Conversations with Big Rich

Epic Phil Norvold of Max-Bilt fame on episode 103

March 24, 2022 Guest Phil Norvold Season 2 Episode 103
Conversations with Big Rich
Epic Phil Norvold of Max-Bilt fame on episode 103
Show Notes Transcript

Let’s do Epic Sh*T! You will laugh out loud with us on this episode of Conversations with Big Rich. Guest, Phil Norvold, founder of Max-Bilt Offroad is a natural storyteller, come along for the adventure that starts with a pizza.  We talk Max-Bilt, leading, Epic Willy’s Adventure, and Mo-hab!

6:39 – I liked taking things apart, if they went back together that was a bonus!

13:04 – not only did I fix a problem, I made somebody’s day

22:55 – old is cool

32:07 – good thing your middle name isn’t Lester

34:09 – there is this pilgrimage to Utah, it’s probably like Burning Man…

43:16 – thanks for worrying enough for the rest of us

53:37 – he rations out two handfuls of salted peanuts for four of us

58:59 – no matter what, it’s going to be better

1:04:07 – there’s no good stories on the easy path

1:07:36 – Let’s do Epic Shit! 

We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine. 

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

Support the show

[00:00:01.150] - Speaker 4

Welcome to The Big Rich Show. This podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the fourwheel Drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing. You may know the name, you may know some of the history. But let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four wheel drive enthusiast. So now is the time to sit back, grab a cold one and enjoy our conversation.


[00:00:29.430] - Speaker 5

Whether you're crawling the red rocks of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability, four wheels or two, Maxxis tires are the choice of Champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis tires deliver. Choose Maxxis tread victoriously.


[00:00:55.990] - Speaker 3

Why should you read 4low Magazine? Because 4low Magazine is about your lifestyle. The four wheel drive adventure lifestyle that we all enjoy. Rock crawling, trail riding, event coverage, vehicle builds, and do it yourself tech all in a beautifully presented package. You won't find 4low on the newsstand rack. So subscribe today and have it delivered to you.


[00:01:20.110] - Big Rich Klein

On today's conversations with Big Rich, we have Phil Norvold. Phil is the owner of Max-Built Offroad and Manufacturing. He has been in and around the car scene for quite a while. We're going to talk to him about how he got started in off road and where he's at now and what's coming in the future. So, Phil, thank you very much for coming on board. It's been a pleasure knowing you. For the short time I've known you, we got to know each other, I think, because of the Epic Willys adventure. But maybe it was at Masterminds.


[00:01:58.150] - Phil Norvold

I feel like we knew of each other before, but Masterminds, we really got to, I think, cultivate more of a relationship, correct?


[00:02:05.510] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. So thank you for coming on board.


[00:02:09.190] - Speaker 2

Thanks for having me. Absolutely.


[00:02:11.230] - Big Rich Klein

So let's hit it right out of the park to begin with. And where were you born and raised?


[00:02:18.910] - Speaker 2

So I was born in Hudson, Wisconsin. I lived there till I was six. I guess I'd have to say, though, that my more impressionable years. I was raised on the East Coast in Connecticut, moved back to the Midwest when I was 16, and I've been here ever since.


[00:02:43.950] - Big Rich Klein

I'd imagine if you left when you were six, those years up till six are at least with me, they're a little foggy. It's more about what people have told me I did or what we did more so than what I remember doing. Is that the same with you or do you have 100%?


[00:03:03.950] - Speaker 2

I remember talking to the moving guy in the driveway of the house, but that was about it. Most of my memories were from out east. And when I moved back, every once in a while we'll drive by that house that I was born in. And you remember a couple of things or I remember some memories of the playground out back or whatever, but most of that just kind of like you say, more of a painting in the brain than a real recollection of a story.


[00:03:40.550] - Big Rich Klein

So then let's start with being in Connecticut. And was that Madison area?


[00:03:47.550] - Speaker 2

Yeah, it was. So I was in right on the East Coast or right on the Long Island Sound, little beach town. We didn't have any immediate family out there. I didn't grow up. I wasn't into cars. I wasn't into much of those things. But my dad was my pal. So it was whatever house projects, right? I was fixing or coming up with something to repair a project or make something better. It was pretty crafty. And so that was my nights and weekends and we did some obviously, like the sports as kids and did the Cub Scouts Boy Scout thing for a while. We were brought over there for a job transfer that he had. We were able to grow friendships with people out there. But I always seem to have a connection to Connecticut or to. I'm sorry, to Wisconsin, because we would come back here every summer while I was growing up and stay with my grandma up in the North Woods. And earlier, around eleven or twelve, my parents got a divorce. And my mom had said, well, where do you want to go? I said, let's go move back to where she grew up in Northern Wisconsin.


[00:05:18.150] - Speaker 2

And she was like, absolutely not. We can go anywhere on the planet, but we're not going to go back to Wascott, Wisconsin, mainly because, well, there's not a lot of opportunity up there. Or if you do have the opportunity, it's harder. It's just harder to get everywhere. It's a little bit more remote. So she'd said there's a town called Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It's kind of the mix of everything. She was able to finish her schooling that she was working on. And so it kind of was the best of all worlds. And it was only like an hour and a half, 2 hours from my grandma's up north. So I was able to go spend time up in the woods and still have some semblance of human connection here in Eau Claire.


[00:06:10.350] - Big Rich Klein

So working with your dad, doing projects and stuff was there in Connecticut, were you? What kind of job was he doing?


[00:06:21.690] - Speaker 2

So he actually worked in salesman in the food service industry. Okay, so he worked for a company called Viola Marketing Group, and they were a manufacturer's rep for, well, every subway that you've ever been in.


[00:06:39.290] - Big Rich Klein



[00:06:39.760] - Speaker 2

Has bought all of their equipment to make those sandwiches and keep the meat fresh and whatever from Bio Marketing Group. Okay. My conversations or the ones I was around was about cooking hold ovens and like, hey, that's a really nice commercial sink. But I do remember at the warehouse or the back of their office, we called it the office and the warehouse. It was just the back of that building. My Uncle Dave, who was who my dad worked with, and it was an honorary family member because that's all that we had out there. So I still refer to them as such. But Uncle Dave had an old AMC Javelin. Oh, nice underneath the tarp. And I was like, I'd always just be fascinated by it. And I was the kid who just liked to take things apart. If they went back together, that was a bonus. And if they went back together and worked well, that was a rarity. But I just was always wanting to know what's next and how does it work? That car always intrigued me. And just knowing Uncle Dave's background, when he was younger, he was into those old cars and old Mopar stuff and specifically AMCs, he was a big Jeep nut, I guess.


[00:08:32.560] - Speaker 2

And I'm maybe just making this connection right now. But the first Jeep that I could remember was a 19th Jeep Cherokee Laredo Classic. It was two door, tinted windows, had that Burgundy plat interior. And my uncle gave that to my dad in, I think, 91 as a company car. It was his. And the window sticker folded up in the glove compartment. I remember that. And I remember back before we had garbage bags that had drawstrings in the top. There was, remember the yellow Christmas trees that were like jammed in the box. You'd snap them apart and then when you would tie your bag up, you wrap it up with this little soft, tooth looking yellow piece of plastic. And then that would be how you would tie the bag shut. Well, one of those was wrapped around one of the spokes of the steering wheel as a good luck charm. When my uncle said when he gave it to my dad, don't take that off. That's good luck to this day. Side note that's still there. And that sheep is still around, too.


[00:10:04.090] - Big Rich Klein

That Jeep is still around. Wow. And that was the XJ style.


[00:10:08.690] - Speaker 2

Yes. That must have been right after Chrysler bought it. And then it was like the first year of the figured out fuel injection stuff because before that it was a little bit different. Look on the Cherokee. I don't remember exactly what that model year switch was. That's one thing I'm not super great about. We were talking about Verne guys like Vern or Pete Trasborg. Those are specifically Pete. I don't know if you were lucky enough to spend time with him.


[00:10:46.180] - Big Rich Klein

No, I never got to.


[00:10:47.840] - Speaker 2

Oh, my gosh. He was the rain man of Jeeps, and he would know that. Oh, well, it had this type of stitching, so that must mean that it was this model, blah, blah, blah, blah. But anyways, that was, I think my first involvement in Jeeps was at 87 Cherokee. And because of my uncle's interest in them, my dad became interested in. And then I became interested in them. And we had one of those as a family car for up until my parents split and started moving around again.


[00:11:32.130] - Big Rich Klein

I'm glad you were able to make that connection.


[00:11:34.480] - Speaker 2

Yeah, that was really cool.


[00:11:36.570] - Big Rich Klein



[00:11:38.190] - Speaker 2

Because I guess it's always been well, how did you get into it? Well, when I was 18, which I would jump ahead, if you don't mind. I'm just kind of rambling. No worries. But once we moved out back to Wisconsin and I started, the people that I connected to out here were like a lot of the auto shop guys down to the Volk rehab in Connecticut. There wasn't a whole big automotive side of the high school vocation, and I was in the boat building and the TV production out there. And then we had less of that here and we had more woodworking and auto repair. So I just kind of gravitated towards that. And those people, a lot of the country guys and kids that worked on farms were the people that I tend to kind of relate to a little bit more. I picked up my first Ranch when I was 15 in an automotive respect, changing struts in my mom's car or what it was learning with the guys in the auto shop. And I enjoyed that because just that satisfaction and instant gratification. That like, oh, I take these three bolts out. I put this part in here, and then I Bolt it back together.


[00:13:04.650] - Speaker 2

And not only did I fix a problem, like, I made somebody's day, right? And then I was working on a farm for a farmer. And I told him I was like, I think I want to go into auto mechanics, because at that point in your life, you're trying to figure out everybody's always asking, what are you going to do with your life? What are you going to do with your life? I want to be a mechanic. And he's like, all right, here, change the transmission in my 96 Chevy. And I hacked my way through it, figured it out. A couple of the Bell housing polls were tight because, I don't know, I couldn't get to them and it'll be fine. Wasn't fine. I definitely had to tighten those back up.


[00:13:56.730] - Big Rich Klein

But I think we've all done that.


[00:14:00.570] - Speaker 2

Oh, yeah.


[00:14:01.600] - Big Rich Klein

Either intentionally or unintentionally.


[00:14:04.430] - Speaker 2

Yeah. And then I still kept going. And he had an old 76, no. 73 high Boy Ford as an old, like, sprayer truck. It was all routed out, just beat up, but had a 400 unit and four speed training. And he's like, oh, you can have it for $150. Good luck. There's no title. So I took that. And then that next year, my last year high school ripped it all down in the auto class. Wire wheeled the frame was going to do because you start taking these things apart no matter what it is, especially the older stuff. And it's like, oh, just a few more bolts and then I'm like.


[00:14:51.820] - Big Rich Klein

Here, all you've done is open to another can of worms, right?


[00:14:56.990] - Speaker 2

A massive can of worms. And I remember my buddies enjoyed the project, too. And we just go work on it. And it was cool to see it. Well, I found a rust free body. We got it, like, the frame painted up and a new lift kit in it.


[00:15:13.280] - Big Rich Klein

You found a rust free body in Wisconsin?


[00:15:16.650] - Speaker 2

Well, all right. It didn't come from Wisconsin, okay. I don't know where it came from. We don't have rust for anything, as you know. Yes. It's this crazy mix of whatever road salt they use and our humidity levels. It's as bad here as it is in Cape Cod. It's ridiculous. But once I got that truck to that point, then life happened. I think I went back down to the farm that next summer. I brought it with me, and it's out there for, like, a year or two. Sorry. So then I just moved back home. I think this was now, like, five. I graduated. I looking for a job. While I was going to be going to CBTC or the Chippewa Valley Technical College in town, I was going to go for auto body. I decided instead of auto mechanics, because I was like, well, I know how to do mechanics. Of course, I know everything. So I don't know anything about this. So I'll go do that, and I'll spend the next, whatever, rest of my life huffing Bondo dust. And while I was doing that, I got a job at Napa Auto Parts, and I was working with met this guy named Adam.


[00:16:49.690] - Speaker 2

He was the only other younger guy that worked there, other than I was.


[00:16:57.140] - Big Rich Klein

Most Nappa parts houses, Napa dealers. The employees have been around for a while.


[00:17:06.490] - Speaker 2

Oh, yeah. They're like the Naples, the Carquest of the world. That was like, they're the LG Parks houses you can go there with. And I was lucky to be able to work nights and weekends. So I got to see the really crazy stuff. But it also helped me satisfy that urgent of finding parts or solving a problem. Right. Someone would come in like, I got this cap off of my tractor, but the rotor is off of this other like, you'd be mixing and matching based on part numbers, sizes, and descriptions, not on your make and model, which at this stage of my game, I think you could agree that's pretty rare to ever be able to call parts house up and give them the legit vehicle for what you're actually working on. You just know that these brakes came off of this. Exactly. They're just not on it anymore. But I enjoyed that aspect of it. Work my ranks up from delivery guy up into a counter guy. And then I did some outside sales for them between five and ten. But I want to say it was late. Five switching stores, and we were in the new building on a weekend, and Adam and I were chatting back and forth, and he's like, I think I'm going to get a Jeep or no, I know what it was.


[00:18:41.050] - Speaker 2

While I was going to auto body school, my dad reconnected with me and said, hey, I've always wanted an old CJ Seven, and you're going to auto body school. He's like, I have this one that I just got for one, $800. Would you repaint it now? An one, $800 CJ Seven that needs to be, quote, unquote, repainted. If you've ever seen an 1800 RC Seven from the Northern Midwest, you could throw football through 90% of them. So it wasn't just repainted. It needed to be rebuilt and then repainted. But of course, I didn't know anything at that point. So I was like, yeah, sure, you bet I will bring it up here, and we'll just hammer it out in a month or two. Shouldn't be a big deal. In between living the College life, going out with buddies, and being hung over the majority of the 4 hours you're spending in Lab every day that month, month and a half turned into, like, four months, five months. But I learned a lot about it as I was doing it. I was like, man, these things are a pain in the neck, but at the same time, they're kind of fun.


[00:20:04.690] - Speaker 2

Adam was saying, we talk about stuff nights and weekends. I've always wanted one, too. And we had the trading post. This is before Craigslist. An ad popped up in the local trading post, and it said, like, old. I can't remember who was looking at something. I think I was looking for a Jeep, and it was like $200. And we went to look at it. There was no motor. There was a tree growing through the hood. But while we were there, Adam look, and he saw a 67 C 101 Commando, like, three vehicles down. This dude had a bunch of stuff. And he's like, he kind of shifted his gaze to that. So then we started talking with the owner about that one, or Adam saw it in the ad, and that's why we're there. Either way, check that out. And then he had this CJ that he was driving. That was a twin to the one that my dad picked up that I was finishing repainting. I was like, well, how much do you need for that CJ? And Adam's working a deal on this Commando. I'm working a deal on the CJ Seven, and the guy wanted $2,500.


[00:21:20.980] - Speaker 2

Now a broke College kid working for $120 a week at Napa. I didn't really have $2,000 disposable income, but I did have an old high boy that was, like, really close to being done down south in the next town over. So he was like, I said, I've got this 91 F 150, and I'm driving now. I got the 77 high boy. I'll trade you both of them for this Jeep. And Meanwhile, Adam sunk a deal with that Commando for $200. So he's now owns that. My deal took like, a few more weeks to work with him. I don't even know how we got Adams back to wherever we were working on it. So that was his. I ended up getting mine. I rebuilt mine to the same color scheme as my dad. So we had twins Jeeps. He was living down in Iowa at the time. I was living up here, and Adam and I were learning. And again, at that time, too, it wasn't necessarily all I need to buy these replacement parts. It was like, well, these replacement parts are really expensive. So, like, maybe we can. Well, like, 56 Belairic oil Springs are a two inch lift spring for a Cherokee.


[00:22:55.150] - Speaker 2

It's like a little stuff like that because it's like, oh, well, the lift Springs are like $110 for a pair. But these old Chevy Springs are like $42 for a pair. Just regular over the counter on the shelf and just goofy stuff like that. Spent a lot of time doing the finding the hard stuff. But we both grew an affinity for some of this vintage iron. And Adam has always been like, Old is cool, which I agree. We cut our teeth on old stuff. So while everybody's driving around, because at this point, this is the turning point into the JK out of the TJ. The TJ's were still, like, couldn't be touched by somebody of my lowly stature. And then, like, the JK's were the cream of the crop. Also, the whole model change. Everybody whines about that. I don't think we'll ever get over that. No, I can't believe they're going to do. They're going to improve things, for heaven's sake.


[00:24:11.410] - Big Rich Klein

And I find it funny, the guys that started with JK's when the JLS came out, I can't believe they're moving the lights out onto the fenders and they're doing this and they're doing that. And it's like, guys, stop, right?


[00:24:29.200] - Speaker 2

You have no idea. This is easy. Imagine going from a CJ seven to a YJ. Are you kidding me? It was like the whole industry blacked out for ten years. No, I like YJ's too.


[00:24:47.430] - Big Rich Klein

Headlights are cool.


[00:24:49.590] - Speaker 2

I know. The first chance I can, though, I'll put a CJ front clip on a YJ any day. And while I was working at Napa and having fun with Adam building Jeeps and sourcing parts and just making them, we put a lot of creativity. It all wasn't meant to be. This part isn't meant to go there. Let's do it anyways because it's fun or it looks cool or it's unique. And then at the same time, the auto body thing didn't really work out. They kind of told me to pound sand from school, and I had a promise to my mother to get a four year degree at some point. Well, I better just get this out of the way. I'm already racking up student loan debt and everything else, so I might as well just keep on this path of destruction. And I seem to really enjoy sales while I was working at Napa. So I started sales and marketing classes at the community College I was doing. Just kind of got off this Jeep High building and painting Jeeps. And I've got my yellow Jeep. So my dad and I are constantly talking about accessorizing his and what he's going to do so that I can get his old stuff.


[00:26:22.390] - Big Rich Klein

So you can get the other exactly.


[00:26:25.180] - Speaker 2

Like, oh, yeah, you're going to buy one of those new gas tanks. Good plates, right? Because mine's a ratchet strap. And even though yours is less rusty, I wasn't much of a fabricator at that point in my life, and I didn't have any of those tools available to me. But all these different aspects, right. They kind of were all going into this melting pot for what my life was turning into. My wife. I met Heather when I was in 2005, and she or, like, Laido four. And then later, six, she bought the house that we're in now.


[00:27:08.690] - Big Rich Klein

She was already kind of successful.


[00:27:11.450] - Speaker 2

Yes, she was a few years older. She had already kind of gone through College where she was just finishing up when I met her. And she was bartending. And one of the guys gave her a job opportunity while she was bartender, like a little country bar. And it evolved into, like, her next 15 years was in the water and chemical treatment industry. So she was an account manager, service technician. So she had, like, a job. And then she was married to this degenerate or not married, but dating is degenerate, who is spending all this money and their money on Jeep stuff. And, like, this is going to be really cool someday, I promise. Maybe.


[00:28:07.410] - Big Rich Klein

I promise.


[00:28:08.150] - Speaker 2

Maybe also, I just need to get this new toast strap. All right. When she bought that house, it was a one bedroom with, like, a two or a four car garage underneath the house, built on a slab.


[00:28:31.010] - Big Rich Klein



[00:28:32.050] - Speaker 2

I know she loves the land. We're on, like, 810 acres with a little trout stream. And I was like, right now, I can live in this shop. And so we would be renting on stuff, and I'd be picking up extra work or projects from the night and weekend people that needed stuff done at Naples because he would come in and they'd be buying brake pads. And, like, I don't even know how to put them on. Like, oh, well, I'll put them on for you, make $50 or whatever it was. And so I was doing that working with Adam and my dad, and all the while going to school about sales and marketing. And they kept talking about, like, make up a fictitious company. And then let's design a product and how would you market it? And this thing and I want to just keep building Jeeps. This is too fun. How about my fictitious company? It can be that. And my dad was going to buy a toughie center console for, like, $350. I was like, dad, why on Earth would you do that? Why don't we just make one that's so expensive now? Also know that now I am much more expensive than that first center console, but with many more features.





[00:30:03.530] - Speaker 2

And the times have changed. But his perspective at that point, and the mother of invention truly is necessity. And if you don't have money but you need to have it or really want it, you'll figure it out. This was even before I moved into that new house while I was going to school. We were faxing back and forth, like, sketches because we didn't have camera phones or pictures or we didn't have. So we're legit faxing or scanning and emailing Blueprints and on how to build a center console that not only is that's a center console, because, like, the old Jeep really didn't have anything that you could lean on or that was worth it. So we wanted that. We also wanted a spot to put the CD player because we were both burning up CD players because the cows leak no matter what. So it's like, oh, let's put one right here. And it'll be secure, too. I guess that's a cool byproduct. And then there's no Dome lights. Let's put some lights in it, too. And how about a power socket so you can charge your phone or your ipod? And also, that stuff seems so weird and antiquated, but it's not that old.


[00:31:27.790] - Speaker 2

No, it's not like my eight track.


[00:31:31.390] - Big Rich Klein

But, hey, but I cut my T's on eight track.


[00:31:35.010] - Speaker 2

I know. As soon as I said that, I was like, yeah, you've seen way more than I've seen. I'm looking at a Holly Sniper EFI kit and just having that same conversation yesterday when it came into my office. Like, look at what's happened in our lifetime. This is incredible.


[00:31:55.710] - Big Rich Klein

I made side money rebuilding Rochester Quadrajets. Yes, that's how I made side money. Okay, people look at me go, what is that?


[00:32:07.890] - Speaker 2

Long live the Rochester 2G car. But Adam still has a whole boatload of them because that's kind of his niche, too. He just loves doing that. But, yeah. So one thing led to another. We had this product for center console, and I was using it in my, like, fake classes. And then one day, what should we name this thing? And I think my dad popped in and he's like, what about Max Built? My middle name is Maxwell.





[00:32:43.370] - Speaker 2

And it sounds better than Phil built my dad. Good thing your middle name isn't Lester. And then it would be less built. But I think it was just before 2008, I ran into a buddy when I was doing sales calls at Napa. There was an engineer at a sheet metal company, Jay Miller. And I was like, hey, dude, he was working on some Toyota drift racer on a weekend or on off time at a shop, and he worked for Wisconsin Metal Fab. And he's like, yeah, man, I've always wanted to get into this industry. It's cool that you're kind of dabbling with that stuff. Maybe I can. We could be partners. I'm like, you don't want any of this train wreck, trust me. And I said, But I'd love to have your help, and, like, I can get you involved, and we can do things together, but you don't want to share in whatever debt that I'm going to run into, because I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. And it was pretty much like, Fair enough. And honestly, I didn't want to be fiscally tied to anybody, even still, because the decisions we're more of a co op now with the whole team.


[00:34:09.340] - Speaker 2

Everybody kind of makes it helps make the decisions. But early on, it was just like, man, who knows? What if this doesn't work out? I can't trust myself for 30 seconds, let alone to see a product through its entire life cycle. But we ended up designing it in sheet metal. And I said, there's a big show in this place called Mohab. Mohab? I don't know. It's somewhere in Utah. It's like the Mecca for Jeeps. Every year there's this pilgrimage for all these crazy Yahoo. It's probably like Burning Man. I don't know. But they have a big trade show, and we should probably go there and we'll build ten of these consoles. We'll go out there, we'll sell them all. Some big companies will just kind of pick up the product line, and then we'll just get paid royalties, and then we'll just keep building Jeeps. That's not how it worked.


[00:35:16.510] - Big Rich Klein

Great concept.


[00:35:19.510] - Speaker 2

Well, I'll tell you, man, this is kind of fun to relive. Thanks for letting me do this, Rich. By the way, this is kind of fun. We set up an assembly sweatshop in the downstairs of my current house or in the garage. The shop. I don't know, Maxville intergalactic World Headquarters is what we would call it. So we had tunes cranked. My wife's cousins were over Lami Jay with this younger guy, Jesse Crow. We'd nicknamed him Shop Rap. And we were just jamming and hustling and drinking beers and putting together consoles. And that was before powder coating was an option, because you actually had to pay people for that. So we just got the HVLP with some Rustoleum hammered black paint, and we're spraying them in one section of the garage. We've got folding tables in another section where as soon as they're dry, we're piecing them together, and then we're wrapping them in, like, whatever sheet plastic we can find, and then stuff in a couple of, Uhaul, boxes taped together. And I didn't have a truck. So during my sales.


[00:36:52.020] - Big Rich Klein

You traded your trucks?


[00:36:53.710] - Speaker 2

Yeah. So that's gone and my wife had a little, like, Pontiac Sunfire that I was allowed to drive because she's amazing. And I had my Jeep. But, like, that wasn't going to tell anything. That's going to go on the trailer. And we'll put a console in it and we'll show it in one of these at this booth, this show thing. And so I borrowed a trailer because I was also working on another guy's Jeep, a Scrambler, Mike King, who I just got to reconnect with. And he brought another scramble over for us to rebuild last summer. But I was working with him on his project at his house. He had a really nice trailer that he said I could borrow. So then I was like, all right, so I've got a Jeep. I've got a trailer now, and I'm getting product built. I got to find a truck. I was talking with this guy that was a mechanic at a lawn care company, Scott. And I was like, hey, Scott, do you know anybody? I'm looking to borrow a truck. And he's like, I got an old Chevy. It's a one time. It's nothing pretty, but it'll get the job done.


[00:37:59.890] - Speaker 2

It's reliableish. And I was like.


[00:38:03.420] - Big Rich Klein

Dealer all the way to Utah.


[00:38:08.990] - Speaker 2

Yeah. Towing a trailer with Jeeps on it not apocalypse. Oh, my gosh. It was Jay, my wife, myself. And then we were going to pick my dad up in Iowa on the way. So we load up, we put fuel in.


[00:38:29.570] - Big Rich Klein

Well, you had two people with money then your wife and your dad, right?


[00:38:33.620] - Speaker 2

Yeah, exactly. Thank God. We're like, okay, so the trade shows on Thursday, we'll get there on Tuesday because setups on Wednesday, or maybe we'd get there on Monday and then we'd hang out, do any last minute we'd wrench on the Jeep because, of course, that wasn't ready to. And we didn't really know much about trail riding at the time. It was more just I just like to jam out with the top down and listen to music. That was what made it fun for me. And so we're cruising through and we get down to Iowa to pick my dad up. And it's a 352 wheel drive crew cab. And it's actually quite comfy. I don't know. Those old trucks are kind of fun. And you don't go fast, but you go until you hit, like, Des Moines and then IEY west towards Council Bluffs and those first little Hills. It was like, wow, this thing is really Township. You got to go pretty slow. And then we hit Omaha and Lincoln, and it was just like chugging and chugging and Chucking is going on I 80 going west. I have broke down in pretty much every pull off stop between here and Moab, Utah, also.


[00:40:06.030] - Big Rich Klein

But this one trip or other combined on all of them.


[00:40:09.610] - Speaker 2

Okay. Because this started our annual pilgrimage myself, because each year it had to be better than the year before, right? And so we cruise out there. I want to say it was just west of Lincoln. I don't know. We had to start running seafoam through the car because it just wasn't running right. And it didn't have power. So probably nothing major. Well, then we ended up towards North Platt, changing all the spark plugs and spark plug wires, wondering why we were only running 50 to 55 miles an hour. Then we get down to I remember Fort Morgan, Colorado. And then it was like every other component that we could throw at it other than a map sensor. We'll be back to that in a minute. We get down to Denver and.


[00:41:18.270] - Big Rich Klein

Mountain in front of you.


[00:41:19.690] - Speaker 2

Yeah, because it's already been 24 hours. Not the 15 or ten to 15 that we thought it was going to take. It's already been a full day. We've slept. We stopped at a hotel. Thanks for my dad for having the Hilton Point. So we get down to Denver and we pull up into Evergreen, just start climbing. And the thing is not going anywhere. It's like 15 miles an hour to the wood trying to pull this truck and trailer up. So we pull over an Evergreen for pizza. There's a little pizza joint right off because when the trucks not running right.


[00:41:59.390] - Big Rich Klein

Pizza is always a good choice.


[00:42:01.350] - Speaker 2

So we had to do something, man, because I'll tell you, here's the other thing. It wasn't yet. Well, it seemed chilly. We'll be back to that in a second, too. But as we're climbing an altitude, things aren't working. And we pull over because at this point, it's like, do we just pull you off the trailer? That was my dad. He's like, well, I mean, we gave it a good try. What? You kidding me. No way. Also, all we got to do is get to the top of this stupid mountain because it's pretty much downhill the rest of the way. And we're so close. Like I said, we're going to pull the Jeep off the trailer and just drive it up and over. But I've never been to the mountains, let alone driven through them. And it's dark, it's 08:00 at night. And then finally Jay was like, all right, hopping. We're going. Well, if we go 15 miles an hour, at least we're going. And it was like, can't argue with that. We hop in and we start rolling. My dad's in the back seat, just like staring out the window, just panicking, but not like, how's it going back there?


[00:43:16.480] - Speaker 2

It's fine. It's fine. Okay. Thanks for worrying enough for the rest of us and everybody else on this interstate. And so we start climbing and it's still like, now the blower motor quit working. So the only way that we have heat as we're climbing up into the mountains in the spring is if you have forward movement and air blowing through the cab in the air box. Well, we don't have that either because we don't have any speed because we about realized there that. What about a manifold absolute pressure sensor? Because again, we didn't have Google, but we definitely could. Like, we're asking everybody that we would run into or we would make a ton of phone calls. And when you climb an altitude, it runs shittier and shittier. That's what that part of this very simple system does. And we're like, oh, that'd be great. Too bad we can't do anything with it anyways because it's middle of the night now. And I remember just before we get to Veil, there's the summit visitors center. And just before you get to that pull off, there is a large bridge. You may not remember it or it might not stick out in your brain because you probably go over it quickly.


[00:44:49.810] - Speaker 2

But we weren't. And it's like over a very large Gorge. And we had a semi that's getting close to the summit. So if the semis are moving, man, they're moving. And if you're in their way, you're going to get bulled over well. So we see flying up the Hill, probably doing at least 20. So here we are just inching our way up. And then on that bridge, it just stops. It had no more power, no more nothing. We just kind of pull over to the shoulder or we were pulling over the shoulder because it was like 7 miles an hour, 6 miles an hour, 5 miles an hour. And we're like, okay, we better get out of the way here. So we just sit there. We're for reason and semis are blown by us. We have a Jeep on the trailer. I don't know. It was probably 11:00 at night, 12:00 at night. And then my dad in the back seat like, well, do we just walk? No, we can't just abandon it all. It starts back up. We get enough oomph to get off to that visitor center. All four of us walk into the same bathroom and stand around the hand blowing hand dryer just to warm up.


[00:46:31.750] - Speaker 2

My dad, Jay and I went into the men's room. How they went into the women's room. And then she hears giggling and slamming that button for the hand dryer time after time after time. So she wanders in there and she gets in on all this action. So we've thought our fingers out a little bit. She still got, I think, some like lingering frostbite injuries from this time. But we get up back to the truck and we make our way up through Eisenhower at the top there and then on the other side. To go from 5 miles an hour in the mountains to 75 miles an hour in the mountains is probably one of the most terrifying experiences ever because you don't even know if this old piece of crap is going to stop. You get a stop if the steering is going to fall off. But at the same time, you're like, well, whatever, man. Let's make up some time. We just start cruising down. The other thing that somebody told us was if you drive to Moab, you have to take the Cisco exit. Those that know of the Cisco exit, just a really cool back road way to get there.


[00:47:46.510] - Speaker 2

So that's at like four in the morning by the time we get to that exit. And again, it really was pretty much downhill from there. So not much to talk about. And we get down to that Cisco exit and it's doing key shots. Like every time you let off the gas pedal, just the old carburetor, just so much fuel and Spark doesn't know what to do. I remember the sun starts to come up in the Canyon. There's some pretty close to the edge Canyon roads on that stretch, too. Once you get down in by the Colorado, and I just remember you start getting glimmers of lights. The headlights are kind of bouncing off rock, but off to the passenger side, it's just blackness, but it's dark enough and it's so black that you wouldn't know if it's 5ft or 5000ft. We're just cruising along and you're tired. Yeah, and you're tired. You're so strong out. This is a Wednesday that we're supposed to be setting up at this vendor show. And it's 05:00. A.m. Sun starts to come through, and then I could see what that edge of that was. And it's like a Gorge down to the river.


[00:49:12.610] - Speaker 2

And again, I'm from Wisconsin, man. So we don't have that. We don't have fog line, imminent death. It's just not something that we have to deal with. And so that was eye opening in its own right. Like it's backfiring and just banging off the Canyon walls. It's like Chitty Chitty bang bang, slowly making our way into Moab, and we tee into 191 just north of town, and we hang the left. I think we're staying at that Holiday Inn right there. And we just parked this piece of shit in the parking lot. And we're like, now we have to just quick fix the Jeep, fix all this stuff on the Jeep, get the console installed, because we never did that. Do all of these things. We get to the show. We have an awesome booth. My dad from his sales experience did a lot of trade shows. So the public speaking, that came pretty natural to me. The interaction with people in those types of environments was something that I grew up around. So we had a really cool booth for at least we thought we presented well. And then there was this guy that came up during the show that looked familiar.


[00:50:41.000] - Speaker 2

He looked like they got Randy from my name is Earl, and he was just talking about how cool these things these consoles were. And I haven't slept in like, days. And I kind of look at him like, Are you Pete Trasborg? Oh, yeah. Hi. Nice to meet you. This is my girlfriend, Missy. And I like, I bought Fainted because I've been reading magazines with this guy in it for the last five years. And it's like he just said, my product was cool. I've made it. I've done. I can quit.


[00:51:26.150] - Big Rich Klein

I don't have to drive back.


[00:51:28.430] - Speaker 2

Right. You're right. That was the start of a wonderful friendship that was shut down way too soon a few years back, which is where Epic. He was a major inspiration for Epic. But anyway, what was inspiring was the amount of networking that I was able to do. Tom O'Neill from Skyjacker Suspensions was in a booth not far and introduced himself, like our products and introduced himself. And I had so many questions about how the manufacturing industry worked. Because I wanted to build Jeeps. But I knew that I would have to build Jeeps in a small town. I needed to have a national name. The fastest way I felt to get a national name was to be a manufacturer. So now I've wrapped three revenue streams up into one. So it's like building three separate businesses just to be able to really just build Jeeps and do fun stuff. And everybody in the industry was just super kind and helpful and willing to offer whatever assistance that they could to see everybody else succeed. And I felt pretty darn blessed to just be a part of it. But I also was like, Screw this whole thing. And this Chevy is a hunk of junk, and I never want to see it again.


[00:52:59.430] - Speaker 2

Can I just go home?


[00:53:03.210] - Big Rich Klein

Remember, no good story ever started with a salad.


[00:53:08.730] - Speaker 2

That's true.


[00:53:12.090] - Big Rich Klein

So you started with a pizza.


[00:53:14.200] - Speaker 2

That's right. I sold one console that year to a guy from Canada in Canadian money. I didn't even make them exchange it. I didn't care. And I have that framed now as a $20 Canadian or $20 whatever.


[00:53:34.690] - Big Rich Klein

Like $4 American, right?


[00:53:37.240] - Speaker 2

Yes. With the exchange rate, it did not work out well for me. But I took one of those bills. My wife made a cool shadow box. I kind of remember where it all started. And then it was like, then that Saturday, we did Big Saturday. And I also had no idea what a trail ride out there was. Right. Because we're from the Midwest. There's no BLM land. And you don't go get lost for 12 hours at a time. We did Seven Mile Rim. We show up, we do Big Saturday. We do the parade out of town. And we keep driving. We're like, Where are we going anyways? Well, that's 15 miles north to the turn in up by the airport. And so we get up there, and it's four of us in a CJ seven. We don't really have all the required equipment. It was kind of like, oh, yeah, bring the stuff. And we didn't have a lunch. We didn't have anything. And we start beebopping down the trail like, oh, it's fun. It was pretty. It was cool. It's close to the edge. And we stopped at this arch and they're like, all right, well, everybody grabbed a drink of water and we'll keep going.


[00:54:58.270] - Speaker 2

Then we stopped somewhere else at noon, and they're like, Hi, everybody. Why don't we have lunch for half hour? And then we'll keep rolling. Yeah. We all look at each other like, what is happening? And my dad reads his pocket and he's like, he's got like, I don't know, two handfuls of salted and shell peanuts. So he just rashes them out.


[00:55:26.750] - Big Rich Klein

Like the Donner party at that point.


[00:55:28.640] - Speaker 2

Yeah. We were on that trail for 12 hours with a handful of nuts. Yeah.


[00:55:38.210] - Big Rich Klein

That's what your wife thought.


[00:55:40.550] - Speaker 2

Yeah, right. Exactly. Whole Jeep full of them. We get back down to town. We were going to go out for steaks that night. What is it? That something paddle or something? Broken Oregon. Broken Ore. That's right. I remember when we went in there, we are going to have beers and steaks. We were so tired that we went into the Rocador, ordered our food, ate half of it. I didn't know if I finished a beer. I was sleeping before I even made it back to the hotel. That was also the realization that trail riding can kick your ass. And then it was like, the next morning we had to load up and head home. And we didn't want to go through Denver because it was so steep. So we're like, we'll go up through Salt Lake City and curve back over to I 80 because that's not right. Yeah. And I don't know. My dad's like, this is what we're going to do, I think. What do you guys think? I don't know. You just told us. Now you don't even sound sure of it. Right? As we're heading out of town, we're like, let's grab a map sensor from Carquest.


[00:57:01.190] - Speaker 2

I've had, like, anxiety to the Max. My heart is just fluttering and not in the oh, my gosh. This is my first love feeling. It's more just like I'm going to vomit. I have to breathe through every step I take as I'm walking into the Part store yet again to buy crap that probably won't fix my freaking problem. And I walk around this big, long, freaking trailer that's in my way. And I just about run into this dude with camo shorts, like combat boots, a red beard, and a Spider coat, black zip up jacket. And I was like, Holy shit, that's Clifton Sleigh. And to me, that was another guy who was a pillar of the industry at that time, right? And he was just like, oh, he just introduced himself. And I was like, hold on, man. Points bar. I've been you guys do such cool stuff. And I said, I'm here and I suck. Everything sucks. And he just looks and he's like, oh, man, it's worth it. Just keep doing what you're doing. And it's worth it. Guys like you that help keep this industry going. And I'm thinking you're the one that actually does shit.


[00:58:31.960] - Speaker 2

I just break down.


[00:58:34.150] - Big Rich Klein

People have to buy parts. That's what keeps the industry going.


[00:58:42.890] - Speaker 2

Just a little bit, man. It was enough to be like, yeah. And then Jay, who was like, dude, I'll drive all the way home. We're going. And he drove for 19 and a half hours straight.


[00:58:56.390] - Big Rich Klein

So the map sensor worked.


[00:58:59.450] - Speaker 2

It worked. It wasn't perfect, but it worked. It worked enough to get us home. And everybody was happy to get their crap back. But that set that precedent that no matter what, it's going to be better. And it was very similar to that for years. So now we almost thrive on that, right? That unknown adversity Maxville has grown. I don't want to make this a six hour podcast, so I'm going to jump ahead a little bit because I think that's really what set the precedent for our business. That and do what you love and don't stop doing it. In 2010, my wife asked me to maybe find a different place than the garage since she was pregnant and she was sick of the upstairs smelling like welding fumes all the time. So we found a place just up the road. And then after a year, the landlord there was like, and you guys need to beat it. And the building that we're at now came up to buy in 2012 from it was another Jeep guy that had it, and I was able to buy that. And it was just myself and Riley at that point, he actually helped me move in.


[01:00:27.620] - Speaker 2

That was the day that I met him. We signed the day before Thanksgiving on this property. On Thanksgiving, Riley was with my cousin John. At that point in our lives, we would go to a family dinner, and then we would all go to somebody's house or drink beer or whatever. So met up with this Riley guy who was in between jobs and just wanted to do something different. And so he came to work with us, and his first job was moving from that other place to this new place. And he worked for a sandwich and a pack of smokes for four months, five months, just to help.


[01:01:13.150] - Big Rich Klein

That's a great employee.


[01:01:17.330] - Speaker 2

He'll always have a job. He's now our lead technician. And the loyalty goes both ways. And the point here, you don't have to skill set is fantastic. One thing you can't not have is passion. If you want to work here, everybody here is passionate about something. I would say Riley's passion is loyalty. And that was 2012. We kept building stuff and keep throwing our hat in the ring and trying to make impressions on a national scale. And we got more and more notoriety over the years. And then I think it was 2015. I was finally able to call over to Adam at Napa and I said, Adam, I think it's time we just came out with this new product and new tail lights, and they seem to be doing really well. And it's more than I can manage. And I'd love for you to come down. And this is my best friend, right. So don't do business with friends. That's for people who don't know how to do business with friends.





[01:02:36.450] - Speaker 2

That's who said that. And so I'd like you to run the show. But also knowing that if I'm going to trust him to run the show, I got to trust him to run the show. So he came down and he's the coup, the chief of operations, and still helping me come up with whatever crazy ideas or whatever crazy ideas a guy come up with. He makes sure that they happen. And the team has grown. It's changed and evolved. But Riley still here. Adam still here. A couple of years. Wow. 2015 was because of all that adversity that we were just talking about. We're renting out Adams old 53 CJ, three A and drinking beers in the shop. And him, my buddy Mark and I. Wouldn't it be cool to drive these punks of junk across the country, drag something out of the weeds, rebuild it just enough, and then throw a Dart on the map and drive there? So I said, Well, let's quit talking about let's do it. And so 2016 was when we drove to Moab, Utah from here, a 2000 miles trip for Easter Jeep Safari at 30 miles an hour, which that's a whole other other podcast I feel like on Epic Williams Adventure, but feel free to check that out.


[01:04:07.830] - Speaker 2

But it was all because the easy path is easy. And like you said, there's no good stories on the easy path. We started doing that in 20 16, 20, 18. We were really hit up hard to be a reality TV show. Discovery Network was all over us, but that was also when streaming was changing the game so much that budgets were cut, our opportunity fizzled out. But we had had some interactions and we caught the attention of one of our part suppliers, Car Quest and Advanced Auto Parts. And we worked with their marketing Department out of Raleigh because our marketing style, which is true to a lot of the guys in the industry, was very grassroots and homegrown and honest and we could find ways to humanize a brand. And so when we had them fly out to talk about a TV show, their CMO pulled me into my office and said, we're not going to be involved in that, but we would like to work with you. We just need to figure out how. So after we did an Instagram takeover for them in 2019 at SEMA, we started building a relationship where we were focusing on explaining and sharing our marketing techniques with their business as well as the TechNet shops like myself, which TechNet is like it's a national network of independent shops like myself that can offer my customers nationwide warranty, roadside assistance, and a host of other benefits Just by doing business with me.


[01:06:09.140] - Speaker 2

So I can give the good years and the Firestones and whatnot a little run for their money. Right. And so that branched a whole other business called Legends marketing, Where we built a team up there as well that keeps Max builds identity as Max built. But then we can use Max built to kind of help other shops and work with advanced car quest. And so I sort of put a lot of effort into that. And even epic, our third epic was this year business. Maximum was okay. Business was more like it was keeping everything afloat. We were busy. But if we stayed where we were, well, if you're not growing, you're dying. There are only two options in business, right? And even though I was like cruise control, right? I mean, maximum can do that. I enjoy this marketing bit. But then basically, our leader over on the account on our marketing side, really stepped up and took a lot more ownership over the role and was growing. Right. Because none of us was like, this is what we have to do. We're all evolving. And that kind of grew to a point where I could think about the rest of the business.


[01:07:36.960] - Speaker 2

And a friend of mine came on epic this year as a friend, it was the greatest hits year of epic loose adventure. You could see it. We actually have, like, a mini series going out on YouTube, on epic Williams adventures YouTube channel. So check it out. It's pretty great, but it shows that dynamic, Especially what I'm talking about. Now, this friend of mine, his name is Chris Cooper. He was the local radio host for 27 years. He understood marketing. And, I mean, in the back of my mind, since I knew him, it was like, so wouldn't it be so cool if someday he's just good at what he does? You could just tell that he would be an asset. But I'm not in any position to do anything like that until I started looking at there was a number of it. It was looking at where the business is. And it's like, if I create some efficiencies, this business really can grow. And Max built and Legends. And so it was like, okay, and he's passionate. He's just passionate about life and adventure. Do epic shit. That's what he says every day. Let's do epic shit, and we've PG that.


[01:09:02.130] - Speaker 2

And I apologize for dropping some colorful words here and there.


[01:09:06.640] - Big Rich Klein

It's all right.


[01:09:08.570] - Speaker 2

Shop talk.


[01:09:09.610] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, we're rated.


[01:09:15.390] - Speaker 2

But it was just that type of energy. And he documented our marketing guy at the time. He was also a participant in epic. So to do coverage and to be a participant was a lot. It was a lot to try to manage. And so we kind of asked Cooper to step into that role on this trip, and he'd killed it. It was like day two. I was like, you should just work for us. But also let's spend 14 days in a tiny 1953 Willy's pickup cab together and at 110 Deg or whatever. It ended up being across the Plains and see if we actually like each other at the end of it before we commit to something like that. And he was out of the radio and he was kind of doing his own thing. So it was like it might work. Epic is about as inspirational, as exciting as it can get for people that are as deranged as we are. So then after Epic, our existing marketing guy, Cody, was like, man, this job, he couldn't get it to drive, which is understandable. And so he wanted to go his own way, which was like, Cooper, let's have that talk now.


[01:10:44.770] - Speaker 2

And he Cooper started a couple of weeks later as our chief marketing officer and took it as that role, immediately started building up brand partner initiatives because we have loyalty, right? We talked about that. We have reach. We have outreach. We encourage others to do better, be participants, be a part of life. We feel we are good storytellers. So just like with Epic, it was like these brands that we're working with, let's take that to the next level. I would like to plan out a tour. Like it's a rock tour, and we'll make tour shirts and we'll call it the Get Lost Tour 2022. Let's hit the road again because we've been cooped up for two years. We will go to these trade shows and events, and we usually were usually fun, but we bring a good time. And we also owe we also have some product, I guess, if people want to buy it. But at the end of the day, let's play Hammershlog or the Boot. Let's have prize wheels and stuff. Let's play bean bags or whatever it might be. Let's make it a party because that's why people are coming to trade shows.


[01:12:15.370] - Speaker 2

That's why people are coming to social media. Let's make it entertaining. And he just got that and he understood it and he solidified our brand partners. He's grown it with more. We've been thrashing like crazy for our first main event, that is on Friday, which is a trip out to the Arizona strip with four exploring Bob, Lee and Hagen and four exploring. We just finished building Coupe's Jeep last night at 10:00 with one of our Terraflex. You've known them too, forever. Obviously, I was lucky enough they were the first person let me hang out in their booth with my product as like I was somebody important. At least how I felt. In 2009 at SEMA, our first center console and A. Jk built for Dan from Burnsville Off Road was featured in a Jeep that he built for the guys at Paraflex. Again, history, right? Loyalty. Remember who takes you to the dance? And these were those guys. So we slammed together a Cool JK build for Cooper. It's getting its decal set on it now and then in this fall, we knew that we wanted to do more big projects. We knew that we had some cool projects coming to Seema last year.


[01:13:44.670] - Speaker 2

I knew that Adam and I are about freak. Like, we are maxed out, Max capacity. Our manufacturing was going to shambles because the guy we had running it, we weren't paying attention to the work that he was doing, and things were being sold, but we weren't really paying attention. So we had some major holes to fill our fabricator left. It was pretty bleak this fall. But, of course, this is where we do our best work. And we had two options. I could downsize, and I could just have the manufacturing be a thing where we basically just come to work, hang out, and play basketball all day. And it would be self sustaining for, like, Adam and I and maybe Cooper or we not accept that. And I got into this to build really cool Jeeps, and we've built some really awesome Jeeps, and we're not done yet. And so ran into this gentleman named Kent on and off over the last year. And then he came to a cruise. We did our customer appreciation cruise in October, and I had had some custom Benchmade knives made last Christmas for the crew, and I had a few extra.


[01:15:07.870] - Speaker 2

So I put it in a raffle, and Kent won it. And I thought about it later that night. I was like, Kent, to me, was an enigma. He was a very intriguing person, but who was always happy and just loved life and just loved being around people. And I didn't really know what he did. I knew he worked at some big computer company and did stuff, whatever they do there, but it was intriguing. And when he won that knife, I don't know if you pocket knives hold a special significance, right? Yes. And so I texted him that evening, and I said, for what it's worth, I think it's pretty cool that you got that. And I couldn't have wished it to go to a better person. And he sent me a picture of every pocket knife he's ever had since he was a kid. And he said, I know how important it was. After that, let's have dinner. I don't know why, but we got to, like, let's hang out more. And we went to dinner next week, and him and his wife and myself and Heather said, hey, I joked about, what do you do?


[01:16:25.230] - Speaker 2

And this is what I do. And basically, we both live to have fun, and we work hard so we can play harder. And I was talking about SEMA. He's like, I've always wanted to go to SEMA, so I get your tickets, fly out. You can always ride back with us. Ha ha ha. Okay, well, alright. The next morning he sent me the itinerary one way ticket to Vegas. There are a few people, the people that I know would do that work here. And so he came out and he was talking about getting that point in his life where he was kind of done with that career and thinking about retiring and wanting to do something different. And so it could look like this. And of course, we're a small shop looking for growth, but we have an opportunity, especially after CIMA. We got lots of phone calls for lots of work. We have some great brand opportunities with some Libert. They want to be a part of this huge bus build that we want to do and we have a lot of great opportunities. It was like, well, let's keep having this discussion, Kent, but if I can get a bigger building.


[01:17:41.970] - Speaker 2

And what he does like, his background is his passion is people, but his background is project management. And I didn't want a sales guy, but I did need somebody that was organized, that knew how to increase Efficiencies. And the fact that he loves people also allows for that constant communication that isn't sales, but is definitely an aspect of the management of the project, that is the customer interaction. Right. And so if he can do that, it'll just help with our higher end clients or these longer term projects, because Adam and I are still shuffling through the leveling kits and the brake jobs and whatever as well, because that part of the business never died either. And each piece can kind of help the other one float sometimes. So long story short, man, I feel like I'm long winded. Maybe nobody knows.


[01:18:33.560] - Big Rich Klein

No, this has been intriguing. His health.


[01:18:38.510] - Speaker 2

Well, I appreciate that. He talked it over in his life and with his wife and the people that he cares deeply about. And he called up and said, yeah, let's do it. January 10, I'll start. And he said, let's do epic shit. And I was like, I've heard that before. The guy sitting on the desk right next to you says it every day. So he came on. We've got now plans to triple the size of our building. We'll be adding on a 6700 square foot steel manufacturing center. We're going to call it the epic build center, the EBC. Kent will run the EBC. And from the production of all these projects, we've got five slots in there for long term projects, as well as two in a final assembly, two bays and an assembly area. So like a clean room will have a large Fab area as well as like, we could do all of that and still work on our 40 foot bus project that we're trying to figure out what that's all going to look like. And then during all of that, as Adam and I are trying to figure out, what the hell the hell are we going to fix the manufacturing center?


[01:20:11.750] - Speaker 2

I was like, you know, I know this guy that used to work at, like, a steel center. They sold steel. But the owner of the steel shop also would buy, like, everything, auction lots of pallet racking and cut apart propane tank cylinders like the 500 gallon. It's like a guy's junkyard dream. It's all super organized. I remember I used to go out there and there's this guy, Mark would run the ebay side of the shipping, receiving, processing orders. He also did some fantastic vinyl work. And again, over the last year, I started bumping into him again. And I remember back when I was going to Polish enterprises where he was working, man, that'd be so cool to have somebody that was, like, that talented, that just got it and had the work ethic to just know, to just do the right thing and thrived on just being as efficient as possible. You're was his passion, his efficiencies and just quality of work. Just knowing he's been putting up highlighted emails from customers that are over the moon. We put them up on our refrigerator in our break room, just like we're a family here. We want to see what everybody's doing and seeing succeed.


[01:21:39.050] - Speaker 2

I pitched it to him like, hey, man, I don't know what it looks like. And this is what I'm thinking. I'm trying to build a leadership team of people with the right virtues and values that can take this. I'm throwing my hat back in the ring, man. I was thinking about cruising, but let's just go to the bank. Let's start all over, and let's just start from scratch. What it feels like with all the lessons that we've learned, we couldn't be in a happier spot. Mark also does, like merch, and he does our merch. He's doing our vinyl stuff. Coop's getting. He's signing deals with grizzly coolers. We've got collabs with them and Terraflex and all sorts of businesses. I really think that, well, my hope is that, you guys, that everybody's going to hear more from us in 202-223-2425. My vigor has been restored, for sure. You're a little burnt out, man, after 15 years. Absolutely. But it's things like this where you're like, oh, that's right. I mean, I haven't slept more than 3 hours in the last week, but I might because it was traveling to Kansas City to speak and be a part of these marketing things that I do with advance and these shops and share some of the wins and losses from my life with them.


[01:23:16.600] - Speaker 2

And then it was as soon as it was come back. I got back Saturday night at 07:00. By 10:00, I was coming down to the shop, work on coupes all day. The next day, get that ready to roll. It's fun to build. Jeeps. Again.


[01:23:35.170] - Big Rich Klein

The passion has been that fire has been reignited.


[01:23:39.730] - Speaker 2

Absolutely. I couldn't be happier about it.


[01:23:43.990] - Big Rich Klein

Well, that's really cool. And you guys are going to consider still do the Epic Willy adventure. You guys are doing that every other year.


[01:23:52.330] - Speaker 2

Yeah. So put my foot down the wrong word because again, we are a co op around here for those that may have seen it, too. But we do every Tuesday morning, we Cook bacon and I do a Facebook live called Mornings with Max Build where I'm just cooking bacon and shooting the shit with whoever's out there. But I do that because that's when we have our shop meeting and every Department says something, everybody has something to offer or has the floor. At some point where we break bread, we're sitting there, we're bullshitting. And everybody gets to kind of talk about what they'd like to see and how we can all incorporate it. Well, we were Epic. That topic was brought up, too. And it was Coop's excitement to do it. Every year after this last one, I was like, man, we've got 30 events on the calendar right now for this year. It's 52 weeks in a year and we're already three months in. We start on Friday. So if we try to do Epic for two weeks and all these other things, we can do it. I might not have a wife or a wife at the end of it, but I try to incorporate my family into all these things.


[01:25:24.030] - Speaker 2

And I'll tell you what, during COVID, I bought a little chainsaw, saw me, I cut a bunch of trees down and built a little cabin on my property. I like being home now. I've been home for ten years. It feels like Covet taught me that I need to remember that balance and that's part of building this team. Right. So that I don't necessarily have to be the one that goes to every single thing.





[01:25:48.410] - Speaker 2

But Epic will be every other year. Continued. We're going to go back to that, I guess. Really, you heard it here first. We've decided that it will be around the Bantam Show next June and it will be an East Coast tour. So we'll be starting and or ending in Butler, Pennsylvania, and or starting and or ending in Boston. So Crown Automotive has always been a huge supporter. And they're in Plymouth or Manchester with that area marks. Awesome. Yeah, he is. Absolutely. He's so great. And so we'll start there going up into Maine. We'd like Canada to open the back up so we can go up to there's a really cool road up on the St. Lawrence Seaway that would be killer to do in a flatty and a flatty in like June. That's our goal. That's when we'll be doing it next year. We'll actually have our dates and stuff hammered out for when we're at the Bantam Show this year because that's when we will announce it. Yeah. I think that's everything I can't wait to when people ask me, how did I get into it. I'm just going to send the link.


[01:27:14.380] - Big Rich Klein

There you go.


[01:27:17.750] - Speaker 2

I haven't had the opportunity to do that.


[01:27:19.800] - Big Rich Klein

I can remember when I came to visit you at the shop. It was during one of those your staff meeting. I'd say where you were doing the video taping and cooking £16 of bacon or whatever it was.


[01:27:34.410] - Speaker 2



[01:27:35.100] - Big Rich Klein

And I thought that was pretty cool. Yeah, it was great. And I hope to get back up there here this year and visit you guys and see what's new. Really like another shop tour for the magazine or something.


[01:27:51.350] - Speaker 2

Yeah. Well, later in the summer then it will be the more impressive. It will be excellent.


[01:27:59.750] - Big Rich Klein

Well, cool. Hey Phil, I want to say thank you so much for coming on board and spending this morning doing this interview and telling us your life story and how you got to where you're at now and basically your plans for the future expansion. But building the team to do it right.


[01:28:23.130] - Speaker 2

Well, when he said it like that it gives me chills and that's exactly what I'm hoping to do. So I'm glad it's coming off as such.


[01:28:29.630] - Big Rich Klein

Perfect. All right. Well, thank you very much and I'll let you know when this is going to air.


[01:28:37.770] - Speaker 2

All right. Can't wait.


[01:28:39.340] - Big Rich Klein

All right. Talk to you later, buddy.


[01:28:41.290] - Speaker 2

Bye. Later.


[01:28:42.200] - Big Rich Klein



[01:28:43.710] - Speaker 3

If you enjoy these podcasts please give us a rating, share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end.


[01:28:56.290] - Big Rich Klein

Hope you enjoyed it.


[01:28:57.290] - Speaker 3

We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich.


[01:29:00.350] - Big Rich Klein

Thank you very, very much.