Laundry Talks Podcast

EP6: Importance of Peer Groups with Kasey Wah-Amtex Innovations, Currie Gilbert-Performance Matters, Matt Vacca-Standard Textile & Levi Nix-M+A Matting


Eric: Hey, everyone! Welcome to the latest episode of Laundry Talks. I'm your host, Eric Smith. The Laundry Talks is the podcast for the textile rental industry. We like to talk to all kinds of people in the industry and share their stories, while learning what the best operators and the best suppliers are doing in their businesses. Now, I've been looking forward to today's episode for quite a while and we've got some great guests.

And yes, that was plural guests. Honestly, this has been very difficult to gather. This group of experts and put them all together at the same time. But we made it happen and I'm going to introduce them in a moment. today's topic is the benefits of joining and participating in industry peer groups. You know, one of the great things about this industry is the collaboration that occurs.

The sharing of information, the opening of doors by operators to other operators, and even sometimes ones that may compete against one another. Now, every company and every operator has their own secret sauce that makes them successful, that they execute. But I love seeing the type of sharing that helps to lift all boats. So what I'm seeing is that operators that participate in peer groups and industry groups, trade organs, organization committees, and industry training programs are growing and more adaptable, more open to using technology to their advantage, and have specific goals that they're working towards and actively measuring that progress.

So those are just some of my observations. But today I want to learn more about what others on the supplier side of the industry think about the same topic. So I've gathered my own peer group of suppliers so we can discuss it. And what happens typically in this industry is there's a lot of great suppliers out there. And we get to see each other at industry events and trade shows and conventions.

And a lot of times those those discussions happen maybe at the bar after events. but then we go on our separate ways with our with our jobs and some sometimes suppliers can feel like they're on an island. Today I want to share not just the benefits of operator peer groups, but how I've personally benefited in the same ways in an industry supplier peer group that I was invited to join. And I'm so happy I did. So today we're going to talk a little bit about how we formed this group, what the purpose is, and what the benefits are. And we'll also lean on this group to hear what they're saying in the marketplace today. So.

We're going to dive in and meet our guests today. First guest, is Kasey Wahl from Amtex  Innovations. He is the Sales and Marketing Director. Hello, Kasey.

Kasey: Hey, Erik. How are you doing?

Eric: I'm great.

Kasey: That's a great entrance right there.

Eric: Yeah, thanks! We also have Matt Vacca. He's currently the regional sales, manager for Standard Textile. prior to that, he had a long history working as the national account manager at Tingue. Matt, so excited for you to be here today.

Matt: Thanks, Eric. Appreciate being on.

Eric: Welcome. Currey Gilbert from Performance Matters. He is the director of business development. Especially interested in talking to Cory because he himself helps facilitate a peer group in the industry. And so we're going to get a lot of his input today. Cory, welcome.

Currey: Thanks, Eric. long-time listener of the pod and first time on.

Eric: Awesome. And last but not least, we've got Levi Nix, the director of sales for M&A. Matic. this guy is everywhere, all over the country. I see him all the time. So glad you're with us today, too, Levi. How are you doing?

Currey: I appreciate it. Appreciate you having us. Means a lot.

Eric: Perfect. Okay, so, my first question here is that, you know, all of us, I think, agree. We've seen the benefits of peer groups in the industry. And we're going to we're going to talk a little bit about what operators are doing in a moment. But I want to know more about this supplier group first. So what's going on here?  I'm going to I'm going to let you, Levi, answer this first question. You're a founding member. Why don't you quickly share a little bit about first, what you do at M+A meeting and then give me a quick update on how this group first got together?

Levi: Yeah, of course, Erik, I'd love to a little bit about what I do. So I started with him in a meeting about five years ago. started out in our management trainee program and then moved into some different regional sales manager roles, and then currently now reside as the director of sales for textile rental. So my main job and my main role is really just getting out in front of the customer, being the voice of the company and learning how we can better improve on our service to customers, but also helping our team that's out there in the field as well, helping them service their customers, product training, education, things of that nature.

So just kind of a quick background on how the group got started. It was actually really fun and an interesting story. It was at the TSA annual conference, a couple of years ago, I think it was the Nashville event, actually. and I had never met David as David Tingue before. And,  him and I got together and one of their events making goo goo clusters, which is a candy that I have never heard of. So we enjoyed our time together. Kind of on a round table, really intimate setting and got to know one another. And he had the idea of what about a group that comes together, maybe once a month, that's made up from the various suppliers in the industry just to grow as individuals, grow as better parts of our family, grows better parts of our community grow as professionals, but also try to help one another out, as has business partners or in the industry all together.

So that's kind of a brief history of how it got started. And then obviously Matt here on the call was really, a key factor in bringing everybody together and inviting everyone else to be a member. So it's an honor and a privilege,to be quite honest, to be a part of this group. And everybody always says you are who you surround yourself with. And, I certainly have become a better person, a better business professional, just being a part of this group. 

Eric: Oh, wow. Thanks. Yeah. And the funny thing is, I was at that same event. I remember making those candies and had no idea that this discussion was going on. And possibly the table next to me. Sometimes you know,  luck is just, follows you around. Levi. That's, That's fabulous. So. Yeah. So, David, you really was the inspiration here.

Matt, so he came back from this event and then pitched you this concept. Is that is that what happened?

Matt: Yeah. That's right. So as you mentioned, at the front, the new regional sales structure director for Standard Textile. However, before that, as you mentioned, I was National Account Manager for Tingue. You, when David introduced me to Levi, a little skeptical at first, about this conversation that David suggested I have with Levi. But it took about five minutes, of having a conversation with Levi that we just really hit it off.

We, aligned, you know, with similar values, similar work ethics. So it just progressed from there. And Levi and I thought that it would be a good idea if we invited somebody else and that somebody else was Kasey, who, I knew a little bit, but certainly not as well as I now know.

And I think Levi said it very well. It is certainly an honor and a privilege, to not only have been paired up with Levi and Kasey, but now also Currie and you. So it's just it's been a blast. I've learned and gained so much from this group.

Eric: Yeah. That's great. That's a great lead-in to Kasey. And I'm gonna have Kasey talk a little bit about, you know, how he got involved, a little bit about what? What you what you do. And also people love to hear. How in the world did you end up in the laundry industry, Kasey. So why don't you just tackle that section for us?

Kasey: that's a lot. I might need a refresher along the way, but, yeah. Matt came up to me at an industry event. I think it was the TRSA Marketing conference and introduce themselves. And we, you know, had a little bit of a small talk situation. And then he invited me into this group, you know, as Levi described, to make me a better professional and potentially as a better person and father and whatever else. And I mean, at that point, you're kind of silly to turn something like that down. If people want to invest into you and want you to invest into them. So I saw it as a a win win situation. And, little did I know, I was getting involved with Seal Team six here with, the quality of people we got ourselves around here. But Seal Team six in the laundry industry, I guess.

But, like you said, everybody has an interesting story of getting in the laundry industry. And mine is no different, I guess. But, one of my wife's relatives works in the industry. and I got married and was moving to Cincinnati, relocating, looking for a new position, and kind of spread my resume out and got into the laundry industry. And, you know, now I've been in almost 12 years. So once you hit that five-year mark, you're in for life. I think we all have been told that many times, and probably I'll agree with it now too. But, that's that's how it goes.

Awesome. And I was fortunate enough for, you know, had some, kind of some knowledge of Kasey. We have some mutual friends. We have people that we know that go to TRSA program together. So we kind of knew one another. But then, luckily, you're the one that asked me to join the group. I was so excited. I didn't know what I'd be getting into, but it certainly led to, a lot of personal improvement and enjoying that kind of just really added a lot to my career personally.

So. And then, of course, we don't want to forget, lastly, here is Currie Gilbert, from Performance Matters. He's the person that that joined after me. And again, I mentioned you facilitated peer group, so I already I knew this would be up your alley. I knew you would probably join. But tell us a little bit about that.

Currie: Well, when, Eric and I believe it was Eric, you approached me. I think it was added after a conference first. First thing you know, it screamed pyramid scheme to me. So I was I was wary at the very beginning. And you guys coming to me, but, you know, it's, like, like most of you guys I've worked in, in other industries, been with other companies, are in and outside this industry, but never had the opportunity to join, a group like this, to come together, as, as the others have said, to challenge each other professionally, to challenge each other personally.

So not just not just how are we growing professionally, but how are we growing personally and to know others at at a deeper level within the industry? Because, Eric, I think you set it up well, too often we find ourselves, whether you're an owner and operator or whether you're someone within in the plan to work, within the sales team or within the supply base that that's on an island.

So coming together on a regular cadence, you know, every six weeks or so, looking at new ideas, sharing ideas, all of those things. as soon as I was, you guys kind of explained it to me, and we, you know, it crossed off the pyramid scheme thing. I was, I was in.

Eric:  Cool. Let's I want to talk a little bit. We're going to talk a little bit about what we  do in this group. But, as far as the, the name, we, we spent some time early on talking about if we were going to have a group name or not and really never formally came, came up with a name.

But we use this term, the Laundry Supplier Guys, it's almost a placeholder, but from my perspective, it's like we've used that for so long as a placeholder. It's kind of almost become our, you know, the default name at this point. So we had some fun talking about some different, different ideas. But, the name itself is also not, not exclusive to guys.

It's just the term we use. So, that the group could possibly expand past the Laundry Supplier Guys. But also we have a couple nicknames. a mutual friend of ours, Emily Hauber, from Clean and Simple Marketing. She uses a different name. She calls this group the, the Laundry Boy Band Group. And, so we're always open to suggestions.

Any others that you guys have heard since we started getting together?

Matt: Eric, I will say that, every time I talk to David Tigue, you. He asks me about the name, and threatens to disband this group if we don't come up with something better, so, we better get to that.

Eric: So that's still on the table.

Matt: I sat with them at this year's annual conference at dinner, and he was throwing out ideas and, you know, so it needs to be unrelated and it needs to be related. And,  it's pretty funny, but I know that we don't want to hear Levi or anyone else on this call saying so when you go with the boy band title, I think.

Eric: All right. So, Levi, back to you. Let's talk a little bit about what a typical meeting looks like. So, you know, how do we how do we schedule how do we crafted agenda. How does that work. Do you mind sharing some of that?

Levi:  No, not at all. That's a really good question. so it's relatively structured. So it's formalized but informal if you will. So it's a little bit of the best of both worlds. So typically we go ahead and set our meetings out usually I think 3 or 4 meetings in advance. And we pick one person to be the host of that meeting.

And they really have the ability to create and structure and design the meeting any way that they would like to. with the purpose of the meeting being to grow as an individual rather that, as a family member or even grow personally and professionally as well. So it might be a book review that we go over. I know Currie, you've done some ChatGPT stuff and I information that you really helped to educate us on, so it's really involved in terms of how a meeting is structured and designed in the same way that I really like about it the most is every meeting is different, meaning that there's no time you come to a meeting thinking it's the same content, same information, same structure, same layout. so you really are always on your toes.

But the thing that means the most to me is seeing how each person in this group prepares so well for the meeting to where it encourages me and challenges me to prepare very well for the time that I have the opportunity to host meeting with structured notes, slides, things of that nature and obviously prepared content. So we're adding value to the group and not just getting together to hang out, if you will.

Eric: Yeah. Any thoughts on that Currie, do you want to add anything to that?

Currie: I think Levi said it. Well, this is not just a, social hour. there are components to that, but we're really here looking for, a space. And I would add that the one thing is everyone is is transparent and vulnerable on this. You can you can be in other groups where you don't have a vulnerability aspect. And it's hard to really get down to a level of sharing that, that you can say, hey, I need help with this and, support and others will be there not to condemn or criticize, but to say, okay, let's break that out. What problem you're having and how can we support you said that is a unique aspect to this group.

Eric: And I'll say that that courage has brought one thing that Cory has brought is the little bit more of the planning and measurement accountability from from his side, because that's what you're he works works a lot at, with his, you know, internally at his company and with the peer group he works with. So that has been, you know, we've we've seen a trend now where we're getting help work from time to time and, and planning and, and that really enjoying ourselves. Matt, any anything you want to add there?

Matt: Yeah, I would just say that, Levi hosted the first meeting with the five of us, and he commented on how much prep work we all put in, but, he really set the bar when it came to that prep work. I remember seeing that PowerPoint presentation, thinking, oh my gosh, I'm going to have to actually do some work for this group. So, it's really because of Levi's setting that really high standard from the, from the, from the get go. And then Currie, just most recently we worked on a goal, a goal session. And that's just been really meaningful and instrumental, to set both professional but also personal goals.

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. Kasey, any any kind of final thoughts on that or what was your what's been your one of your favorite meetings that we've hosted or had and and what was the topic.

Kasey: Like how every meeting is slightly different. you know, from, from one person leading up to the next. We get different ideas and different tasks. you mentioned homework. So we may get a book to read, and there's been 4 or 5 books that I would have never been exposed to, or even to taking the time to read if it wasn't for this group. Currie giving me a couple podcasts, you know, and personal life, you know, working on different things. So it's, it's really been, like you said, the full picture of us as individuals, you know, at work and outside of work and, and trying to help each other get better and be accountable.

Eric: Yeah, that's been great. It's opened the doors for me as far as we have the formal meetings, but it's just really opened up. It's for for other friends, people that I have now that, I can text or call and feel very comfortable doing that. I know that that happens quite a bit on the operator side, and it's nice to have that kind of collaboration, you know, on on the supplier side also.

And, you really get some good, good feedback from one another. You know, it's a lot of positive things. But we also, you know, talk about some serious, you know, topics too. So, really enjoyed it. let's talk a little bit about, you know, operators, all of us, get around the industry quite a bit. We see each other at events. We're still very few events where all five of this happened to be. And so that's always a very special occasion. So, I think we haven't had that yet in 2024, but I'm looking forward to it keeping my fingers crossed.

But, yeah, what are what are some of the things that you're seeing, in the industry right now? I'm going to start with, I may go, but start with Matt. You're kind of shifting from one company to another, but what are you when you're out dealing with, your clients? What is it that they really need help with? 

Matt: Yeah. So if I, if I could start just by saying, I think there's a lot of amazing things happening in our industry with innovation and technology. Kasey mentioned artificial intelligence and what that's doing for our industry, which is really exciting. But obviously, there's challenges and concerns, and the one that I seem to hear the most of is AI traveling because it with, with these laundry owners and managers is, conserving costs.

How can we save money in a time where everything is just so expensive? Be it labor, be it supply? So, both at Standard Textile and at Tingue, you, the message, that is delivered to us every day is we need to work with our clients to help save the money. You know, be it in a street that you're going to get more uses out of lowering that cost per use or on the you side of things and e-commerce platform that allows, our, our laundry customers to, to buy products 24/7 to make sure that that equipment is is is staying operational. So, conserving costs. I'm sure I'm not alone in hearing that seat back. and that's just what I'm personally trying to do. Just help our clients run a better business.

Eric: Yeah. On that same subject, I would go back to Kasey because Kasey . I'm sure you know, saving costs. And, you know, sustainability are probably big issues in your line of work. Kasey. and you want to talk about kind of what you're saying, from your customers, what they're looking for, what you're kind of trying to help them with.

Kasey: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, something we at Amtex have tried to target is utility savings. I know it's it's a point of emphasis across the industry. I know all the chemical companies are working on the same thing with formulations and trying to optimize different formulas for less water use, less time and less energy. that's what we're trying to do from the textile side to as our startup is, is look at textiles in a different way than we've done it for the last 40 or 50 years and see what kind of gains and changes we can make to improve costs for the operators themselves.

I mean, in certain parts of the country, you may get limited on the amount of water you're allowed to use at a given time, just a blanket 10 or 20% savings where, you know, we as an industry are getting the word out that we are great recyclers. We are already reducing water, and trying to push back a little bit on that because we're trying to do the best we can at the beginning. Don't try and limit us even more. So, you know, the operators are trying to cut costs in every way possible, with the economy the way it is. But, you know, utilities is one way to, to look at that and try and save an extra dime here or there.

Eric: Perfect. Yeah. And okay, so I'm going to ask Currie a question a little bit different question because Currie does. He works with, you know, operators all over the country. But a lot of those are independent operators. And one of the challenges  that I see time and time again with independents, especially if they're not actively involved in a peer group, is and they're kind of an island, they just don't have that measurement and benchmarking that a larger company or a national chain has.

And so sometimes they they feel like they're doing good. They don't really know how good they're doing. Could they be better. And so I think Currie you have a lot of expertise in that area. Tell me a little bit about, you know, how you working with those customers, how they can benefit, you know, working with you and working within their own peer groups?

Currie: yeah. So great point. the peer or cost group model has been part of the industry for many years. There's, there's great value in that in getting together and with noncompetitive other owners and operators sharing ideas and again, some similar to to to how we've structured somewhat of this group. I would say the challenge that we see a lot of the times and really what I'm seeing in Kasey alluded to, some of it was it's kind of a double-edged sword or, or industry is, full of, of doers.

So the owners, the operators, the down to, to the root service level sales. But even at that management level and the owner level, most in the industry work hard. They work really hard nights, weekends, whatever it takes. But our industry,as it, it continues to sometimes swirl in a whirlwind or so. you can get sucked into that.

So as owners or management level, a lot of times we see them working at a level or even two levels below their true title. And so when you do that or when you get sucked into that because you're a doer and you're trying to plug a hole, you're trying to fill a root because, you know, root rep got sick by all of a sudden and it pulls in the root manager on the root and then leaves the gap there.

And what that does is it distracts the strategy and the ability to look at your business and work really on it versus in it. So yeah, that's a common term that, you know, is not to our industry-specific, but we just see it so much. And so by, by having so many doers and that double-edged sword, it, it, it prevents them a lot of times from being able to look at their KPIs, look at their measurements, and really analyze the business in a way that, that we see and try to support with.

Eric: Yeah. And I'm going to add just that with me. You know, we see again this issue of being on an island again, there's people that benefit greatly by being in groups and even at Alliant, you know, we have an annual meeting which is in person. And people people love it and have a good time. but you know, that that's not available, you know, the 365 days a year.

And so one way that we've been trying to tackle it's kind of like Matt was talking about his, you know, the portal they have for you and the success that they're having with that. We kind of created a Community on the Alliant side where, you know, our customers can have that experience every day of the year. And what we've seen is that that sharing of information, there's there's some very basic, issues, questions that come up on the software side that have a really simple answer.

But if you don't have anyone to talk to about it, you just, you might struggle with it. And so, that's just another benefit we see of peer groups and industry collaboration. So Levi, you see you're on the road a lot. You're sometimes I know focused on your customers saving money and making the life of their product that they purchase from you last longer. What  are you saying?

Levi: Yeah. So it's kind of Eric. It's kind of a two fold approach. And we're out there on the road. we see a couple things with our customers. Number one is everybody wants to increase their revenue. We all do, that's part of business as part of the strategy. And the other is to maximize the life of the product. Right. Because a longer you can have your product last, the more revenue you can get for that individual product. Ultimately, help to drive down that payback period for it. So when we're out there with customers, we're really trying to accomplish, two key things is we want to work with the sales teams to kind of open up from the tunnel vision, because it's really easy to have tunnel vision when we're calling on the same customers every day, or same end users every day.

So identifying other opportunities with existing customers for those add-on or complimentary sales that can help to grow the bottom line and increase their annual revenue. The second part of that is, is working more with the production side or the service side of the business, which is trying to maximize the life out of their existing products, such as making sure that the wash process is the way that it needs to be, to maximize the product.

And, one of the other things that we've seen, this year so far, more times on the economy side, whether you're on the East Coast or West Coast, seems like overall, there's kind of a general concern, I think, with end users or restaurants, health care facilities, etc. on the state of the economy. So we started to see a little bit of, a slow down in terms of end users wanting to be more attention focused on their invoice. So, being able to maximize the life of the product, being able to help our customers reinforce the value of their service, that they're offering at the end user, and retain and sustain the existing business is a very, very important aspect ofbeing able to ultimately keep the bottom line but also grow it as well.

Eric: Yeah. That's great. you know, I feel like, you know, just back to the peer groups at general, one of the, one of the other benefits that I see is that, you know, when you kind of get to a group like this, you know, at some point you feel a little bit more of a you're in a comfort zone and you feel a little bit more comfortable having some of those, you know, difficult or honest conversations.

And the operators I know do that too, that, I think that a lot of these groups that, that Currie is talking about have facilitators or cost groups. You know, I think a lot of those that have been really successful have evolved, from more of a social group to one that's really auditing each other's operations. And, you know, sometimes it's just the smallest little process or just moving a piece of equipment or just, say, asking a question, you know, on a on a plant tour about, you know, why are you doing it that way, you know, have you considered this? And that's what. Yeah. You know, I see from time to time that has been really successful. Any thoughts on that?

Currie: I hear that all the time. Eric. as we go to we, we run a facilitate, two peer strategy groups and, and within those, invariably it can be something so small. we even had, a client have, a little bit of an epiphany at our last meeting where someone mentioned a query or a report or something that they were trying to call, the person next to them said, we here just log in. They were on and to be able to do it so it and they're like, hey, that that paid for the whole meeting right there. So it was it was cool. And that was just a sidebar. So whether you're at a plant or whether you're in a meeting room going through KPIs or best ideas or even worst ideas, you know, what if there's something we failed that that could save another owner operator, you know, $50,000 or, you know, six months of, of development of, of this or that, we want to share those ideas and, and be in a space to do those. So, I think that's a good. Yeah. Good point and reference.

Eric: Yeah. I had a similar experience where I was recently onsite at a customer, and they were actually using some of the technology that we want our customers to use. And this happened to be, you know, automated credit card payments. But when they use the product the were doing, just every credit card payment was a one off payment.

And when they moved to the live version, they just continued to do it on manually and not realizing they could do all their payments in a batch and save, you know, hours of time. And so something very simple, you know, I don't know, Levi. Are you saying that when you actually get out and see how people are actually utilizing the product, where you're like, okay, I, I now understand the problem you've been reporting and now I can actually see it because I'm on site, you know, those those things helping you out.

Levi: Yeah. Those are those are huge. To be able to get to the plant and actually put eyes on the process or the product. because that really helps with understanding the problem or the situation, but ultimately is finding the solution for the customer. And I would kind of circle back a little bit when we talk about the advantages of being part of a peer group, one of the biggest advantages that I think, and I would encourage anyone that's listening to this podcast, is if you're not a part of one, absolutely try to be a part of one or join one, or even create one, with the main focus of it be when you're able to work and communicate and, and network of people, we want to make sure that we're trying to protect the people in the plant.

So the biggest thing I noticed is when going on plant tours and hearing people communicate and network with one another is seeing the safety protocols that different plants have around protecting their people and realizing, oh, well, you have this safety measure or this, tag out lockout system and being able to capture that and put it back into their plant, is ultimately a huge advantage with protecting their people and keeping them safe.

Eric: yeah, that's a fabulous point. Thanks, Levi. I'll tell you what other side benefit. of staying of this group is that I know when I go to an industry event, sometimes you get up and show up at the breakfast buffet and there's all these empty tables. But if one of you guys is at that, at that event, it's always nice to have someone ready to welcome you and have breakfast together.

So I definitely appreciated that, any other any other thoughts just on kind of what we can do that to continue and help our customers and, and improve, you know, our careers, at the same time.

Kasey: Yeah. I'd just like to add, you know, kind of where Levi was going to is, you know, operators go to each other's plants and they tour them and they give feedback and they help each other. there's a lot of vendors that are coming in to everyone's operation that have been to potentially hundreds of laundries. and like Levi said, there may be a safety thing or just a different way that a different plant is doing something that could be helpful to it, to another location.

So, I would say use, use all the tools at your dispense there, you know, ask, ask around, don't just ask other operators, but there may be vendors with other options too. So just a thought.

Matt: Yeah. Eric, if I could just add to to what you and Kasey said, prior to being part of this group, I would meet customers at the different networking events to say, CSC, etc., by going up to them on my own, whereas now,  because of the four of you, I'm often being introduced, to, laundry managers, laundry owners. so that's been incredibly helpful. And I imagine the same is true for the operators. If you've got another operator friend, I'm sure they're introducing you either to other operators or to other suppliers. So, there just to, just to reinforce just the amount of value that's created because of this peer group.

Levi: I would I would certainly second that. being newer to the textile rental industry, when I first started getting these to the conferences and not knowing a whole lot of customers or people or other suppliers, I could always count on one of you guys to introduce me to somebody, but the biggest key is I could always count on Eric to point me where the closest Starbucks was, so that's probably the biggest takeaway.

Eric: and my goal for this year is to drink less caffeine.

Kasey: Well. But, how's it going?

Eric: Yeah. not... Well, there's a lot of things are going well that I have not I've not executed on that on that KPI. How about that?

Currie: Now? Can't win them all.

Eric: We can't win them all. That's right. actually, I have a couple questions. We could we can. Any other thoughts on customer peer groups we can still cover? but I do have a couple just, quick, questions I want to ask some of the guys in the group here to learn a little bit about each of you.

So I'm going to start with Currie. Currie Gilbert. I do, I do see there's guitars in the background. well, we'll talk about maybe in another podcast, you're, you know, the, the behind the music of your, of your college band. But today we're just going to focus on, what's your go-to-karaoke song?

Currie: Oh, wow. great. Yeah. Great question. I, I'm terrible at singing, so  I'm moderately poor at guitar and terrible at singing, but, I will say that I've been listening to, I've been going a little bit old school recently, listening to some, some classic, Def Leppard stuff. Their stuff is just. And it is so good. And then I went online and saw the, the making of, the hysteria album, where it took them forever. It took, because the drummer lost his arm and, they went through various producers and it took them 4 or 5 years just to make that album. And the whole history behind it. And it came out there was so much pressure on them. And then it was just like, you know, it's sold, you know, 12 million records in the first year. It was. So now it's been those have been on my list.

Eric: So okay, so you're singing that in the shower these days.

Currie: Very poorly singing it. Yes.

Eric: Well what did you say. Very poor singer and moderately bad at guitar. That's sounds like a winning combination to me.

Currie: it's it's all for the next spot.

Eric:All right. So, okay, I'm going to jump down to Levi because he's farthest down on my screen here, but, Levi, relatively new father, young child, and I believe another child on the way. So, two questions for you. What's what's the best dad advice you have here for this group? Well, I think all of us here are fathers, and, you have a good dad joke you want to share?

Levi: Wow,  those are two really good questions. I feel like I'm learning both of those. Definitely learning both of those every day. I would say the biggest thing for me, for dad advice or new fathers is grace. Showing grace to our children, but also showing grace to ourselves as fathers and making sure that we're taking time. Rather that's, you know, ten minutes, 15 minutes or once a week, to spend really just with ourselves, to really reflect on what am I doing poorly? What can I do better? but just to take a step back and provide that grace for ourselves, to relax and understand we don't have all the answers because I think the biggest thing for me being a new dad is I was like, I've got to know every single answer, and that's just not the case. and I'm never going to know every single answer.

So take a step back, provide myself a little bit of grace, but also to seek out wisdom from others, which I know you guys have been a big asset for me.

The best dad joke. I have a couple actually, probably more than a couple. so probably one of my favorite ones that I've ever heard is why did the cookie go to the hospital? because it was feeling crummy.

And I'll add a bonus one. Do you guys? But. Sure, sure. What do you call it? There were no teeth. A gummy bear.

Eric: Gummy bear. Oh, I was going.

Levi: Yeah, you had it.

Eric: Yeah. That's fabulous. Well, I really love the advice on the grace, because this is one of the things that actually I appreciate about people when they are comfortable enough to say, I don't know, and, and, and that's always, that's always nice to see. All right. that's gonna be a tough, tough one to follow. Kasey, let's talk a little bit a little bit about you.You're in the Cincinnati area, but let's let's dive into cases. you know, sports. give me your sports rooting interest real quick. Who's on your list? Who's the teams you follow?

Kasey: I've adopted the Cincinnati Bengals, been here for about 12 years, and I grew up in Indiana. And, you know, kind of followed the NFL, but not too close. But once I came here, it's kind of everywhere when they're really good. And lately it's been a lot of fun. And I got three young boys who have gotten into it as well.

So, you know, Joe Burrow and the team, get a lot of interest from the young elementary kids because of all the dancing and scoring and everything. So, yeah, it's been a lot of fun.

Eric: Of course. So are we predicting a Super Bowl win this year?

Kasey: I don't know. The division we play in. And, you know, the conference we're in into, it it's very tough.

Eric: So one question I've got for Matt is that Matt is a busy, busy guy. And but married family with young kids job, a new job and also full time night student. if I, if I'm correct. So, you're getting, your your master's in business, and so how do you, how do you deal with all your people pulling at you for your time?

Matt: Yeah. if I could just say just on the subject of Joe Burrow and his dancing. You know, Currie might be an average, singer and guitar player, but you should see him dance. And I would encourage anybody who sees him at the at the next, industry event to ask him to show off his moves. And Levi, we were hoping that this, this podcast would entice some other talented suppliers in the industry to join. But after they hear those jokes, I'm not sure there's going to be much interest. So, we might we might have to work on those, but, Yeah. Eric, thanks for, for saying what you just did. I am busy, but, you know, anything that matters. At least this is what I've learned. Anything that matters to you, you sort of make time for.

So I've certainly made some sacrifices. less Patriots games, less Bruins games. a little bit more studying. I'm just five weeks away from graduating with my MBA. So very, very excited about that. And I'm looking forward to having, some more time on my hands. But I'll just say about being back in school, it's been really fun. You mentioned my children. I have an 11 year olds and an eight year old and one that's not yet in school, but it's been really fun to talk to them and sort of go through school together and talk about studying and having to do homework and sort of share in some successes and maybe complain that we've got work to do that we maybe don't want to do.

Eric: So yeah. Awesome. And thanks for thanks for sharing that. that's it. That's oh go ahead.

Currie: Eric, did you notice Matt said school and fun together. Yeah, I write my dad advice for for the rest of the group because you you've gone through with kids but for the ones with a little bit younger is just to avoid the old teenage years because then, you know, school on, you don't have to you could you can go away, go on vacation and come back after a few years. So, yeah, there's there's the advice.

Eric: Yeah, I agree too. I have enjoyed all phases of being a father. Even the teenage years, which are can be a little bit bumpy. But, you know, they're all they for a short period of time.

Currie: So that's true ups and downs.

Eric: Ups and downs. It's all good. and even the bad times are good times. That's that's my takeaway. Is that that,

Matt: Eric, you're not getting off the hook.

Eric:Oh, okay.

Matt: What? This doesn't have to be the question, Stephanie or team, but, what do you. When you're not working? Eric, what do you what are you doing? Fun. What's what's your favorite hobby?

Eric:  That's really great. I'm actually quite a I'm a, I like reading, and, now, let me see here because I don't have a lot of free time. Snuffy. Well, you go back as far as my free time. it's like spending time with the family. when we get a chance to travel, we like going to the mountains. Of course, we're here in Texas, so we don't really have a lot of. You got to go a long way to get to the mountains, but when we have time to get away, we like to go to Colorado. We like to go to the mountains. We like to hike, and just just spend time family, with spend time with family and the kids.  I've almost, almost grown children and, really tried to take as much time and spend time with them, as I can. So that's, that's my part-time outside of work.

Currie: To continue with the, line of questioning on our host here. Eric, I know you probably weren't going to bring this up, but you're training for a really special event. coming up, I think July, and it's it's a it's an amazing event, but but quite a quite, physical challenge. running through, you know, so tell us a little bit how the training is going and what, what that's going to look like as you ascend the, the Colorado mountains?

Eric: yes. I did get roped into, a bike charity bike race. Not really a race. It's more about just. Can you complete it? I have a brother in law that lives in Denver, and there is an annual event in, in the mountains outside of Denver called the Triple bypass. So it's kind of a scary name, but it includes, you know, pretty big elevation, change and about 118 mile race through the mountains, the Rocky Mountains. And so, that's happening this summer. I don't know if I'll complete it right out. Right. I'm going to try. So luckily there's a lot of there's a lot of support teams and, you know, people on hand if I fall off the bike and have to walk back. So that's what I'll do. But how are you.

Levi: How are you trained for that? Eric? Do you have a bike or you do in treadmill or, stationary bike or what?

Eric: I do have a I do have a road bike and I've been riding a lot, but it's hard to simulate the mountain air and the elevation and the hills. Texas. We  have some hill country down here, but it's not quite the same. So that's a that's a great question. I ask myself that every day. So thanks, thank you Currie. And oh, and that race the team is open to join. Anyone that would like to join me on that, is, well, more than welcome.

Currie: outside of nominating this group, certainly, friend of the podcast, Tim West would be my recommendation.

Eric/Currie: Well, that invitation has already occurred, and it is pending now. So if Tim's listening, this may be the accountability. Yeah, this is the accountability. First lecture. It is so perfect. Well thanks, guys. pleasure. Hope people, got a little bit out of this. Maybe a little, you know, spark, another group to get together.

And I think any of the people in this group would be happy to talk about it or help encourage or help foster those things happening. So, you know, we're we're all in this together. It's it's a big industry. At the same time, this a small industry and  open and sharing of information. I think this is, as I said in the opener, this is really going to help lift all boats for all operators.

Any final thoughts?

Kasey: Now I'd like to invite anyone to talk to us, to join a call to tell us what we could do better to, to help the industry, from the supplier side, reach out to any one of us and we can work in one of the meetings upcoming. And we did really enjoy that.

Eric: Oh, and we're always guest speakers are always welcome. So we'd love to learn if there's something that the topic that we need to to focus on, we're, we're happy to have guest speakers join us.

Levi: New, new group names are highly, highly needed as well. So any recommendations or other fun, silly or professional would be fantastic to learn of. But on a serious note, Eric, thanks for having us and always bringing the group together. I think it's, a fantastic time for us to connect and improve and learn, but also help our customers as well.

Eric: All right. Couldn't say that any better. thanks, guys. And, if we'll see you next episode.

All: Thanks, Eric. Eric. Thank you. Eric. Thank you.