The timing was right when Mike Rickords and his son-in-law, Stephen Brittain, decided to turn their dream of owning their own machine shop into reality. Mike had decades of experience working for a large aerospace manufacturer, and Stephen had held various positions from CNC operator to large assembly program manager at a small firm. So in 2003, when Mike heard that he might be laid-off, they both got serious about the idea of using their combined experience to start their own business.
While they were putting together a business plan, they reached out to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Wichita State University. The KSBDC helped them create a more robust business plan to present to a bank for financing. “After 10 banks turned us down, Garden Plain State Bank approved a SBA guarantee 7(a) loan to finance one water-jet machine and some operating capital,” said Stephen. Then, on March 19, 2004, Absolute Dimensions, LLC opened its doors for business.
By 2008, the business was doubling its revenue every six months, and they needed another machine to keep up with demand. One week after they bought a new horizontal CNC machine, the strike at Boeing in Seattle hit the market hard. “Our financing and nerves got tight in those days. Luckily, we had some receivables and cash on hand to help us through those lean months” said Stephen. “Business was slow and we were concerned about our keeping our employees on the payroll, so we participated in the Kansas Shared Work program,” he added.
In 2009, Absolute Dimensions, LLC was able to obtain a SBA 506 Recovery Act zero-interest loan to help through the difficult time. They also kept in touch with the KSBDC for guidance on strategic planning, and even had all five of their office staff attend their workshops. The strategic planning process helped them diversify their product and service capabilities to include composite materials. They also added new customers outside the aerospace industry. Absolute Dimensions, LLC is now using their machining equipment to produce parts for a truck manufacturer, a company that makes signs, and they even make custom metallic inlays for tile.
By 2012, Absolute Dimensions, LLC, was growing to the point where they needed to consolidate their financing at a larger bank that had the capacity to service their needs. Today, the company’s 24 employees are trying to keep up with demand, and using every inch of available space in their facility.
When asked for their words of wisdom to other small business owners, Steven and his wife Miranda, who manages the office, said it is vital to manage the growth of your business. “You can grow too fast and put your business at risk”, said Stephen. “Save money when you have it because your cash flow can create constraints”, Miranda added. They both believe it’s important to reach out to organizations like the Kansas Small Business Development Center for expert advice on business planning. They gave a lot of credit to the KSBDC and the SBA for helping them navigate through the turbulent times.
The future looks bright for Absolute Dimensions, LLC. If things keep up, they may be looking for a new building and more automation to meet the growing demand.