Investor Spotlight: Q&A With Chad Sutter of Sutter Metals
Investor Spotlight: Q&A With Chad Sutter of Sutter Metals
Thurston EDC: How long have you been in business?
Sutter Metals: Sutter Metals has been in business Since July of 2009.
Thurston EDC: What is your product and who is your customer?
Sutter Metals: We are the “thing” that is the beginning of a product, namely metal commodities. We are a scrap metal recycling yard. With the help of our customers big and small, we are the impetus to the recycling process: we clean, sort and prepare metal products for recycling.
Thurston EDC: What inspired you, or the founders, to start your business?
Sutter Metals: I am inspired by the ideas of practicality and process. I first began in the auto wrecking and used parts business by introduction from my dad, former owner of Nisqually Auto Wrecking. He had a niche market in the industry and a natural drive to serve his community. If you needed a part, he would find it; if you needed a job, he would offer it. When it was my turn to work his front counter, I saw an opportunity in the end phase of the “junk cars.” Specifically, I became interested in the process following a vehicle’s end-of-life fate. There was a whole world of untapped business potential and value in scrap metal. And as I grew as a business owner, met new partners, spoke with competitors and listened to the needs of customers, my business compass directed my growth. My inspiration then is ever-changing; it is a compass that responds to opportunities and beneficial and practical needs.
Thurston EDC: What inspires your work and sets you apart from the competition?
Sutter Metals: It’s adaptability. I have been known to be the wallflower or the one who just “goes with the flow” simply because history prescribed it. Rather, I am the type who yearns for more information, seeks to understand the unpopular options and the one who wants to create new possibilities even amid push-backs from the nay-sayers. More importantly, I can identify new needs and am not bashful to present new solutions. I seek meaningful conversation and a varied collaboration always. And I am not afraid to put my best foot forward in doing my part. I know my strengths but more so, I know who holds my weaknesses as their strengths and I’m not hesitant to build a partnership to achieve a goal.
Thurston EDC: What has been your biggest success to date?
Sutter Metals: Taking a risk to start. My pocket was light and my ambitions were disproportionately larger than my business track-record. My first business plan was written on a post-it note (the large one) with addendums written on napkins. To be honest, the fiscal note and budget planning of the business had me at $0.00 by month three. I can happily and humbly say I’m now approaching my 11th year, so it seems things have worked out for the better.
Thurston EDC: What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Sutter Metals: The biggest challenge is the one that continues to dampen the climate for all business owners. This state’s economic climate mirrors its grey and dreary weather on long winters. There are draconian laws and policies within this state that unnecessarily compound the expectations for employers. The grab-bag of regulations from multiple agencies on any business owner continues to paralyze a business’ ability to be creative and competitive. The strategy among large, publicly-traded companies to support the over-regulation of practices imposed by the state is a crafty and cruel scheme to monopolize and undermine the existence of small businesses who operate on limited resources.
Thurston EDC: What does your typical workday look like?
Sutter Metals:I always set my alarm early, yet I seem to always wake before it. My mind is automated to shut off late and turn on early. Coffee in hand, I review the news for the day. I believe in staying relevant not only to my industry but to my local community. This helps me understand trends, events and people. I read key periodicals including the WSJ, Puget Sound Business Journal and local papers. I review the business’ bank account at the start and close of each day. I like to know every transaction – deposit or withdrawal. Every penny counts and I never like to take one for granted. I review my calendar for the day, even our family calendar.
I plug in my phone, by this time it’s usually in its red zone. My phone is always on; I make myself always available. Before the break of dawn, I usually have an idea of what my tasks are. But once the clock strikes 7:00 a.m. (when our first truck-dispatch departs) and from then on, I’m responding to the needs of my employees’ who directly service our customers. I go into the office soon after it opens at 8:00 a.m. and I review the dispatch and tow assignments and touch base with my key employees so they can take care of the rest. And I hit the road. I attend car auctions, visit with existing customers and meet new ones. These days, I also have to balance my commitments to meetings for non-profit boards, advisory boards and other community interest groups. Before the end of business day, I check back to the office for closing duties. I’m usually home for dinner with my family but my phone always remains in arm’s reach.
Thurston EDC: What is your best advice for an aspiring entrepreneur?
Sutter Metals: Take a risk. Talk to others, often. Read more. And keep moving.
Thurston EDC: Do you have a business or personal mantra or inspirational quote you’d like to share?
Sutter Metals:“Success is not final; failure not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
Thurston EDC: Is there a common misconception about your business within Thurston County that you’d like to address here?
Sutter Metals: Oftentimes, the public can be quick to become distracted by the “dirty” nature of the recycler’s job without really understanding and appreciating the necessary existence for our industry. Recycling is an approach to solving a growing public issue. Recyclers divert broken or used items away from the landfill stream and steer products for repurpose and reuse. It is a dirty job, but our stench is selfless. We are evolving as an industry to make processes more “clean” within practical reasons practical and containable costs. Now more than ever, we need the public to be not only our customers but our informed allies.
Photo of Chad Sutter – Credit: Lauri Martin – Thurston Talk