Concord, NC | Courtney Silver | www.ketchieinc.com
It can be so lonely as a business owner when you have to make hard decisions. They are my objective sounding board. They don’t have any skin in the game, so it has been really helpful getting their support and feedback to help me make decisions.
WHAT THEY DO For 70 years, Ketchie has been respected as the go-to precision machine shop, although it has grown a lot since 1947 when Ed Ketchie, Sr. served the local mills. Now, with its third-generation owner, it is an ISO-certified, woman-owned corporation operating CNC equipment. They produce custom machined parts, as well as a line of heavy- and standard-mounted bearing units. They focus on a broad range of industries including railroad, mining, lumber, and textiles. Courtney Silver prides herself on her team of talented, loyal, and dedicated machinists who are committed to fulfilling their mission to have the highest quality people, products and services.
UNDER THE CAPE Bobby Ketchie carried on the family tradition and became the third generation of Ketchies to take on the role of President and owner. In 2008, Courtney married Bobby and joined the team, using her experience at Bank of America to help run the HR, purchasing and financial departments at Ketchie. From there, she took on a variety of roles and responsibilities in order to learn the ins and outs of every area of the business. In 2014, Bobby passed away from the brain cancer he had been battling for seven and a half years, leaving Courtney as President and Owner of Ketchie, Inc.
AN OBJECTIVE EAR Although Bobby’s death was not unexpected, Courtney felt like she had lost her wingman. She no longer had someone to run ideas past or to turn to for advice. She came across an ad for the SBTDC in Business North Carolina magazine and gave the number a call, which started her relationship with counselors Robin and Nick. “It can be so lonely as a business owner when you have to make hard decisions. They are my objective sounding board. They don’t have any skin in the game, so it has been really helpful getting their support and feedback to help me make decisions.”
PTAC AND WOMEN-OWNED CERTIFICATION Early on, Courtney and the SBTDC tackled becoming a certified woman-owned business. Acquiring the certification was something that Courtney had considered, but was unsure if it would be worthwhile. Her SBTDC-PTAC Counselor encouraged her to go for it. They reviewed her capability statement and worked one-on-one to clarify her NAICS codes and specific customer lists for subcontracting. Since then, she has been able to add additional certifications like “Disadvantaged Business Certified” as customers require them.
MBAs ANALYZE BUILDING EXPANSION Courtney brought on an SBTDC-MBA intern team last year to help her decide whether to expand the building. They put together a model that can be fed numbers and output resulting scenarios. “I was blown away. I’d give them an AAA+” said Courtney. She was impressed by the end result, but even more so by the process. She met with the team only a handful of times and she felt like she was overloading them with information, but they were able to ask the right questions and extract the key pieces to put together exactly what Courtney needed. “They showed a lot of initiative and clearly had business consulting skills. It’s difficult for professional business consultants to define the root issue that needs to be addressed, then take your information and find a way forward, and that’s what these students did.”
THE PITCH “My counselor always comes to mind when I have a general business support question because if she doesn’t know, then she knows someone who does.” And this was true when Courtney needed focused sales training. Robin suggested she look into a program called Sandler. After just three classes, Courtney paid a visit to one of Ketchie’s oldest customers for whom they have consistently been making the same parts for years. Wanting to grow the relationship, on several previous visits she had offered to quote new parts without success. This time, using her newly learned techniques, Courtney walked away with a new request for a quote.
SUPERHERO Ketchie employees have recently dealt with more than their share of loss and grief and this has weighed heavily on Courtney. She has made it a priority to make Ketchie a place that provides a “family” feeling and encouragement, arranging food drop offs and providing flexible working arrangements. She knows that when people are going through something hard, performance and efficiency slips. “I’m just providing a work environment that is as supportive as possible because everyone has gone through something.”
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2018 Success Stories. View the entire publication here.
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The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says, “what do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment. We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales and the addition of seven employees. The biggest benchmark, however, was getting to a point where Calibration Solutions was big enough and attractive enough to buy.
We were aware there was a communication issue, but we’ve been able to fully understand the deeper issues, we have a plan to improve, and assurance that those improvements would take hold. There isn’t a finish line for this sort of thing, but the improvements have been recognizable and have made an impact on the company. Since working with the SBTDC, we’ve had a 20% increase in employees, and our revenues are increasing as our changes begin taking effect.