Published: December 31, 2013
Qualtek Manufacturing, 4230 N. Nevada Ave.
Tony Fagnant owns and manages Qualtek Manufacturing with his wife and business partner, Mary Fagnant. He recently was given the Business Citizen of the Year award by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance for his role in starting Blue Star Recycling, a company that employs disabled individuals, and for making Qualtek Manufacturing more environmentally sustainable.
Fagnant, a Wyoming native, has a degree in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University and a Master's in Business Administration from Lake Forest Graduate School in Illinois.
Qualtek has been in business since 1968; the Fagnants bought it in 2000. The company has 63 employees.
QUESTION: What products and/or services does Qualtek offer?
ANSWER: Qualtek offers metal manufacturing solutions, including metal stamping, metal finishing and heat treating, all of which include the use of specific processes to alter the shape or surface of metals to enhance the appearance, function or performance. Qualtek also offers contract wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) services involving highly skilled machining of conductive material within specific tolerances.
Q. What industries does Qualtek service?
A. We have customers in the medical, clean energy, and aerospace industries.
Q. What are your plans for growth?
A. We really want to continue to grow on the medical side because those are the products that are going to stay here in U.S. I think in that industry, once you get a system going and you get your suppliers laid out, and your factory laid out, you don't want to disturb that file. So everything stays put and you just continue to make your incremental improvements in those process. Also, from a profit standpoint, that industry does not need to leave the U.S. to be profitable, so far.
Q. How has the recession affected your business?
A. It's five years into it now and we've had a significant drop in business, upwards of 25 to 30 percent. But we've recovered and grown since. Time takes its course and recessions happen when you've got too much robustness and energy in the economic sector and it just has to have corrections. Statistically that had to happen.
Q. How do you find new customers?
A. We service machine shops up and down along the Front Range; 70 to 80 percent of our product is about being in the Front Range. For the most part, our customers are local because most of our stuff requires shipping and the freight cost could kill us. We are busy and we'd like to get more, but there aren't a lot in the Front Range that fit us. We can extend statewide, and maybe get into Utah as well.
Q. What does Qualtek do better than the competition?
A. In our Front Range, we don't have any competition. We're fortunate in that the very problem in being in manufacturing in Colorado is also the benefit for it. We're not the manufacturing Mecca of the world so there's not much demand for our services. It's a problem for how you're going to grow and get your work. Subsequently, you're not going to have new startups and people moving in from new places trying to split the work.
Q. What experiences have prepared you to be successful at running Qualtek?
A. I had a unique experience early on in my career when I was 25. I like to call it my first MBA, and it was the gift of a lifetime. I was asked by a business associate to start up a plastic molding factory in Tucson. He purchased three machines, leased a building, put them in place and said, "Here you go." It was a really good experience because I was in charge of everything, and the thing was profitable at two years. Without that experience, I probably wouldn't be sitting here today.
Q. What is your personal formula for success?
A. Perseverance. Also, balance of all the important things in life.
Q. You mentioned your father-in-law was a mentor who inspired you. Can you expand on that?
A. Yes, he taught me to take care of family first. They are why we work in our professions. Next, stay true to what you do. Don't be jumping around. The grass is not necessarily greener in the next field. And, keep your curiosity strong. It is the fuel for solving the next challenge.
Q: What advice would you offer an entrepreneur with a new start up?
A: Perseverance is key. Things will get tough, but don't chicken out.
Responses have been edited for space and clarity.