of credit because I have been a squeaky wheel in those situations. And a lot of times, you know, he'll answer
the questions for me, but a lot of times my questions seem very dumb to him because I don't come from that background. And so a lot of times it's an opportunity,
frankly, for me to get mentored on, you know, why this process is the way it is, or there are certain situations where when I ask that question, it does pique his interest and it creates a new opportunity that he didn't know existed. So, you know, why do we have this team doing this thing as opposed to having this other team do this?
And it can be a lot more efficient. So I would say it's, you know, 50, 50. 50, 50. Yeah. But our buzzwords for our survival is really the word compromise. And and compromise is a lot harder to do than actually the definition where two people basically give and take because I more intimately know my customers.
I know when you're dealing with a purchasing agent, when you have to give in to them. And Brandon says, Well, why should we lower our profit margins
or why should we do this? Because their motivation is something that is not explained to you- their motivation might be their year end bonus, right? So they have corporate structures and metrics that they have to meet. I just have to find a way to get the job done.
So I've learned when I can push them and when I can push back. Brandon looks at it as well. This is our price. This is what a service will provide.
I think you're bringing up something really good Mark, which I want to stress on, and that is if there are other founders sort of that, you know, your level of their business cycle or contemplating a succession event by bringing in a son or or whether it's a succession event or if it's just management or just dealing with the business itself, like they have to be willing to compromise because if they don't, I would think it's going to essentially, Yeah. Fracture the relationship. Right. You know, maybe we could actually pivot to that, use that as a good pivot point.
Brandon, to something you've mentioned to me, which was you had to think long and hard, I think even had some sort of discussion with your wife. Yeah, right around a contract related to you know, going from, you know, sort of a sexier job at like a Google or these, you know, these big companies, these big projects. I mean, you from what I think I remember you telling me you know, were involved in what was it with in Asia. Yeah. Right on this huge project for Google. So making a switch from something like that to, you know, coming in, working with your father, what was thatdiscussion like with your wife?
Yeah, so yeah. So at Google, I was doing everything from, you know, scaling Internet capacity in Asia. That's what it was. And yeah, those were very impactful projects. I think for me a lot of it changed. I honestly the when the pandemic happened and I was, I moved to a team that was specifically working on launching a website that was designed to help people find COVID testing centers. And it was it really kind of ignited my passion for why I joined Google in the first place, was to be directly helpful to people at a very large scale and during the pandemic, I also talked to Mark a lot about what Alliance and SPS were doing. And SPS was building tanks that were being put in the first manufacturing plants to build the COVID vaccine and deliver it to the world. Yeah, and it's literally like saving lives. Yeah. And and that was something that I hadn't experienced at Google for a very long time.
And so that really kind of was an opportunity for me to look at and say, What am I doing? How am I spending my time? And so that's like. Some soul searching there, really. If I look back on my life in ten years or 20 years, what would I regret not doing. Yeah. And this was that, this was it. And so that led to many conversations
with my wife. Ultimately, it resulted in basically a document that I wrote around how’s the transition plan gonna work because leaving a very cushy tech job with a lot of support and a lot of resources, moving to a small family business comes with a tremendous amount of risk.
So basically that document was around how do we mitigate that risk? How we were very, very clear about what this is going to look like and why is this a good thing?And, you know, I love my wife. She's incredibly supportive of me making these kind of transitions for the right reasons. And so ultimately was that document that we created to make sure that we were on the same page for making this job.
But I think what you're bringing up is just that in is with these family businesses isn't only the founder’s immediate family, but it's also the extended family this has tremendous impact on. And people need to be thoughtful about those relationships and how they're going to navigate
those conversations. And it sounds like you were incredibly thoughtful by putting it down on paper.
Yeah, I mean, you have to be because at the end of the day, you know, Mark has lived this experience for more than 30 years. He built these companies. He essentially all of the wealth that he built is what, you know, paid for my college, paid for my brother and sister’s college, you know, paid for homes, paid for a number of lifestyle things, basically. And now I've jumped into this as well. So that responsibility is now shouldered between the two of us to make sure that we build up the family legacy and build up the family support system, so to speak, to to help sort of raise the next generation.
Yeah, but. But from from my point of view, as much as I looked for Brandon’s support, I also had to ask myself my question am I putting his career in peril? Because when you work for somebody else, yeah, you're an employee. You don't worry about payroll. No, the check is always there or it's already in the bank and you don't have to worry about that. So here I had to ask myself, Can I bring him on board? As much as I wanted his support at a salary that was not too painful a reduction compared
to what his his previous compensation was. But I also had to make sure that I didn't fail because, you know, sure, he left these high tech industries
on good terms and he could go back, but he was taking a leap of faith and, you know, that he was not going to be woefully impacted. And and as I explained to him jokingly, I said he used to carry a credit card from Google that could buy both my companies in one swipe. And I don't have those resources. So coming from corporate America, I was once in corporate America and I would say I will do this and do this. And you have the power of a checkbook like when you come to work with in a family business. We have resources, but maybe not as vast. And it's not so easy for us to say, just do this. We can do some things, but we have to think a little bit harder.
Let's take that a little deeper, because I think this is a really interesting point that you bring out, Mark, which is around just experience and perspective for the depth of financial resources or resources, you know, in general for companies like yours, the lower middle market family businesses versus these big mega tech companies that are flush with cash and, you know, seemingly endless resources, How did that how did you guys learn?
Well, Brandon, he is willing to trade expediency for money, and that is because money has not been a constraint for him and his prior experience. In my case,
we're going to trade time for money because if it costs us more money and we might do things differently, we might do things ourselves as opposed to hiring consultants. So Brandon moves on a much faster time scale in terms of implementation. He looks at metrics, he looks at returns on investment. I look at what is this new technology going to cost me and what happens if it doesn't work? I can't entirely abandon my old way of doing things, even though they might not be as sexy and they may not implement as fast, but at least they're battle tested. And if they fail, I can recover. When you're Brandon's age, they're almost immortal in their in their thinking about, well, I have 35 more years to make up for this mistake. At my age, you don't have 30 years to make up for this mistake. So that balance at times means we butted
heads and at times I said, okay, you have to understand where I'm coming from and I understand where you're coming from, but we have to do it where I feel comfortable. And yet he is comfortable with this, but I'm not comfortable because of either the expense or the speed of implementation. So that trust has really required me sometimes to sit on my hands and close my mouth and hope for the best. And it's not always easy.
But when. The key is perspective. The risk is is great for me as well. And I need to make sure that if I'm asking Mark to trust this thing that we've never done before, I need to be right. I need to make sure that the data is there and that the data proves that, okay, this money is going to come in at this point. Yeah, this tool is going to make our process easier. And here's why. And so, you know, at Google, I could do a lot of experimentation. And don't get me wrong, I still do plenty of experimentation. Yes. But that the risk is greater because we don't have, you know, endless resources. Sure. To do those kinds of things within SPS and Alliance. And so for me, I really need to make sure that that bet is going to come true, because if it doesn't, you know, it's it's going to be very difficult for us to recover. So I think a lot of what I'm focused on is making sure that I do little experiments that are relatively inexpensive. Once I yeah, once I prove that they work, then I'm willing to, you know, bring it to Mark and test that on a larger scale, too, to see if we can optimize processes within the company and things like that.
And it sounds like this process of doing the small bets is building the trust so that you're getting comfortable, more comfortable with this hybrid approach. Right. And also, I have to imagine from before where again, you made every single decision, right? I mean, this is a very common thing business owners go through. As they grow and scale, they have to build depth of management.
Right. And empower that management team to make the decisions so that the business itself can actually run. It’s not essentially beholden to one individual. Right. Right. Your point is well taken. I haven't had to ask anybody else, what do you think? But as part of my decision making process, I played the tape. What what are
what are the consequences if I'm wrong?
Having somebody who's your son and also your partner, you know, there's two aspects. One is if he makes the wrong decision, at the end of the day, I don't want him to think like I'm going to hate him. I'm going to fire him, because outside of making money, you still have family. And, you know, I have a grandson, I have a daughter in law, and I have to meet them at the holiday parties. You're right. So you can't say, oh, they can't say, oh, you're fired. Or your son, or husband? So part of my trepidation
is, is is learning trust and watching him be able to do things that I could never do just because he's not fearful of certain things. I'm fearful because it's something
I just would never do. But I don't have his outside vision looking in.
Had he grown up in the business, he would understand why I do certain things, sure. But outside he goes, Why? Why do you do? A class example, he says,
why do you go get lunch? Because I'm not thinking of paying $6 to DoorDash
He says, but your time is more valuable. Well, yes, it is. But when you're constrained by resource, not that $6 going to you, but
just the fact is that, you know, it's for.
I think what you bring it up to is habits, right?
In some ways. Exactly. Yeah.
It's what I've always said about what the role of parents are with their children. You have to give them roots and wings. And it's the wings part that are really tough. And so in his case, when I say, okay, let's go with your idea that that is literally something where I have to shut up and just just watch. Well, when you say that the wings part is tough, what is what is tough? What's tough about. It?
Because they have a vision in their mind. Yeah. And they have a set of experiences that suggest to them that it's going to work. Okay. If you don't have that same experience, like I said, yeah, they feel totally comfortable waiting for an email. I say pick up the phone because that, you know, there's nothing wrong where, you know, you pick up a phone and someone answers, you ask a question, don't wait. You don't wait one minute for an email
or wait one day ‘til they respond. So so my method of of getting information is fast from the day you tell them.
Sure. From from their perspective, like, why should I pick up the phone? I'll send them an email.
Brandon, let me get your perspective on this, because it's funny. I mean, when you're talking about expediency.
Yeah, it's funny how we define these terms, but it's all relative to sort of our introspect, our perspective, our habits. Yeah. What, what's the norm at the time
in which a group, by the way it's so funny what, what Mark brings up is because it's the same conversation we actually have here at Morton related to financial planning and the generational differences. And it's funny, I have to tell, you know, some of my teammates that I coach, especially when I'm dealing with baby boomer clients. Right. And they'll want to send an email. I'm like, just pick up the phone and call them. Right? Right. So it's funny how it goes through different industries. Yeah, but but, you know, I'd love to hear your perspective on what Mark just shared a minute ago. Well, I'm glad we're using that analogy of just pick up the phone, because honestly,
it was something that I very much resisted when I first joined the company, because when I got to Google, I was actually trained, so to speak, by the culture to do the exact opposite. And you would have a phone call with a customer. Yeah. But then you'd write everything in an email and you'd send it off to them as that documentation was key. And so when I got to this, because I was operating in this mode of only sending emails, yeah, and a big part of my learning has been the cultural shift, you know, coming from tech to sort of a biotech in manufacturing and aerospace customers and clientele and suppliers. And so picking up the phone is actually a key form of communication that if you don't do it, you're actually missing a tremendous amount of contacts with that supplier, with their customer.
And so there's been a lot of learnings like that Mark just knows from decades of experience. And he intuitively understands, you know, the customers or the suppliers or the employees and ways that that's where a lot of my questions come from to why are we doing it this way? He naturally gets it. And so I've had to learn why
that is in place. So I think that's that's been one of the biggest things, you know, in terms of compromising and working together is learning where our blindspots are
and also learning, you know, where our backgrounds actually are strategic advantages to each other.
Yeah, I always say like email doesn't give you body language, It doesn't give into the intensity of someone's voice on the phone. You know, it's just sterile, you know. But I can tell you from picking up the phone, the customer says, What's that going to run? And also you tell them the price
and their silence. Well, that tells you something. In an email, you don't get.
Well, guys, I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us. We call this The Ripcord Moment because, as you know, I'm a firm believer that when an owner is going to consider some sort of succession event, I liken it to jumping out of a plane. Right. It's and the idea is that for most business owners, they only go through one succession event oftentimes, and they're full of emotions, fear, anxiety, elation when the parachute actually opens. And so for our audience,
what are the two sort of bold action items that you would recommend related maybe to a father son transition or in management that they consider making sure that they're thinking about if they're, again, going through an experience similar to what the two of you are going through right now.
So from my perspective, you have to learn to really trust your legacy if it's your children. Yeah. And that they actually do have your best interests in mind. It may be different. Their path from A to B may be through C, K, and you might take a more direct approach. But they're they're their pride and their success is to come turn, turn around say, see it worked for us. And that is something that you have to trust because it's something, especially in my case, where I've never had a partner. Yeah, that, that you literally have to believe that they do have your best interests in mind and they are self-preserving their trust that you can trust them because that something. Yeah I think it really does strengthen our relationship when that happens too, because it is it's a huge leap of faith for those kind of moments.
And so that's honestly been one of the amazing things working together is when those moments actually work and it increases our relationship,
it increases our strength because we recognize we can rely on each other more than before them. And is this something that I mean, obviously family dynamics are you know, there's a lot of complexity there.
You guys seem incredibly close, from what I can tell. Is that something that just comes natural to the two of you or is this something that, you know, you have to dedicate time to, you know, making sure the lines of communication are open and that you're actively talking about, you know, what it is that Mark wants outside of the business for his life and what his legacy is going to be and Brandon how you see your role emerging in the company.
Yeah, I mean, Mark and I have been best friends, honestly, for as long as I can remember. Yeah. So I think we're fortunate that we come from that foundation. So we never had a problem communicating. I think the one of the biggest learnings for us was, okay, now we have to make sure we schedule time or have time throughout the day to get through all of the major action items or all the business aspects of that day. And so it's sort of scheduling dedicated time for certain things to make sure that that from a business perspective, all of the major critical items are addressed between us. So we never had any communication problems, but it's more about making sure we get through all of these additional priorities for the business. Yeah. Okay. All right. So and for me, I guess Brandon holds me accountable. That's something I've never actually I held myself accountable.
Yeah, but I also operated on my time scale from his perspective. He wants me to operate on a little bit different time scale because more of my customers are of his generation than my generation. So. So they expect answers quicker. I tend to like to stew a little bit and that's something that I've had to learn to pick up my pace
a little bit. So yes, absolutely. And so having someone to help hold you accountable, you right. That’s sort of the second action item
you have someone to consider.
Absolutely. It’s that is that they they operate in a world where their time scale is much more compressed. You know, that they you know, they're used
to, as I say, the Amazon moment, you know, and I have some of my customers who what I tell them when we're going to have their product delivered. I said, you know, it's not going to be delivered in two days, but they have this time scale that everything happens rapidly when you tell them something differently, you know, they're like, Well, what takes so long? And it's just that it's just that lack of and depending on the commodity, their naivety, you know, a human child is not born any faster, no matter what Amazon says any sooner than it should be.
Right. But I understand their time scale and their access to information so much quicker than ours that what comes natural to them is still a little bit foreign.
Hey, guys, I'm going to go and wrap it up. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us and I really enjoyed the conversation.
Thanks very much for having us.