Episode #1:
Richard Grove, COO, Wall Control

Wall Control, The organization you crave

IT Help Atlanta presented by TeamLogic

The following is a transcript of Episode 1 of the IT Help Atlanta presented by TeamLogic IT podcast. The episode first appeared on Business Radio X

Announcer: Broadcasting from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, it’s time for “IT Help Atlanta,” brought to you by TeamLogic IT, your technology advisor. Now, here’s your host Rick Higgins.

Rick: Good morning and welcome everyone to the “IT Help Atlanta” radio show, the show that profiles small to mid-market businesses and highlights how those companies use technology to succeed. “IT Help Atlanta” is brought to you by TeamLogic IT, your managed services technology advisor specializing in cybersecurity, cloud and business continuity solutions. TeamLogic IT leverages cutting edge technology to solve all types of business problems. Go to ithelpatlanta.com for audio archives of this radio show and to learn more about our sponsor, TeamLogic IT. I’m your host, Rick Higgins and today’s guest is Richard Grove, the chief operating officer of Wall Control. Good morning, Richard. How are you?

Richard: Morning, Rick. I’m doing good. How about you?

Rick: I’m really glad you’re here and we really appreciate your time. Richard…

Richard: Yeah, I’m glad to be here. Thanks for the invitation.

Rick: You bet. You bet. Richard, tell us about who you are and what do you do?

Richard: Yeah. So my name, like you mentioned, is Richard Grove. I run our brand, which is Wall Control. We’re a wall-mounted tool storage system. Well, just wall-mounted storage systems in general. Tools are kind of how we started, but we’ve gone into a lot of different applications at this point. We are also a family business. We were…my grandfather started a tool & die shop in the ’60s, and that’s grown and evolved. Over the years, that’s still alive and well, the business is strong. And in the early 2000s, things weren’t so great and things were slowing down. We were seeing a lot of our work go offshore. And so my grandfather and my dad had been kicking around this idea of Wall Control. And we actually built some prototypes for our own floor to have a nice solid metal pipe board system.

And when things slowed down, we had toolmakers that didn’t have work and, you know, trying to hold onto people as long as we can. Rather than lay them off, we tooled up to make this product line ourselves. We created the entity which is Wall Control, sought patents for the system and started, you know, putting the groundwork in to make a product to go to market with it. And then, not to get too long-winded, I came in in 2000 or 2000…yeah, 2008. And it was…it really wasn’t anything at the time because my dad and granddad both had, you know, irregular jobs doing tool & die, so this was my focus. My background is mechanical engineering. I worked for the Department of Defense before I came to Wall Control. And so, as an engineer, I was doing probably a mix of 50-50 tool & die/wall control.

And over the course of a year or two, it quickly became…you know, I was 100% Wall Control as the brand started to grow. And we’ve grown since then. We were…at the time we were in a…working out of the same building, sharing space. We’ve moved I think three times, three or four times, depending on how you count warehouses since then and now Wall Control is in its own 55,000 square foot facility completely independent from the tool & die shop. So kind of the history of me and where we started and where we’re at now.

Rick: Well, Richard, I really appreciate the way you honor your father and your grandfather with how Wall Control started and everything. But it really was when you came onboard and started running things and implementing different marketing and sales strategies and tactics is when Wall Control really took off, right? And tell us about that.

Wall Control Wall with pegs and tools hanging

Richard: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of a function of…you know, my granddad and my dad had…you know, they were tool & die designers, tool & die makers. So not that my background’s in marketing, but I just I could kind of see where that was lacking. And again, it’s no fault of their own, just not their specialty and kind of repackaging everything in a way that is appealing both to a consumer as well as a retail buyer was I think what I had a knack at and just, you know, it was kind of…I kind of found it…it was like a natural thing for me which was great. It worked out well and, you know, made Wall Control and me a really good fit. And so, just approaching things differently than what they had done.

Bless his heart, my dad would write handwritten letters and mail them to care of buyer at Home Depot, that kind thing and with explaining how great the product is. The thing I’ve learned is, you know, a good product is only about…I don’t know, it’s somewhere around 20% of the equation I think. The other 80% is the economics of it. And if you’re a buyer for a place, that’s pretty much what you care about. You’re not so concerned that it’s a good product. It needs to be a good product, but you kind of assume that if the economics of it bear itself out.

And so to approach it from that angle versus, “Look at how cool this is, look at all this fun stuff it’ll do.” It’s more like, “Look at this…you know, look at this opportunity here. Look at how you guys can grow your brand, we can grow our brand.” You know, you almost don’t even have to talk about the product. It’s just, you know, a widget to them really. And kind of taking that step back and making it not as personal like, “Look at this great product we came up with,” but really speaking their language is what I think helped, you know, get it off the ground when I came in the early days.

Rick: Well, the story is great and the growth curve that you guys have been on in the last, let’s say, 15 years is really amazing and impressive. What kind of, you know, year over year growth are you seeing in the last, say, two or three years?

Richard: We’re staying pretty consistent at about 20% year over year growth, which is…you know, as you start doing bigger numbers, that becomes more and more impressive. So we’ve had…you know, there’s been some years where we had massive growth, you know, to the tune of 40% and 50%. But again, as you grow and you get market saturation and you get in all these spaces, to expect that is just unrealistic. So our goal is we wanna be in that 10% to 20% range. And if we can do that, we’re happy.

And the other thing, too, is at the point we’re at, it’s really…it’s very dangerous to grow at a much greater rate than that because of how you can potentially overextend yourself from an overhead standpoint. So we like a good healthy 10% to 20% growth that’s manageable and, you know, our product and our service doesn’t suffer because we’re stretched too thin trying to do too much at once.

Rick: You gotta be careful with the growth because growth is expensive and you got a husband, your cash, no matter what size business you have.

Richard: Exactly. Yeah.

Rick: That’s right.

Richard: Yeah. We’re in that…you know, there are some pretty big investments we’re looking to make at the moment. And, you know, things had been kind of crazy the last few weeks for everybody, so that’s one whole curve ball we can talk about. But yeah, just trying to balance the when, and where, and why, and all that is definitely something to consider, but we tend to make it…we’re more of the…at this stage anyways, we’re more hesitant to make those big investments unless it’s an absolutely obvious thing that we need to be doing. And we have a few things that it’s gotten to that point. So we’ll be…you know, hopefully, this year settles down a little bit and then we can kind of get back on track as far as looking ahead at growth and where we need to spend our cash.

Rick: So, since you brought it up, let’s talk about that a little bit. Here we are, it’s March 25th and we’re in, you know, the second week of the Covid disaster, I’ll call it what it is. I think it is a disaster. And what are you seeing out there, just in the last couple of three weeks, with respect to sales and what really has been the impact to your business directly? And then, what do you see going forward when things kind of come back to normal?

Wall Control Sign

Richard: Well, we’re fortunate that in the immediate, you know, here and now, we haven’t seen it negatively impact our sales. In fact, we’ve seen…from the Wall Control perspective, we’ve seen a pretty decent bump in the last week. And I think that’s a function of like right now people are at home. They still…you know, the work from home folks still have jobs and still have income. And our product is, you know, it’s for you to organize your home and your space, so people actually have time to tackle a bit of a DIY project. I mean, it’s super easy to install and use.

So we’ve seen, I mean, almost like Christmas time type business to consumer purchasing, which is pretty interesting. We have seen… As far as disruption goes, our biggest customer is Amazon as is a lot of people that sell online. And so, that’s our biggest disruption because last week Amazon announced, which completely understandably, that they were not taking in any non-essential supplies into their fulfillment centers so they could prioritize, you know, medical equipment and things like that. And so they’re purchasing from us on hold for the time being.

So we can still see the daily sales from inventory that they have on hand, and they have a good supply of our product, which is fortunate for us. So we can see that staying…that’s staying pretty even. They’re also having some supply issues. Like if you’re Prime, you can expect slower ship times. If you’re not Prime, it could be weeks before you get something. So they have their own internal issues, but because we’re so…because they’re such a big customer of ours, you know, their internal issues are also our issues. So on that side of it, you know, we see that, you know, coming back to normal in the coming weeks, hopefully. That’s the only area of concern for us in the here and now.

The future, that’s kinda hard. You know, I don’t know. You know, like I said, people still have their jobs, they’re working from home, but what happens when, you know, the Dominoes start falling and all those people…you know, in a month from now, is that gonna still be the case? And if they’re not, you know, our product is something you buy with discretionary income. If that starts to dry up, then what kind of situation are we in? So that’s kind of the here and now and then where, you know, the unknowns of what it’s gonna look like even just a month from now.

Rick: You know, it’s really interesting just knowing a little bit about your business just from having worked with you for a few years. In full disclosure to the audience, Richard is a client of mine at TeamLogic IT, and I guess it’s been roughly three years.

Richard: A very happy client.

Rick: Oh good. Thank you for that. And it’s been about three years or so that we’ve worked together, and I knew Amazon played a big part in what you did, but I just always assumed that Amazon was more the channel and that you direct ship, but you’re saying they’re actually a customer who buys and then resells?

Richard: Yeah, we have…so, Amazon, they have about really quite a few ways to sell on there, but really three main ones. One is what you were alluding to, it’s called fulfilled by merchant, so you would buy on Amazon. It would actually…you’d be buying a listing, but it would be buying from us and then we would fulfill that order directly. And we do do that to some extent, but that’s definitely not the bulk of it. The bulk of it is, Amazon, they send purchase orders for product and they buy it themselves and then they resell it for whatever price they wanna sell it at.

So the good news with that is we move a lot more volume, but we have a lot less control over our product because, technically, Amazon owns it and they’re doing with it whatever they wanna do. So, like in this instance, when they said, “We’re not sending purchase orders,” there’s nothing we can do about that. And then there’s kind of a middle ground, too, where you would send in your product, you would pay to send your product into Amazon, and then you pretty much sell it on consignment out of their fulfillment centers. And that way you get…it’s still Prime, but it’s sold by…it’s not sold by Amazon, so you could actually control, you know, the list price on the website and you have a little bit…or you have a lot more control over unit economics. And that moves…you know, that can be comparable to the sales velocity that you can get if Amazon’s buying it and selling it themselves.

So there’s also a lot of…how Amazon prioritizes that is all proprietary and they got their own algorithms that even they themselves don’t seem to know how they work when you’re talking to like a vendor manager. So, you know, I can’t help but think they prioritize their own inventory that they hold over inventory that isn’t costing them anything. But, you know, it’s just it’s kinda…it’s really like a product by product thing on which product does best in which fulfillment channel.

Rick: Very, very interesting. I’ve got…I wrote down some questions. I know we talked about some of this stuff prior to the show. One question I definitely wanna cover is what’s an aspect of your business that people tend to not think about that you’d like people to ask you about?

Richard: Yeah, so I guess I kind of mentioned a little bit when I was explaining the history of the business. So when people think pegboard, you know, they think garages, and tools, and, you know, the car guy kind of image comes to mind. And our products go in tons of applications. So, I mean, all the…we get pictures from customers of just crazy uses. We got one from the captain of a 100-foot mega luxury yacht with it in their engine compartment, storing all their things down there.

So, I guess, if people asked about or even looked on our website, we have multiple different, like, value kits that kind of get people started in certain areas like craft garden, obviously, there’s tools, kitchen, jewelry displays, closet organization. There’s, you know, all kinds of applications. So, it’s the unique ways it can be used, I guess, would be the thing that I don’t think people really think about and consider. But if you give it some thought or ask us about it, we can put you on some pretty cool applications.

Rick: And, you know, when you think about products manufacturing, you know, organization tools and stuff that’s a made through tool & die and cut and shipped and whatnot, just by default, I think the typical consumer thinks that that’s something that’s coming from Asia. But, in fact, your product’s 100% made here in the U.S., isn’t that right?

Wall Control truck at a truck dock

Richard: Correct. Yes. Yeah, they’re totally, you know, designed, engineered, made, stamped, everything is done here locally. So that’s… I should go back and say too, that’s one of the main reasons why Wall Control, if not the main reason why Wall Control exists is because in the early 2000s when we were seeing all these…our tools go offshore, we said we need something that’s our own product line that cannot leave our building. Because it tool & die, you don’t own any of the dies you make. Someone pays you to build them, you build them for them.

And then if they want you to run parts for them, then you can run parts for them. But if they call you and say, “Hey, we’re sending a truck tomorrow, we’re gonna pick up our tools and we’re gonna send them to Mexico,” there’s nothing you can do, they’re not yours. So this is one of those…you know, now we have, you know, dozens of dies that are property of Wall Control that we know will never leave our presence. That was really the driving factor for creating a product line that we owned.

Rick: Gotcha. And you mentioned the…you know, I wanna get into just a brief discussion about success story so that you can profile, you know, one or two. You mentioned the mega yacht, the big giant yacht and, you know, no one could…I mean, I would never think of that, right, as a fit for you. Is there any…and it doesn’t have to be a large scale thing, is there any success story that comes to mind where you really solved a major problem for someone and helped them out?

Richard: I would say…I wouldn’t say like an individual instance, but I would say we’ve had a lot of…we have a lot of things that we’re proud of, a lot of uses for our product that we know, you know, things it’s doing in the field that we just think are cool. So, for instance, SpaceX, NASA, the Navy, all these different places that we know use our product, you know, gives us pride to know we’re some small part of that. When you see a massive Falcon 9 rocket take off, you’re like, “We got Wall Control in there,” not on the rocket but in the shop that built the rocket. And it’s that little bit of it’s pretty cool.

You know, in the Navy we have, I mean, I would say probably thousands of panels on naval ships that have been purchased over the years. And, you know, that’s…I don’t know where they’re at. I mean, I’m sure it’s secretive. We’ve never seen pictures of it, but we just know, you know, we’re shipping thousands of panels to Puget Sound to go somewhere. You know, and they’re all tagged for these different you know, USS whatever. So, you know, they’re going on these awesome carriers and battleships, and so knowing that you were selected to solve that need is pretty cool for us.

Rick: That is really a great story. And thanks for sharing that.

Richard: Certainly.

Rick: Switching gears on here a little bit, wanted to give you a chance to be, I guess, I’d say introspective a little bit, but what do you like best about being a small business owner?

Richard: I think, well, kind of…you know, like the story we just talked about, those little things are pretty cool. Even from the tool & die side, we make a lot of parts that are on a lot of common things that people just don’t think about from John Deere riding lawnmower seats to, you know center columns in the old Ford F-250, just random weird stuff that we can look at and we can say, “Hey, either we built that or we built the tool that stamps those.” So that’s kind of a cool thing.

The other thing I really personally enjoy are the relationships and the, like, creative growth opportunity. So we have a really good brand ambassador program where we have a lot of great partners that use our product and it’s just cool. Those are very creative people and they can come up with some pretty cool collaborations that we can execute pretty quick because we’re small. We don’t have, like, a bunch of red tape and, you know, all these different marketing departments to have to approve things through. So being able to be versatile and, like, seizing really unique opportunities is something I enjoy and it’s something I get a lot of pleasure out of, like, trying to identify.

Rick: Well, I think we’re about to wrap up here, but I want you to, please, tell the audience what’s the best way to get in touch with you and or to learn more about Wall Control.

Richard: Yeah, I would definitely say the website wallcontrol.com, that would be the best place to go. And then you can email sales@wallcontrol.com. We have a bunch of contact us forms on our website, but definitely our website would be the resource to get you started.

Rick: Well, fantastic. Well, John, you wanna wrap us up?

John: Absolutely. I’m John Ray, Business RadioX. Rick, you knocked it out of the park, you with a great guest. Richard’s story is awesome. Great to have his story and great first show.

Richard: Thanks for having me. I also wanna say, you know, just as a customer, we appreciate your services, Rick. So, you know, if there’s people listening that are in need of any IT solution, I would definitely reach out to Rick. We started with, I think, like one little…I don’t even remember what we started with, some little thing we needed outsourced or serviced. And then over the years, we’ve just kept adding on to our product package because, you know, as we have needs in the space, you know, we’re not IT experts, so we need to let, you know, the pros handle that and it’s been a really good fit.

Rick: Well, thanks, Richard. We are most grateful for you guys as a client as well, and I appreciate those kind words.

Richard: Certainly.

Rick: So, John, can you wrap us up?

John: Awesome. Well, folks, thanks for being with us with the debut edition of IT Help Atlanta with Rick Higgins.