Randy Roering has always loved cars and machines. His father’s garage was often occupied with one of Randy’s car restoration projects. He enjoyed the dual role of looking for ways to use machines to solve problems and then making it happen and that talent propelled him into a career as a machinist. Shelby studied management and communications and had a knack for numbers. Randy and Shelby married in 1984. Most newlyweds are sufficiently challenged by uniting their personal lives but to Shelby and Randy it seemed like the perfect time to combine their professional talents and start a business. In 2014, both their marriage and their company, Vibra-Flight Systems, Inc. will celebrate 30 years.
The business took off when some of the clients that Randy had worked with in the past were willing to give him an opportunity to automate parts of their operations. Shelby kept her full time job and managed the bookkeeping in the evenings while Randy handled the design/build role.
The business grew slowly and steadily. A keen understanding of their clients’ processes and a dedication to providing companies like Briggs and Stratton, Amrom and Paragon Electric with exceptional quality and craftsmanship soon propelled Vibra-Flight into position as an industry leader. Eventually, Shelby was able to give her full attention to the business, adding quality control, customer service and production scheduling to her business management experience. As with most small businesses, the key people wear many hats and must perform many responsibilities.
Vibra-Flight has been fortunate to have a quality staff that has provided the support needed to make their business succeed and expand beyond feeding systems. They now provide full, turn-key automation assembly systems, which means they build automation machines that assemble and inspect the product for quality control.
As a go-to source for custom gravity tracks, pick-and-place systems, supply hoppers, inline feeders and the like, it is not surprising that the bulk of Vibra-Flight clients were associated with the auto industry. That is a good thing when car sales are booming but when the recession hit in 2008 that lack of client diversity set them back. “We were hit hard by the recession,” said Shelby, “and that’s when I learned about SCORE.”
A friend told her about SCORE and Shelby immediately put herself on their mailing list. Soon she was attending SCORE workshops, amazed by the easily available information and free access to expert mentors. “I highly recommend SCORE to anyone I know who is thinking of starting a business,” Shelby said. “We may know how to make the best feeder bowls but not as much about marketing, bookkeeping and the many things required to run a successful business. You don’t realize what you don’t know. And once the business starts growing, you can’t do it all.”
Asking for help had never been necessary but the recession changed all that. “Our biggest concern was regarding finances,” she said. “We had always taken a conservative approach to spending but we needed expert advice on how to weather the storm.” Shelby was paired with SCORE mentor Lee Rochwerger who reviewed the company’s financials and assisted Shelby in developing a plan to reduce expenses and cycle short-term layoffs of production staff to keep the business moving and retain key people. For the first time in their history, it became necessary for Shelby and Randy to seek an outside loan, which because of their careful cash management has already been repaid. Over the last few years, Lee has recruited SCORE volunteers Bob Anderson and Dick Boemer to help Shelby develop a sales and marketing strategy.
About their work with Vibra-Flight, Lee says, “Shelby had done a great job staying on top of expenses and managing cash flow. She mainly used us as a sounding board.” “I was happy to know that we hadn’t done anything wrong’” said Shelby. As she explained, “I have come to rely on the ‘SCORE guys,’ as I call them; It’s incredible how much information I get from these seasoned professionals. And they put everything into terms I can understand.” When asked her advice for other small business owners, Shelby offered, “Whether you are starting out or struggling, call SCORE. They’ve been there and they will know what you’re talking about.”
Challenges in marketing and sales remain but thanks to Shelby and Randy’s diligent and continuing efforts to diversify into new opportunities, Vibra-Flight has survived the economic downturn and is well positioned for future growth. Sales volume for 2013 is on target to set an all-time high, giving these business owners much to celebrate.
Shelby was paired with SCORE mentor Lee Rochwerger who reviewed the company’s financials and assisted Shelby in developing a plan to reduce expenses and cycle short-term layoffs of production staff to keep the business moving and retain key people.