Welcome to our new blog suitably titled Made in Minnesota where we will explore different Minnesota-based businesses and learn some helpful tips along the way! The blog format will be a Q&A, conversational style that allows you as the listener to lean in and get to know some great Minnesota business owners on a personal level. You will hear stories of big dreams turned reality, obstacles encountered and how they were overcome, things business owners would love to go back in time and change and fun little tidbits you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to! Sound like fun? Pull up a chair and get ready to meet Don!
Today’s featured Minnesota business owner is Don Walsh, owner of Laser 1 Technologies in West St. Paul, Minnesota.
Good morning, Don! We’re happy to have you here today.
It’s great to be here!
Don, can you take some time to tell us a little bit about how Laser 1 began?
Sure! I’ve always wanted to own my own business. Every place I worked I would make note of how processes and systems could operate more effectively. Previous to starting Laser 1 I was working with another company for 10 years. I worked my way up within the organization and reached the top of the ladder as the second-in-command. Then I realized that if I’m going to have all the responsibility anyways I would prefer to own my own company. I resigned, took some money I had saved up, bought basic equipment and started my business the next week. I was the most excited and terrified I had ever been with my wife and three kids at home depending on me. Today, Laser 1 Technologies is a successful manufacturing company that specializes in high-quality laser cutting and sheet metal fabrication.
As you look back do you think you were destined to be in this business?
Probably. My father was a farmer so I learned the value of hard work and dedication early on.
What do you find most challenging about the business you’re in?
Finding the right people who share our vision and values has always been the biggest challenge. Relationships are the most important element in business. Also, keeping up with technology is a big challenge. It’s ever-changing and it’s incredibly expensive to keep up with the latest and greatest. You have to be really smart about when and how you choose to advance your business technology.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your business and what did you learn from it?
My drive and ambition to always do better is both my biggest obstacle and my biggest advantage. I’m always looking to do and accomplish more and sometimes I have to remember to stop and celebrate where we’re at today.
If you could start your business all over again what is the number one thing you would do differently?
I would go big faster! I think perception is reality and in this industry if you are perceived as large you tend to get more business from large companies. I think a lot of businesses could benefit from this approach. It’s the difference between having a corporate mentality vs. a garage/shop mentality.
What is your primary focus these days?
I’m fortunate to be in a position today where I get to focus more on the big picture. I’m constantly looking for ways to be more innovative and find stellar people who not only believe in our mission but also want to play an active role in helping us live it out.
If you only had $500 to spend on your growing business where would you spend your money and why?
I would split up the money amongst all of our employees. I believe that investing in your people is one of the smartest decisions a business owner can make. If you invest in and support them they will do the same for you.
What are three words you would use to describe your organization?
Passionate. Precise. Organized.
If you could start any business today what would you open?
This might sound cliché but I would do this all over again. I would create my own manufacturing business.
To wrap up, what is the best advice you would give a business owner who is just starting out?
Make sure your business can stand alone without you!
Thanks for joining us today, Don! We appreciate the behind-the-scenes peek into the history and company culture at Laser 1 Technologies. We wish you the best as you continue to move forward!
If you’d like to learn more about Laser 1 Technologies you can visit them online at: www.laser1tech.com.