A Chat with John Economaki, Founder and President, Bridge City Tool Works
CS: What are some key points to your success?
JE: Obviously, I am unfazed by relentless negative indicators. Really, all I care about is that our customers like our products and continue to enjoy the process of doing business with us. We create what we make, so that is immensely enjoyable.
In all the people I know who've started businesses, there is an element of tenacity that overshadows common sense. I actually think that sheer willpower — that you're going to make it happen — is important. And you're not going to do it alone. Most people who are successful are riding on somebody's shoulders, whether that's a wife or their family or whomever. Someone is pushing them. Having a purpose.
I honestly can say that I never got into this business to make money. I got in this business to make a difference. I just thought for the time that we have on this planet, how many of us actually say, I want to be remembered for doing something? As opposed to being one of the 6 billion placeholders. I thought that I just wanted to make a really cool tool, and I'm really lucky if people want to buy it. I was thinking then, how do I get them to see it, and touch it and whatnot.
Quite frankly, there's an element of luck to all successful businesses. I would say the first element of luck for me was that in 1982, the IBM PC came out. When I first started running my ad, I was keeping notecards. I had a shoe box full of notecards in three months, and I knew that wasn't going to work. That was a disaster, actually. I'm up at night writing out cards and sticking them into a box and alphabetizing them, color-coding them and then dealing with the catalog requests — which initially annoyed me, because only one in 10 catalog requests had actually sent a check for a tool in with their request. I wanted more with checks! We grew really fast.