Being communicative is good, but make sure you listen twice as much as you talk focusing on what you can learn from the folks around you.
Robb Misso is the founder and CEO of Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions in Austin, Texas. During his 25 years of experience in manufacturing, he observed drastic changes in his industry, and DMS was founded to address some of the unique challenges posed by modern markets. As a co-founder of the Austin Regional Manufacturer’s Association, Mr. Misso has been able to share his philosophy and knowledge with other industry leaders and learn plenty from them, as well.
Through what the company calls “reshoring manufacturing,” DMS has attempted to reverse the trend toward outsourcing skilled labor to low-cost regions outside the United States. He built the DMS model with workers in mind. By creating a positive company culture that empowers employees both inside and outside the workplace, Mr. Misso has become widely recognized for his compassionate and solutions-oriented leadership.
Both at work and outside the office, Mr. Misso is dedicated to giving back. The recipient of Austin’s 2018 “Recognize Good Award,” he is on the executive committee of the American Heart Association and has spearheaded several partnerships between DMS and various charitable organizations. Mr. Misso is a devoted husband and father of three, and he spends as much time with his family as possible.
Where did the idea for Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions come from?
I’ve been in manufacturing for most of my career with a focus on business development and customer support. I was working for an organization that had a strategy to outsource the majority of its work overseas to leverage cheaper labor and cheaper resources, and I felt this strategy didn’t create the benefit people thought it was going to create for all types of manufacturing. In situations in which the work was either low volume / high mix or required a high level of quality control, the American work ethic and ingenuity has major advantages.
I was spending a lot of time flying back and forth between what was considered low cost region countries and the United States, and I got the idea of reshoring manufacturing back to the USA, using U.S. labor and resources in a way that focuses on automation and doing things smart to allow us to be competitive here in the U.S.
I got the opportunity to sit down with close colleagues, and a potential investor to validate the business idea. The initial focus of the company was to grow into the most advanced high purity weldment company focused on gas lines and chemical delivery for both the Semiconductor and Pharmaceutical Industries. The company I was working for previously felt as though this was not a business they wanted to pursue, making this an ideal market to focus on with no competitive ties from my past. Both my colleagues and the investor believed in the business enough after the initial discussion to set up a meeting with a group of industry experts to review the business plan so they could also vet the opportunity and company vision. I presented to 50 or 60 folks which was five times what I expected when I walked into the room who were asking questions and trying to poke holes in the business plan. The final result was where we are today with DMS growing and thriving in diverse industries.
What has truly driven the company is our investor and team of industry expert’s belief in DMS and our vision. We have the best people in the industry both on our team and standing behind up as consultants and advisors.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are pretty crazy. For me, work never really stops, so wherever I am, I’m working. I love what I do. I love the challenge we have in front of us at DMS. It’s a journey. As a team, when we walk through the facility, people are excited. There’s a lot of vision in what we’re doing and where we’re heading.
I don’t believe there really is a typical day. I’m on the road a good amount connecting with customers, and I go through phases where I’m traveling a lot. By nature, I have a visionary business development focus and I love talking to customers and suppliers working on developing new opportunities for the company, so I spend a lot of my effort doing that.
Usually, I have two or three customer meetings, and a couple suppliers I’m speaking with. I try to walk around and talk to the employees as much as possible to try to see how people are doing and get their perspective. I learned from John Maxwell that it is not enough to just say as a leader, “Your door is always open,” you need to take this to the next level and as the leader walk through the door and communicate daily at all levels with the team. You can learn a lot about a company by watching the folks that make it happen and observe if they are smiling and engaged or not. We spend a lot of our time working away from our families, so we need to work in a place and create a work environment where we all feel engaged and proud to be a part of. We have a very transparent and open culture at DMS. A lot of folks aren’t used to that, so it takes time for them to realize that my door is always open and everyone at DMS is considered a leader. I believe there’s a lot of very smart people that work here at DMS, and we ask them every day to be engaged and provide their perspective.
I tell people it’s a high clash of ideas and a low clash of egos and we need to have that high clash of ideas because that’s what’s going to make us a successful company. If every idea came from only me, we would not be even close to where we are today. We have a lot of brilliant folks working for DMS putting their heart into what we do every day. We’ve got to have that clash of ideas to keep the whole business grounded and heading in the right direction.
How do you bring ideas to life?
You have to see the idea first and believe that it’s possible. Those that can see the invisible (Opportunity not realized) can accomplish the impossible (Create what others didn’t believe was possible). We are accomplishing what some folks have said would be impossible every day by perseverance and believing. Although it is also true, “Vision without execution is just a hallucination.” When we have a vision or an idea, we sit down with colleagues at DMS we trust and have worked with for many years and outside industry experts and talk through the details of the vision or idea. We take all perspectives into account and through a high clash of ideas low clash of egos process determine if we move forward. We cannot bring a new idea to life without the team all moving in one direction together.
We have a very focused growth culture. We are not afraid to apply our skills to a new challenge or industry opportunity. We know we have the skills, the talent, and the resources to accomplish a lot more than we are accomplishing today. We are not afraid of walking through a new door. That’s really the reason we’ve grown as fast as we have. At DMS we say we are AmeriCAN’s not AmeriCAN’Ts!!!
What’s one trend that excites you?
What really excites me is the focus DMS has on culture. I’ve been in manufacturing most of my career and typically culture in a manufacturing environment is an afterthought, and a lot of times it’s deemed as something that gets in the way of progress. We put a lot of effort into culture and at DMS we believe if we can build a team of people who truly enjoy and like working together and believe in the vision and direction of the company, we’re going to be successful. The trend of learning about leadership and culture and trying to integrate that into our daily activities at DMS is probably my biggest passion. We have developed a formula for culture at DMS. The formula is (People plus Process) to the power of Vision is equal to Culture!!! You need a good balance between People and Process for this to work.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have the habit of trying to always be growing. I look at this as a very personal challenge to make sure I am lifting my personal lid faster than our company is growing. I believe a company will not outgrow its culture and with this its leaders. Both myself and the majority of the DMS teamwork with a leadership consultant weekly who helps us understand what makes us all do what, and how we do what we do. From the book Rocket Fuel written by Wickman and Winters I am 100% a visionary and I try to surround myself with Integrators to create a functional balance. I have also heard this described as the relationship between the Expanders and the Containers. Both are very important to create growth and progress. I’m very energetic, I’m very positive, I really enjoy working with people, and I’m also very communicative. I enjoy speaking in front of and interacting with the team. As a CEO when there is a problem, I don’t hide from it. I typically go and sit down with the individual or the team and we talk about it and try to understand all sides. We try to make sure we’re focused on not the emotions behind what’s going on, but what’s actually happening in front of us or the overall intent. I’m very high energy, very communicative and I truly love and enjoy people. I will not stop trying to grow and improve as the CEO of DMS and more importantly as a Leader.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Especially in my younger years with my Visionary personality I am very excited and passionate about what I am doing no matter what I am doing, and although this passion is great when harnessed in the right way, sometimes that passion needs to be controlled and held back so I am not overwhelming folks to the point they do not feel comfortable sharing their perspectives. In my younger years and to a lesser extent still today I am extremely communicative. I would tell my younger self, being communicative is good, but make sure you listen twice as much as you talk focusing on what you can learn from the folks around you. This is something that has been really reinforced in the last ten years going through a lot of leadership training and working with executive coaches. It’s so important to try to slow down and allow everyone around me to get to the same place as a team. In the past, I have run at such a fast pace to get to a goal line that I may miss where the true goal line is. I’ve realized that it’s often better slow down and make sure the team around you is crossing that goal line together versus running across that goal line by yourself. In addition, sometimes the focus on the final goal reduces the ultimate opportunity. If you focus on the team and growth and a clear direction towards the stars you will ultimately get a lot farther than limiting yourself to a self-imposed finish line.
In the last three years, as DMS has grown so quickly; just taking a pause and understanding how someone else thinks and understanding how they process information has really helped the organization and my personal growth. You cannot push someone to make a decision before their time. We need to give people the opportunity to go through their own decision-making process. In the past, I would often miss something or have an incorrect perspective on a situation due to the haste, and I have learned by letting others go through their own processing of a situation and then taking the time to listen to their perspective we all come up with a better conclusion to our problem or opportunity.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is from a business perspective – I believe that the sole purpose of our business is to focus on and support our customer. There are companies that are supply chain and operationally driven. There are companies that are financially driven. Because of my Visionary focus and background, DMS is a sales-customer driven company. A lot of people from operational and supply chain and other walks of manufacturing think it’s crazy that we’re so focused on our sales and on the customer. But from my perspective, the closer you get to the customer and you drive your company based on the customer’s needs, you create a value that everything else supports. If we can take care of the customer and support that customer and use our operational expertise and our supply chain expertise, everything else will come together. This perspective has resulted in DMS truly having a unique and valued brand. You walk through our facility and the employees have a smile on their face. They’re all excited to see a customer walk through the facility. They’re all very professional. You go to a lot of companies in manufacturing and the people that do the work are so disconnected from the customer that they don’t really know what the work they’re doing is. We try to make sure that all of our employees understand how important the work that we do is not just for us, but also for our customer.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur and a business owner, over and over I try to connect with people at all levels of the organization. I ask people what they think, and I listen to their opinion. I try to learn from the people around me vs. me trying to teach them what I know. That empowers people around me and makes them feel as though they have ownership and it gives them a perspective that they really care about what’s going on because their fingerprint is also on it. You can only know so much and when you consider the perspectives from everybody on the team it really makes it a lot more fun. I also try to always judge folks by intent, and not by results or the path they take. What is in their heart is what you can truly work with and make the company a better place to work.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We’re not afraid to grow. We’re not afraid to take a risk or to take on an opportunity that stretches us. For example, at DMS we focus on the pharmaceutical industry. We do work in the food and beverage industry. We do work in the semiconductor industry. We also support the oil and gas industry. People say we’re spread way too thin, and we can’t possibly do a good job supporting all those separate verticals, but we’re using the same skill set, we’re using the same high purity welding, the same electrical assembly, the same mechanical assembly, and the same engineering staff. The assemblies are very similar even though they serve a different purpose in a different industry. Before we pursue a market, we go through the certifications and set up the processes to be successful.
We look at the market and find ways to be diversified, so we’re stable. When we take on a new opportunity, if it’s something that stretches us, it’s allowing us to grow as a company, and it also allows our staff to grow. That’s rewarding for everybody I think. We’re going through the aerospace standard right now, and people are typically extremely hesitant to go through that because it’s very stringent. It’s about a three-month audit, but as a company, we’re not afraid. Once we have fully invested ourselves in the certification required AS9100 and put the processes in place, we will win business in this space.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My failures have been related typically to hiring the wrong person for a position because we didn’t vet the individual for the opportunity well enough, or on the other hand, we did not define the position enough to make sure that we were looking for the right person to fill that role. That’s been something that I’ve learned by going through the process of hiring. Don’t just hire somebody because they have a fancy resume, or they’ve worked for a big company, or they’re a good talker. Make sure that you go through an interview process where you make sure that that individual truly understands what the job entails because a lot of times he or she might be the right person for the job, but it might not be the right job for them. It’s a two-way street, and you have to walk through that process slowly before hiring. I have learned to live by the quote, “Don’t judge me by the people I hire but rather judge me by the people I keep.” It is much easier for everyone if you hire the right person to start with. Also, once again from what I have learned from John Maxwell, it is much better to be understaffed than staffed with the wrong people.
I’ve also learned that a company morphs and grows, and it creates its own path sometimes, and there’s nobody in an organization that should be considered a “sacred cow.” Meaning, if somebody isn’t the right person from a culture fit or from an application perspective, regardless of what that person brings to the table, we have to make the decision to do what’s right for the culture and the direction of the company vs. what’s right for a “sacred cow” or a person who might be in some way hijacking the direction and mission of the company.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Right now, DMS is excellent at manufacturing, and building critical systems for applications. We’re very excited about the UAV industry. One of the ideas we’re working towards is developing technology around the transfer of commercial data between a UAV and a customer or data center. It’s something that we’ve put a lot of effort into, and we’re filing for patents around that space. We see a lot of opportunity for autonomous flight to play a part in industries from border patrol to protection from forest fires to tracking lost people, and agriculture. There are so many applications. It’s going to be a big part of our future, so we’re developing technology around that. We see ourselves being a company that helps analyze and process data in this space versus building drones. We need to find a way to create a safe environment for these devices to work within our lives. It is happening all over the world, and we do not want the USA to fall behind in the product development or infrastructure.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We had a large staff meeting and were dealing with a sensitive topic across the company. One of our welders came in, and he had the guts to bring up his concerns, which were controversial and something that maybe the younger Robb could have been offended by from the question above. But, I stopped the meeting and started to slow down and get off the track of my agenda. I told the employee, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you just did. You represented yourself as a leader in this company. You asked a question that took guts to ask, but I can guarantee there are other people in this room that wanted to ask that same question but may not have felt confident enough to do so, so good for you.” We went through the question, and we dissected it and talked through it. At the next staff meeting, we bought a $200 gift card and I gave it to him. And I said, “This is for what you did for the meeting. The meeting was superficial until you came to the table and brought a concern we needed to discuss, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Here is a small token from DMS just to say thank you.”
I think transparency is important and it’s important to speak your mind and to have a high clash of ideas, and a low clash of egos. I could have clashed with that employee at that moment, but instead, I didn’t, and we rewarded him for having the confidence and trust in DMS and me and a leader that he could bring up a sensitive topic like that and we can work through it.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use the Office 365 suite of products, and I really like the Cloud application. I also like Google products, although we don’t use them as much. We do a lot of work with companies in which the security of information is critical. When we were evaluating cloud services years ago, Office 365 met all of our requirements, and that’s why we use them.
We use a software platform, or an ERP called Intuitive, and it works extremely well. It provides very accurate control of our shop floor providing real data on the progress of jobs on our manufacturing floor.
We also love Prezi, and we’ve been using it for almost eight years as a presentation platform that sets us apart from the competition. When we started using Prezi we were fairly small, just two years in business, and we’d go into a presentation after putting a lot of effort into creating a very professional overview of our capabilities using the Prezi application, and it would blow customers away. We could zoom in to a photograph of our facility and show them the applications we support creating a visual experience as if they were there seeing the work happen real-time. This provided a much more personal experience for the customer versus going through bullet points repeating what someone could read off of a slide.
We’ve also used Slideshark. Slideshark is an application that goes into the slideshow tool, but it’s on the cloud, and so when you send the presentation out you can go back and see how much time a person sat on each slide and see what slides seem to hit home. Then you know when you follow up with the customer what to focus on. It’s a really cool tool.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey. I think everything rises and falls on leadership, and without trust, there’s no leadership. The Speed of Trust goes through what trust is and what it does to an organization when you don’t have trust. You can’t be successful without trust, so that’s probably one of the top influential books of DMS.
I’ve read another book in the last six months that I’ve been applying to DMS a great deal, and it’s called Rocket Fuel, by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters. It is spectacular. It goes through the process of explaining the role of a visionary in an organization which is definitely what I am and is my personal makeup. It shows how important it is to have strong integrators around a visionary to keep things in balance and keep things moving in the right direction. I gave Rocket Fuel to one of the directors of the company, and he said, “Robb, this is like the manual for DMS. And the visionary, both good and bad, is like I’m reading a story about you.” When you’re a strong visionary, you’re very focused on where you’re heading and the goal of the future, and you have to have people around you that are true integrators they can make things happen, that can block and tackle while you’re looking forward and seeing the future.
What is your favorite quote?
• “Change happens at the speed of trust.” – Stephen M.R. Covey
• “Perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” -Vince Lombardi
• “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” – John C. Maxwell
- Make sure you listen twice as much as you talk focusing on what you can learn from the folks around you.
- The closer you get to the customer and you drive your company based on the customer’s needs, you create a value that everything else supports.
- Transparency is important and it’s important to speak your mind and to have a high clash of ideas, low clash of egos