Podcast: Consumer Product Development & Manufacturing with Lance Drollinger of Blacksmith International

March 12, 2020

Meet The Speakers

Lance Drollinger

Lance Drollinger

Vice President of Sales for Blacksmith International

Listen to the podcast

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Lance Drollinger talks about how he helps brands create products
  • The value of tech packs and prototypes in speeding up the product development process
  • The types of clients Lance works with and examples of bad products he has seen
  • How Chinese trade companies operate their businesses and how to deal with Intellectual Property Rights issues with Chinese resellers
  • The most common success indicators Lance sees in product-based inventors
  • How Lance helps people create realistic and addressable markets for their first year of selling
  • Is it better for a brand to do its own manufacturing vs private labeling?
  • What is product fading and how does it impact the production and quality of goods? 
  • Should the country of origin be viewed as an indicator of product quality?
  • Lance’s advice for brands that have been negatively affected by tariffs
  • The future of trade in the United States
  • Where to learn more about Lance and what Lance is working on

In this episode…

Product development is a challenging yet exhilarating experience. From designing and creating your first prototype to presenting it to a possible investor, it takes patience and sheer determination to get things off the ground. The market is hungry for new innovative products and if your product cannot satisfy market demand, then it’s back to the drawing board for you.

Lance Drollinger of Blacksmith International helps entrepreneurs in the design, prototyping, and marketing of new products. He has a wealth of information to share about this very important process after having worked with many brands, both national and international. He runs an international business with offices in the USA, China, India, and Singapore.

In this episode, Eric Stopper, one of the hosts of the Buy Box Experts Podcast talks to Lance about the process of creating and marketing a product, dealing with government tariffs, how to deal with Chinese resellers, trade companies, and how to best address IP issues that involve them. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned on this episode

Sponsor for this episode

Buy Box Experts applies decades of e-commerce experience to successfully manage clients’ marketplace accounts. The Buy Box account managers specialize in combining an understanding of clients’ business fundamentals and an in-depth expertise in the Amazon Marketplace.

The team works with marketplace technicians using a system of processes, proprietary software, and extensive channel experience to ensure your Amazon presence captures the opportunity on the marketplace, not only producing greater revenue and profits but also reducing or eliminating your business’ workload.

Buy Box Experts prides itself on being one of the few agencies with an SMB (small to medium-sized business) division and an Enterprise division. Buy Box does not commingle clients among divisions as each has unique needs and requirements for proper account management.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:17
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts Podcast with your host, Joseph Hansen. We bring to light the unique opportunities brands face and today’s e-commerce world.

Eric Stopper  0:18  

Hello, this is Eric Stopper and welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast where I interview top entrepreneurs in the product, consumer product space. This episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. We’ve got a team of consultants, I am one of those consultants. We want to look at your lessons on Amazon. We want to dive deep and figure out why the best ones are doing well and why the worst ones are doing the worst. So come and call us go to BuyBoxExperts.com click on the free analysis button and it’s completely free. No strings attached. Come and talk to us. We’d love to have you today. 

I am joined by Lance Drollinger, Vice President of sales for Blacksmith International, a well respected design, development and manufacturing company based here in Utah. They focus on consumer products. If you want something built, bring it to them. Ideally bring a prototype make sure that it’s, it’s, you’ve thought through some of those details. I’ve worked with Lance and his team. And I have nothing but good things to say. developing a product is an enormous amount of work and Lance and his team at blacksmith helped me understand the process and implications of how I wanted to manufacture my products. Lance is a proud husband, a father, an avid cycler and an expert in consumer product development and manufacturing. Lance, welcome to the show.

Lance Drollinger  1:41  

Thanks, man. Happy to be here.

Eric Stopper  1:43  

So I have two major topics that I want to hit on. Okay. Number one, when creating products, right, like I’ve run the gamut a couple times. I got some brands of my own, but I want to know some of the keys to success and into this has been a hot topic for people when it comes to Amazon is. I want to know about international trade tariffs. I want to pick your brain I want to understand, because I was talking to a guy, probably two weeks ago, his cost of steel went up on these, like lanterns that he was selling. Yeah, like 25% like, boom, just his margin was gone. Yep. And I was on a call with him. And it was just depressing. And I didn’t know what to tell the guy I was like, look like you’ve got you’ve got some people steering the wheel that are not steering it in the direction that’s beneficial for you. So I want to dig into that and get Yeah, get some get some feedback from you. So the vast majority of our listeners, they own and operate product based businesses. So they’re more than likely acquainted with this, this process of developing products, but can can you help me understand what you spend your days doing? How you help brands?

Lance Drollinger  2:57  

Oh, man, what we spend our day Doing and I think you’ve touched upon it in our intro is just being really thorough, right? And making sure that the idea that you have in your head is executable. And that comes down to having it down on paper. We call these things tech packs. If you’ve heard the term backson a lot of people if they’ve been in products they have and a thorough, well put together tech pack is crucial. absolutely crucial. Because you’ll spend days, months and years going back and forth. Oh, it’s kind of there. But I need this one. What’s that? But I need this to and then oh, yeah, that thing I said five times ago? I still need that. But this way, right? Yeah. Back and forth. For years.

Eric Stopper  3:44  

What kind of thing takes a year to develop a tech pack for

Lance Drollinger  3:47  

a while don’t see that’s the thing without a tech back Google for you. Oh, I get it. Right. If you get a tech pack in you’re very thorough and what you need and what your deliverables are, then you’re going to be successful in a lot of quicker with with your product development.

Eric Stopper  4:02  

So I’m a random, I’m a random kid, right? I’ve got an invention. Maybe I’m a maybe I’m, you know, I’m 60, right? And I’ve got an invention and I and I want to bring it to market. What do I bring to you? Right? I don’t have a tech pack. I don’t know how to build a tech pack, what do I bring?

Lance Drollinger  4:21  

hope we’ve tried to iterate some and make a prototype of your own. And that’s happened. And I have people that have just made the wildest stuff and come up with amazing little prototypes that just blow my mind, you know, and they work kind of at least helps us, right. And then what I need to know is just really what you’re looking to accomplish. Right? And so we’ll, we’ll review those things and and find what your end goal is. And then we work backwards from that. And then once we get all that we understand everything we’re going to we’re going to bring in a specialist that either in digital designer, we need engineers, we will get those two. And we’ll we’ll look through that and make sure that we take everything that you said Take your prototype, and we’ll get it into a blueprint or a tech pack, right of how we’re going to develop this thing and what exactly we’re looking to accomplish so that we meet those expectations out of the gate.

Eric Stopper  5:12  

So in terms of when I should come to you, yeah, I just have to have a prototype in hand, or at least have to have just an end goal of what I want to accomplish. Like, what’s an example of a goal that someone’s trying to accomplish when they come to you?

Lance Drollinger  5:27  

a product that they can sell, right, a product that they they know is something that will resonate with, with a market and something that they can sell. So honestly, I’ve had people come to me with just ideas. I’ve had people come to me like, this morning, I’m talking to a group that were making socks for the NHL, like really crazy stuff, right. So we span the spectrum in that area.

Eric Stopper  5:51  

Interesting. So I mean, I had the typical client come to you with delusions of grandeur about how great their product is. is going to be or do a lot of them have some pretty, you know, feasible designs that they’re bringing to the market. I tell me about some of the ones that maybe weren’t so great.

Lance Drollinger  6:09  

Oh my gosh. The one is the Tories for us right now. And I don’t even want to say it feel so bad for these people. But I had some guys come in here and they were all in their suits, right. And they were really ready for this thing. And they, they wanted to make this accessory. And they were called fingers sleeves. And they were little pieces of fabric that you would put on like earrings or like rings, but they covered more of your finger. And you know, it was going to be a fashion accessory. And it was three dudes that came up with finger sleep. And they were convinced this is going to be this huge market, you know, and I mean, it was it was hilarious. But then we’ve had people come in with some really life changing, you know, technology standards, just, they’re going to alter the way people age. You know what I mean? And they’re going to help them with their agent. Aging and keeping them up, right? And these different things. So there’s just, there’s crazy stuff. But yeah, we’ll get people that come in here and they have the next greatest thing and it’s going to be the biggest thing ever. And you know, they can’t market it. We can’t sell it and and it might be a great, it might be something that’s great, but you can’t sell it to there’s no point making it. Do you walk away from those people? Yeah, can we try to lay people down as gently as possible? Sure. The ones that hurt the worst are the ones that actually have a really good idea but just can’t fund it.

Eric Stopper  7:33  

Those are the poor inventors. What do you tell those people they’re listening right now?

Lance Drollinger  7:38  

And I tell them to find somebody that can get behind your idea that has money, you know what I mean? And it’s gotta be try to stay away from families in case it goes south because probably will. It’s hard to get products off the crown, right? It’s not that easy. But find somebody that understands if you have if it’s for like a niche like if it’s a drone piece. Whatever, find people that are wild about drones and they have money, right? Or if it’s a, you know, if it’s a skateboard, something, find a really good skater that has a following that has money that wants to invest. Find those people and bring them in and give them equity and get them on your team.

Eric Stopper  8:17  

And so the the people that come to you are they typically well funded and there’s going to be a big clip that they’re willing to pay you or you working with, you know, a lot of these poor inventors that that really need hand holding to the whole process. Just again, we we span the spectrum will have people that just don’t have the money.

Lance Drollinger  8:38  

A lot of these examples I’ve given you or just people that have come through my door and I’ve dealt with, I’ve dealt with a really awesome product that, you know, he spent a couple grand getting right, it’s perfect and can’t go anywhere with it to people that are funded so much and have plenty of money and still haven’t just been able to move their product. Yeah.

Eric Stopper  8:54  

Do y’all invent your own products in house as a team?

Lance Drollinger  8:57  

We have it. We really have it Want to I want to mix but it’s it’s a lot of work to get made products and this is a full time job. I mean this is a 24 seven job. You know when people are sleeping when our clients are sleeping, we’re up we’re up till midnight two in the morning making sure our team is getting stuff done that we need done overseas

Eric Stopper  9:18  

and that’s because a part of the team is in China and and probably Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka these factoring companies.

Lance Drollinger  9:26  

Yeah, so yeah, we have a staff of about 15 in China alone, we’ve got a couple of little dash and we’ve got a couple of Indonesia and those things are going well.

Eric Stopper  9:36  

So I I’m working on a on a brand of phone cases right now that have this cool vintage color effect to them. And I found somebody on Alibaba who can manufacture these products. And she has like this this girl that I’m that I’m talking with she’s she’s from China, and she has lied to me 17 times have a have a tally of how many times This woman is like me. But I can’t really go anywhere else. She’s got this machine that, and I yeah, and I and I can’t really, and I’ve gone through so much with her. I was told to never make a future decision off of sunk costs. And I feel like a lot of the the interface that I’ve had with her have been very much sunk cost. So like, what’s, what’s your advice to someone like me? Where do I go from here? How do I keep from getting absolutely just decimated by them ripping off my products or otherwise? So

Lance Drollinger  10:29  

there’s a couple things.

The very first thing I’d say on a more optimistic, optimistic point of view is I don’t know if she’s trying to lie to you. I think she might misunderstand you some ways and say things and think she read something and answer in a different way. And that’s probably happening more than her life. Could she be lying? Sure, but what she’s trying not to do is be wrong or let you do that is her biggest worry. In China. They just don’t want to let you down. They’re very loyal. loyal people to a fault. Really great Netflix documentary for everybody real quick. Just put in a plug, go look at the factory on Netflix and then watch specifically when they’re in China when they do their end of the year party and see how loyal these people are. It’s pretty crazy.

Unknown Speaker  11:15  

Yeah, there’s a big gift giving

Lance Drollinger  11:19  

the song and the song, the songs about being loyal to the company, like in a preachy, like ceremonia song, like way, you know, I mean, so it’s just kind of how they think. Anyway, they’re extremely loyal. And so they just don’t want to let you down. And in that cases, they’re trying to lie because or they lie. Not purposely

Eric Stopper  11:40  

Yeah, what is wrong? What is letting me down look like is that they can’t do what I’m asking me to do.

Lance Drollinger  11:47  

Yeah, they can’t make it. They feel bad.

Eric Stopper  11:49  

I’m fairly I’m I’m about 99% certain that she’s a she’s representing a trade company. Yes. Can you can you tell me in the people listening just Give me the rundown on trade companies in general. So

Lance Drollinger  12:02  

a trade company, right? They’re not gonna, they’re not going to have. So they’re just going to be working with a bunch of factories and represent like what they can do. And they said, Oh yeah, I can make that. I had some guy making like a trampoline hose. And then we didn’t actually even make his product. He went found it and we went and did a QC and he was working with a with an agent. Well, the factory wasn’t going to let the agent use their facilities beyond making an order. And when we got there to do that, to do the check, the difference between a factory and an agent was it was in a was in a storage shed, and it was in the garage. And we went through, you know, 10,000 pieces, and it was just it was crazy. So anyway, long story short, that’s what happens. Right? And that’s, that’s kind of the scary side, you’ll you’ll you will happen you’ll you’ll find factory owners when we work with factories, we only work with the loud bond and China for example, the owners all of our documentation. All of our contracts, everything’s done with signatures with those with authority to have signatures. And we never claimed to be something that we’re not right. But when when you get these agents who are claiming to be that I remember very vividly three years ago, we did an audit for a man who had been working with a factory making his sunglasses for five years and had been out there himself eight times. We were there within 10 minutes. We told him it was a was an agent, and he flat out did not believe us. And then it wasn’t until we showed some other things that he couldn’t believe it because every time you went, they took him to the factory as if they were there, right. And they made it look like it was their factory.

Unknown Speaker  13:39  

And they just played

Lance Drollinger  13:40  

along. What was their role and they, you know, it was Chinese, he didn’t speak Chinese. They probably said we’re not a factory. They could have said it right to his face and he didn’t know they didn’t speak English. Are you? Is your team at an advantage because you have so many Mandarin speakers. Were we’re in an advantage because we have an organization we within the country of origin, where we can do things legally and correctly. So this whole we’re going to get into tariffs, I think we’re going to talk about the debt to thing you want to talk about, but a lot of this terror stems from China, right stealing IP. Now. Yes, that happens. And it happens, by the way, a lot more in America than we want to admit to we do it to people in America, still people’s product ideas all the time, and they’re showing up on Amazon, right? see it all the time. Okay. You can get IP protection in China, they just don’t recognize our IP law in America. Now. That’s all changed starting January 1. That’s changed. We could have a whole nother podcast on that later. But they always had an IP process they did we have a legal with Sophie, she’s on our she’s a retainer over there. She’s phenomenal. You know, we would call her up and we go through that process and really, it’s like 400 bucks American, right? It’s not A extreme amount of money like it is over here, that it is there. I mean, it’s a real enforceable piece of intellectual property. Yeah.

Eric Stopper  15:10  

China 400 US dollars.

Lance Drollinger  15:12  

Yeah, that was our last one was about 400. How many people actually do it? Not nobody knows about it. Nobody knows how to do they just feel like oh, I get my patent in America, I’m done. You know, realize that, you know, that’s American law governed by American fortunate. If you are going to start selling a product

Eric Stopper  15:29  

today. Would you focus on getting that IP? Before you even list your products? Or is that something that you can do as you go along?

Lance Drollinger  15:38  

The most amazing thing I’ve ever heard from an IP attorney himself, was just getting an IP doesn’t make you money. So it was a crucial step. No crucial piece of me making money to get IP. Absolutely. But if it wasn’t, if it was just you know, first of the first out of the gate and does it the best, then I wouldn’t worry about

Eric Stopper  15:56  

so for people who are listening who sell on Amazon, specifically currently getting ripped off by Chinese resellers which, you know who knows maybe they’re their parent companies American company that’s just stealing IP from from them and getting the manufacturing done in China. What What do you tell them? Right like they’re currently getting ripped off? They go and get the IP or is it already too late?

Lance Drollinger  16:19  

It’s already too late at that point. If you have something that is that you work real hard to get IP for before you start selling it, you need IP in those other countries, specifically China, any other origin countries that could make it

Eric Stopper  16:32  

interesting. I’m I’m trying to imagine these these product based inventors, these entrepreneurs coming to you and imagining what they look like they probably know they probably look like you and me. But have you noticed any, like significant indicators of success across the group of people that you work with? Like, yeah, someone walks in the door. How do you know that they’re like best client best product.

Lance Drollinger  16:57  

So I had a gal come in here, just the other guy. Look at me. I’m old, a girl, I don’t know.

Come in the other day, just last week. She’s got 2.5 million followers. Okay, she’s in she’s an actress. She’s in she’s doing something starting February and anyway, I gotta keep a lot of stuff close. But anyway, actress level could could do a lot, right? And long story short, when I knew that I was working with somebody I could work with her her brother in this case, whose business partners who helped her with this, he said, You know, I always I think of the 10th I caught the 10th the 10th. And he said, you know, she’s got 25 years, we could do 10th of a percent. Then I know we have something. And I thought, Wow, that was really good because he wasn’t like, oh, we’ll go get you know, 10% of her following that are going to buy this product. He was realistic. He knows what it takes to sell a product and you had that in mind. You knew how much work it was going to take to get there. On the other end of the spectrum, I had somebody come in here, they’re doing this bag, I’ll just say it that way. And the guy’s like, Well, I think there’s like 90 million Americans, if we take 10% of that market, you know, it’s 9 million. And my response to him was, Do you know who Disney is? Yeah, Disney. I said, you know, Disney plus? And he said, Yeah, so this is a streaming service that they were marketing really put millions of dollars into marketing was pushing really, really, really hard. You know, what they started with out of the gate? It was 10 million subscribers in the world. Right? That’s a 10th of a percent. Does that make sense? Of course, people come to me and they’re telling me they’re going to capture a big chunk of the market and they don’t even know what goes into it, then I know that I’m not talking with somebody that has business.

Eric Stopper  18:46  

So it’s just coming in with realistic expectations.

Lance Drollinger  18:49  

Yes, it’s really being realistic. How do you encourage people to create some indicator of a realistic total addressable market for their first You’re you’re selling I’m extremely honest with them and I never ever give them any glimpse of hope of this thing going really fast and going really well.

Eric Stopper  19:08  

Do you do any of that market research for them to help them understand how many they can sell?

Lance Drollinger  19:13  

No, I don’t it’s it’s that’s a whole nother job. We ran a whole nother we really could we have enough people that come in that would probably pay for it. But it’s just not what we do. But when I tell somebody what I always start with, I’m going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you’re looking for what to hear. And, and really plainly tell them because of I’ve been around these product companies for so long I’ve seen knows what goes into it those that are successful and why, you know, I’ll talk to them and then people that I have, a couple of guys have come in and they’ve got big backgrounds, fortune 500 company, know how to push money, know how to push product, really talented, talented guys. And they wanted a spring launch with this product that they were trying to make a change to and I told him you’re not gonna even you may have your first sample in like the end of spring, you’re not even close to where you want to be, you know what I mean? And that woke them up because they had been talking to a lot of companies just like ours. And they were all telling what they want to be here listed. I guarantee you, if you go with that, I can tell you where you are today. And I can tell you where you’re going to be in six months, and it’s not going to be where you want to be. You’re going to it’s going to take some time, especially if you’re trying to make this kind of a change and you’re going to get one shot at this and you’re going to put in this kind of money. You really need to think through that.

Eric Stopper  20:30  

Where Where are people getting these delusional timelines from?

Lance Drollinger  20:35  

Um I don’t know.

Unknown Speaker  20:41  

I just think

Eric Stopper  20:43  

it takes twice as long and twice as much money right is what I always hear. Yes, what everyone’s expectations half of what they should be I want

Lance Drollinger  20:50  

Well, I think they can talk to other people that have been making a product lead like oh, it only takes you 60 days to get that property. That’s amazing your name but they don’t ever tell them the nightmare part of the story. Yeah, I mean, they don’t tell them the part that in everything that went into making that product, they don’t talk about that. And so sometimes they just hear Okay, 60 days that’s great, but they don’t understand to get it right. How long that takes.

Eric Stopper  21:13  

what’s what’s the quickest y’all have ever rolled out a product from first meeting with you are a member of the team to first order.

Unknown Speaker  21:22  

A probably.

Lance Drollinger  21:26  

There was one two years ago, it was a sock that they needed it. It was actually for Coachella Festival. Oh, cool. I had those done in 29 days. Whoa, that was crazy. That was fast. But we’ve we’ve had some people that are like into two to three months, but typically it’s like six to nine months process to get so hold on a second though. 29 days blended. Now 29 days to be made and then they Yeah, okay. 29 days. Yeah.

Eric Stopper  21:53  

Okay. That makes sense. I want to go I want to go back to something that we were talking about previously. These trade companies Yeah, obviously right in the in the scenario even that you laid out it’s going to be better if you are speaking directly with the manufacturer, the less telephones to go through less opportunities for the design to get lost or messed up. And and you can disagree with me if I’m if I’m wrong about that. But I was I was talking with Trevor Trevor George at Blue media on a previous episode he came on the show. And he made this assertion that brands who have the highest competitive advantage are in e commerce especially are the ones who own their manufacturing, because it makes it so that they can competitively priced right like anybody can list on to to Amazon, Instagram, Google, anybody can create a Shopify site. And so does this mean that this like giant private labeling, importing business that has like made all these kid millionaires is going to be coming I’m obsolete, what do you think?

Lance Drollinger  23:01  

So no, for a couple reasons. So I don’t, blacksmith International, we’re more of a professional supply chain management company than we are just sourcing stuff for people, right? You manage the supply chain. If you don’t have me, then you have to hire people. And your margins on your product ultimately are going to be the same, right? So you have to think through that a little bit. There’s people that don’t have a clue and don’t know how to navigate and they’re not organized enough. I know people that probably could manage stuff, but they’re just not organized enough. Don’t stay on top of stuff. We asked him for things and it takes three weeks when I say get that to me tomorrow, you know, I mean, and then I asked again, hey, I see for that four days ago still that done? You know, I mean? There’s just certain things that people aren’t capable of doing. So they need help. It’s the same reason why people outsource any kind of service from payroll to you name it, right, is they they can either bring the people in house, pay taxes, all those people hope that they grown to be really great hope that they never, never leave and take those resources somewhere else. Right, like there’s a lot to that. So I don’t think it will go away. I agree with him that if you have control over your pricing as much as possible, you can, you can do that. But where you can still make your margins and have somebody working and helping run your supply chain and making sure your stuff is correct before it ever leaves a boat, we have a client that we do daily checks of their stuff, we get daily reports back from our facility, and we do several checks and it’s the highest quality it could be we’ve grown the lines from like four people to four lines. And it’s just, it’s crazy, right? And so it just takes a lot of management to have that success at the end of the day. And either you’re going to hire that in house and train it and grow it and hope it never leaves or you can find a resource like us or if you’re looking to just do some quickly and you’re finding these agents, you know, that’s just not going away. There’s people that want quick and dirty and they just want to slap a logo on it and that’s going to go that’s going to be an agent psyche factory. So it’s not No way. But yeah, I think

Eric Stopper  25:02  

the more sophisticated people are likely going to prevail, the ones that can get close to the manufacturer, the ones that take the time to design quality products, the ones that actually, you know, give a crap about the the design process.

Lance Drollinger  25:16  

Yes. And the management of supply chain, really manageable supply chain is a full time job. That’s why I have a job,

Eric Stopper  25:24  

right? What’s the hardest piece of it? What’s the the most the 80% right that has to happen in order for the 20% to work? comfort.

Lance Drollinger  25:34  

The hardest piece

is you feel like you’re comfortable with your supplier. That’s when product fade happens or something goes awry. They miss a little click, they miss some piece that time, whatever it is like you have to be on top of every detail. If your product, product fade, product fade so product things very interesting. It can be made well the first time maybe the second but then tooling can get dirty or they just get complacent. And they know hey, they’re not checking. So now I’m going to change the way to the fabric from a 320 to 300. And I slightly start changing that fabric and I keep pinching it till I get caught. Now I’m at a 280 grams instead of a 320. And now all of a sudden, it’s a way different feel. It feels cheap, all of a sudden, you know, I mean, oh, and these, these things start happening. And this is how factories will start making money. In some cases, you’re not weighing stuff, you’re not cutting a little circle and put it on a gram meter, making sure it’s 320. You’re not checking the tolerances of weights of fabrics, you’re not doing that, right. And if you’re not doing those things, that’s where product fade creeps in. So that’s why I say and that’s your surprise, your eyes went real big right and you comfort what you’re supposed to be comfortable, right? soon as you get comfortable. That’s when things start happening.

Eric Stopper  26:51  

So how long does it typically take for product fade to make a significant impact where there’s a noticeable difference in the products?

Unknown Speaker  27:00  

is early as a year,

Eric Stopper  27:02  

a year I sign up with a manufacturer they’re manufacturing my products. The first round looks great. The second round looks great. I’m shipping to distributors all over now. Like it just hits my warehouse go straight to Amazon goes, you know two or three PL inside of a year.

Lance Drollinger  27:19  

And having crappier products, couple things happen. management’s can change over right. They’re easier. workers to write high turnover after Chinese New Year in China, especially right. Lots of things can happen. And it could just be a fabric, it could be the fabric mill, it could be that the factory themselves, it could be the second or first level tier all the way deep, right? You can keep going down, you might be at the first level, but they’re still getting their stuff from the second, third and fourth levels, and it can creep all the way down into those. So you have to just, it can happen as early as a year can really happen through the six months but a year.

Eric Stopper  27:56  

So So what do you do? you’ve cut little circles in one every thousand of your products and

Lance Drollinger  28:02  

know we test every time fabrics made every single time. And in typically the way fabrics made, if you have that knowledge, you know, you’re not gonna you’re not gonna see a deviation from a roll. So that those kind of things we can test for. But it’s also just making sure and improving a problem product and making sure that they’re not making changes. Do you guys do one time audits? If somebody thinks that there’s a problem with their manufacturing, do you guys just swoop in and save the day? So Man, I wish it were that easy. I wish we could swoop in and save the day. I’ve had so many people come to me and have that kind of that expectation. And it looks negative upon me because I have no recourse when I’m running a product. I get a contract signed with the owner of the factory, but if I’m just some Joe Schmo off the street that walks in and says hey, these guys have been doing business with you. When you talk to me better than you’re talking to them. You got to have realistic expectations. You know what I mean? Even if they are Chinese, they are my you know and candy. My manager of their She’s, she’s a bulldog man, she’s not gonna let anything go. But the reality is we can we go do audits and we’ve done it. But it doesn’t change the outcome. Whatever’s happened has happened. What I do is I give you data and you get to derive what you want to do from that. I can’t go in and just say, wait a minute, everything that the product speaks, it’s usually made by the time somebody comes to me at that time, you know, I’ve I’ve audited batteries, it’s not I don’t make money doing it. I’ve done it for people that need help, you know, because I charge basically enough to cover my feet. I don’t I don’t think someone’s gonna pay me enough to make a living not to do. But, and there are companies out there that do quality checks, and they built businesses on just doing quality control checking, and that and there’s something to that too, but to what extent we need to have the original samples and you don’t have all the detail on exactly what we should be checking for it just it’s called But like I gave on that whole scenario, it was very beneficial for that person for me to show up, do some compression tests on some things, because he had a couple blow up in his face. And he was like, wait, and they said one thing, you know, they said, Oh, that’s because we had a couple and we just didn’t know which ones we pulled. And the story didn’t make sense, right. So we were able to get in there and do some testing and make sure it was good. before they left, you know, and that kind of stuff can but the outcome was the same. If we would have been all really bad stuff. It would have been bad, I would have been able to do it. But I was able to say hey, yeah, it’s good enough to put it on.

Eric Stopper  30:35  

Interesting. Yeah. Okay. So question for you, maybe coming from a really selfish standpoint, but on the on the brand that I’m launching, right? Like, I can buy one of the machines they use for 5000 bucks. Right? I guess at what point do I decide, hey, I’m actually going to start manufacturing these bad boys. Do I? You know, just make make 5000 bucks and just go ahead and do it. Should I do it? from the onset and just control my manufacturing at the very beginning, what do you think?

Lance Drollinger  31:03  

So it’s going to come to your your ability to sell the product. Right? I think that’s where it is if you have something and it’s starting to sell and you can for in that’s really relatively inexpensive, I don’t know, the labor, it’s going to be behind that to make those products right. I don’t know it’s gonna take or if that’s just something you can do in your pajamas at night while you’re home, you know, doing your thing I don’t know. But you know, it really depends. I I actually had the reverse question asked of me just last Thursday. This guy makes his own. They’re kind of like snowshoe bores really cool. And he makes him right here in Salt Lake. But he’s like, I need to if I’m going to scale I can’t do this like and the money’s way better if I go to China, but I’m just not getting the quality. I’m like, bro, you’re gonna have to go there in person because you have a process and they have to understand it. But for you to answer your question. I think if you have some You’re not selling and in the margins are there if you were to manufactured over here, I think you do it right away, personally. All right.

Eric Stopper  32:09  

Okay, got some got some thinking to do that actually is a pretty good segue about, like going to China. The Canton Fair this this year. I’ve heard that that’s a blast, but many people who are manufacturing products and I think just general American sentiment, is that made in the USA, right is this indicator of product quality? And that if I import something from China that it’s it’s not going to be as good and you’ve expressed to me your feelings that saying that the country of origin shouldn’t be viewed as an indicator of product quality. Can you talk to me a little bit more about this?

Lance Drollinger  32:43  

Yeah, I mean, the iPhones made in China, right? I mean, and that’s quality at the highest standard, you know, they don’t miss anything. What it comes down to is going back to that product fayed conversation, when people will choose to use to 80 gram weight of fat versus 320 because it’s going to save them a few pennies, you know, I mean, it’s going well in most cases might save them in a whole dollar I it’s the choices that we make that that end up reflecting upon quality. So you can have an actually some of the best selling in this entire world and I’m telling you, there’s products that I cannot make in this country at all that are made overseas. And a lot of the best selling in the world is outside of our borders because that skill set left a long time ago right now we’re currently trying to bring that back here we actually have facilities running and we’re making like 12,000 units a month right now it’s pretty amazing you know, those type of things but it’s it’s a very interesting conversation that that that you know, oh, it’s China product crap, right. Oh, those cheap China products right. And it goes from autoparts to you You name it. And it’s not so much because of the country that it was made in, that makes it crap. It’s because of its decisions of the people asking them to make that work crap. Does it make sense? And it does, it does. Having that knowledge and letting those things slide. Like I said, the product thing, right, those things can happen. And that can happen in any country. And it definitely happens here in America too. So it’s the care in the in the thought that goes into it that will make a product

Eric Stopper  34:31  

interesting, so that I mean, there’s there’s stuff that’s manufactured here, that’s just junk. Now, this is this is kind of an overarching philosophical discussion. I’m of the impression This is a global economy, right? Like my brother, my brother in the Chinese man in the Chinese factory, the Hong Kong factory. He’s He’s just as much my my human brother as anybody else here in Utah or anywhere in the United States. So I mean, is this an us versus them kind of thing, and this is You know, leading us into this tariff discussion? Is it imperative that we bring these these specialty manufacturing processes back into the homeland? Or are we just looking at this whole situation the wrong way? We’re,

Lance Drollinger  35:13  

in my opinion is very biased, but we are looking at the wrong way. You want world peace, we all want world peace. The best way to make World Peace is create jobs. And I remember we took a client over, I guess it’s been a year, almost two years now. We went over and you know, what was mind blowing to them was these ladies that were making their stuff for moms, you know, and they had mouths to feed, right? And she’s like, their moms, just like moms will be here wire wire singing better than their moms or whatever, you know. And it was kind of eye opening for that all of a sudden her guilt of manufacturing overseas went away. She had guilt as much as she didn’t Want to Michi and guilt, that guilt went away because she saw the real person making that product. It’s not us versus them, and we will lose if that’s the attitude that we will have. We are not self sufficient enough. China had this issue with the Opium War. But you know, I mean, this goes on for decades. For centuries, we’ve been fighting, battling the same battle for centuries. And every time somebody tries to go on their own IE Rome, whatever, you name it, right? It usually false. So, if at a world we come together, and we create peace through jobs, we have a village in northern India, that the only way they make money is by hand looming with hand looms because that’s what they could afford cotton. And we are lucky enough that we have a client that can use some of that cotton and they can’t produce tons fast they can’t produce enough to be making 10s of thousands of dresses, right? These this village could not eat. If we’re not buying They’re fabric. And we’re not giving them a handout. They don’t want a handout, they want a job. Right. And that’s not hurting anyone over here by the way that fabric contributes to about 25 jobs for this company here stateside. So it’s the world and we work together

Eric Stopper  37:17  

right. And I feel like we we lose a lot of that the the metric that we should be tracking as a world is just total jobs, right total employment rate as opposed to my employment rate, compared to China’s employment rate. I think that’s that’s beautiful. Now in terms of free trade, lots to say about this, and anybody that’s keeping up with the news, please keep up with the news and actually vote and talk and write letters to your Congress people like make sure that you’re weighing in on this and an intelligent and informed away. I can’t tell you how to think. Um, but I want to know, has has Blacksmith International been negatively affected by tariffs

Lance Drollinger  38:01  

Um, so luckily a lot of the tariffs have been kind of on the business side of things like people getting raw goods, steel and stuff. You talked about an example of steel right hurting people and it hasn’t affected consumer goods at all, but not that much it should say, but yes, we have been affected by it. And yes, all consumer companies are being affected

Eric Stopper  38:28  

by it. What What should these brands do? I talked to hundreds of these guys a month and like, like my homie who can’t afford to buy this core product that he was just making so much money on this, like, just before the tariffs and he saw the news and was like, Oh my gosh, I’m doomed. What do you tell a guy like that?

Lance Drollinger  38:53  

I wish I had the answer because I need to tell myself

to sleep some nights, you know?

It’s a sad thing that we have people being used as pawns in in a scheme that, I don’t know if at the end of day, anything really, really changed. I mean, some things will change, but things that were we’re fighting for, like I said earlier, we’re kind of already in place if you just get them right. And a lot of things that we can control as a country before we ask somebody else to control. But what I would say is to keep looking and keep doing your best at lowering your costs as much as possible. So you say, so you pay less than the terrified and just keep looking for outside resources. The problem is what has happened is this exodus from China’s choke every other country, everybody’s like, they still want to talk to you because that was the mo that they were in, but it is their capacities just shot there, therefore, and they know it, you know what I mean? And so it’s it’s kind of a it’s been a A challenge and it goes both ways. And you know, you’ll read this constantly throughout. I mean, I just read an article this morning about a company that started in 18. Whatever it was a shoe company, right? I forget what it was 18 some, and they’re like, if this one hits on December 5, we’re done. We’re fine. That’s finally at we’ve, we weathered all these things, but if this Trump thing happens, we’re done. There’s not enough and it happened. Well, December 15 is the one that

Eric Stopper  40:28  

Yeah, okay, that’s this recording that company is still in business. For days despair.

Lance Drollinger  40:35  

Yeah. So we’ll see there’s supposed to be this Midnight Hour thing and they’ll push it off again, and it will just keep being

pushed, but

Eric Stopper  40:42  

it’s pretty bad. Okay, maybe maybe even a harder question. will

Lance Drollinger  40:46  

say one thing though. Yeah, please. I just want to clarify who’s paying the terrorists.

Unknown Speaker  40:53  

The consumer, the end consumer, right. It’s not China.

Lance Drollinger  40:57  

So anytime you hear China’s paying those tariffs, that They’re not paying a dime. That money is collected from the person importing the stuff as soon as it crosses the border.

Eric Stopper  41:06  

Just FYI. So it’s just straight up penalizing American businesses for importing products. I was talking to a guy that

Lance Drollinger  41:13  

is normal import tariffs because there’s tariffs on everything. Sure. Some things that were duty free, but there’s tariffs on anything is normal tariff was about 500,000 annually. It’s now $2.5 million

Eric Stopper  41:28  

at the shoe company guy

Lance Drollinger  41:30  

no different I didn’t know that guy just was doomed.

Eric Stopper  41:35  

Now look, I’m I’m a big proponent of free trade. I personally think that tariffs are just a big chest beating exercise that leads to protectionism, right? This idea that I’m going to hold all my country and keep everybody together and it’s kind of this you know, us versus them mentality. I think China’s kicking our butt on a lot of fronts, right? They’ve got this huge economic force their middle class is bigger than our entire economy here? First question, I might even be the wrong question. But the future of trade in the United States weigh in on this right? What does it look like? Are we completely independent from other companies, we maintain this protectionism? Or do you think that these tariffs are going to go away? What do you think?

Lance Drollinger  42:24  

So I agree with you that our butts are getting kicked, okay? And it’s because of the lack of us putting in the effort. And now what we’re doing is like, Oh, so we’re throwing up this whole war, to say, you can’t go be better than us at something. You can’t go be better than us. Like, we don’t want you to get into AI better than us or 5g better than us. And that was the big eye opening moment. That’s what this real this trade war really is about, is about this country is about the do laps around us, and we’re scared and that’s our fault. We should be working hard and we should be you Improving and doing things, and that’s on us. And so that’s kind of what that’s coming through. That’s, that’s my personal opinion, by the way, I don’t care if it’s not gospel, how the future of trade will work, his trade will be there, cooler heads are going to prevail. It creates too many jobs. There’s way there’s billions of jobs hanging in balance right now, because of this. It can’t, can’t all be made here. It’s going to help. It’s going to help shift things. You know, now, maybe we’ll be getting more imports from other parts of the world. But also, you know, stuff here, like, We’re currently embarking in ways to make it more efficient on this side of the pond. So you can do more here and bringing clothing back, right. I mean, we’re supporting one brand, like fully right now. And that’s, that’s neat. And as though things are cool. What’s really neat for us, is because we have these advantages internationally, we can take advantage of those things, too, with the local stuff and that blend that You’re talking about there is what’s going to be and if if we can get the wrong people out of our way, then we can really have a blended really cool world where we could do some amazing, incredible things. And, you know, everybody wins.

Eric Stopper  44:18  

We got to be looking out for each other though Chinese or American, Cambodian or, or, you know, European, whatever it is, we got to look out for each other.

Lance Drollinger  44:26  

I agree. We all have mouths to feed looking up to us, you know, and we’re all trying to do the greater good there’s there’s a few percentages in the world that are doing bad and they get most of the publicity and, and unfortunately, that that makes a blanket statement for the rest of the people in their category, which is just not fair. And that’s across the board and anything you want. I mean, there’s bad policeman and there’s my brother in law’s the probably the best one on the planet. I’m a little biased, you know what I mean? And he, he’s got to walk around and look over your shoulder just because somebody might be mad with police officers in general, but he’s never done anything wrong. Right, the guy who left off on frickin out this doesn’t get into trouble. He should let that guy off on Thanksgiving that guy should, should have been about it. He’s a good dude. You know, and, and it’s the same thing. There’s bad manufacturers out there, there are people trying to knock people off on Amazon, I get people walk through the door, we’re trying to say, Hey, I got this great idea of this product. And I’m like, guess what? It exists that product for somebody else? I can’t do that for you. And you’re not you’re not the originator of that idea. Stop fooling yourself. What?

Eric Stopper  45:30  

And I forgot to ask this earlier, but what is a really good question that people who are looking to a manufacturer trying to vet them? What’s a good question to determine if they’re going to be a good partner for them manufacturing products?

Lance Drollinger  45:44  

ask them a question that you know the answer should be no. Can you make this to me in 30 days, right, something like that. ask them a question that you know, the answer should be no. And then, and then you’ll know if they’re being real with you or not. Okay, check them on that. It’s a heat check, right? Because you want to work with somebody that can give you the right answers, honestly. Yeah.

Eric Stopper  46:07  

And and for those who are listening, right, like we want to better the world and the way that we’re going to do that, right, the we’re all we’re all consumer product junkies, we’re all marketing nerds. Yeah. What do you tell the listeners who are concerned about the way the world and trade works? You know, what do we do our little part to improve the world and make it a better place for everybody? All moms? You know what I mean?

Lance Drollinger  46:33  

Um, man, that’s a loaded question.

Be understanding the understanding why somebody will have to do something that they do. I think I come across too many people that have their own agenda. And they don’t understand like, as simple as, as simple as sharing a basketball game with somebody, right? Like, they have their own agenda. They’re not Going to see beyond why they need that spot every day for you know, for the next six months, and they can’t share a half hour with somebody, right? If they have an agenda and they’re not being understanding of somebody else and seeing where they’re coming from and just feel like they’re being attacked, then you put up a guard and you can’t listen, you can’t solve problems.

Eric Stopper  47:20  

Hmm. So my, my assertion at the beginning of the show where I was talking about this, this Chinese trade company lying to me, that is, that is certainly the wrong attitude to have. Yeah, it’s almost like I’m looking for there to be problems I should seek to understand in this process of partnering with this company. And you you were very surprised when I said, I don’t know if she was intentionally lying was Yes, sincerely, I was surprised.

Lance Drollinger  47:46  

And you have a tally of that. And so you kind of went up so you need to understand where she’s coming from. And she may be awful to work with you may should you should probably run far away. I don’t know. But you know what I mean if your understanding to what it is You can get to the heart of the issue quicker and you can get to a resolution which is what we really need.

Eric Stopper  48:07  

Seek seek to understand. Lance last thing What are you working on? What’s new? Where can we direct people?

Lance Drollinger  48:15  

Oh man, our websites great blacksmith, I nt stands for international right blacksmithing and t.com we’ve got some really great stuff out there for people like there’s we know our marketing dude is such a stud just came out with a with this cool piece on leaving China. My father in law got his hands on it and he loves it. He loves this stuff put out he just want he follows us he loves their stuff and it’s just it’s a riot to me I love that he loves the content. So good content. We just want everybody to be successful. You know, and, and we’ve been part of organizations out there the product powerup I know you guys have probably talked about them and and just supporting these really cool brands and in good ways to be like we’re all about just support, and we know that everybody wins. It’s a good scenario for everybody. Awesome.

Eric Stopper  49:05  

So blacksmith imt.com slash contact. They’ve got a little contact message here, send them send them a note. There’s a resource tab, you can look at their blog. There’s case studies FAQ, go check them out. Lance, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Lance Drollinger  49:19  

Man. Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.