Running a successful small business is all about the small details
Adry (now retired) and his crew at the 50 mile race on the Ottawa river. Adry is the handsome man with the yellow jacket
-1,500 days (to launch)
Adry Sells Superior Metal Centre and Retires
Metal Pros would not be possible if it wasn't for Adry who started the Small Quantity Metal concept in Ottawa over 20 years ago. Adry is our mentor and a Metallurgy genius. He moved to Ottawa with Julie, her brother and her mom after an early retirement from Bruce Power Plant in a town of 200 residents along the shore of Lake Huron (contrary to people's misconceptions, he is not German).
Adry gave character to this place for many years and showed us that we can work smart, hard and still have fun doing it!
Between sailing, maintaining his boat and playing pool, Adry keeps busy in his retirement. You can still catch him at the shop most morning before he heads to the marina. He mostly hangs out upstairs in the office streaming Beatles tunes or building things in his workshop, but he'll pop-in here and there downstairs and boss the guys around for a bit (it's what he misses the most after retiring).
We decided to start Metal Pros when Julie found out that Superior Metal Centre, the company she worked for the last 7 years, was shutting down. It didn't take much convincing and we spent Christmas that year in Cuba planning our new adventure.
Our new ERP system Odoo. Modular, powerful and easy to use. Our website was created using the Odoo website module...and isn't it beautiful?
-76 days (to launch)
Our new ERP system
For any small business, it is critical to have a powerful and easy to use ERP system. We gave ourselves 2 weeks to find one. Once we found Odoo (formerly known as OpenERP) we never looked back. We spent the next two and a half months populating material, potential customers, accounting stuff...and got our system and processes ready to go live.
What a difference a letter makes. We bought www.metalpros.com for $195 on goddady.com, metalpro.com was selling for $5,900
-60 days (to launch)
Our new name: Metal Pros
Now days, you must find available website domain names before you can name your business. So our long list of potential names were quickly dismissed when we realized that most website domains were taken. Surely www.metalpros.com was also taken but the owner of the domain was selling it for $195. Not a bad deal considering that metalpro.com was also for sale for $5,900... what a difference one letter makes.
Our temporary business name before Metal Pros (we needed it for banking purposes) was "Metal Specialists Corp.". The name is still displayed on our RBC Corporate credit cards.
Our logo, bought at fivver.com for $5
-55 days (to launch)
Bank loan: wasn't easy
We got our loan through RBC with 80% of the loan insured by Business Development Bank of Canada. The loan paid for 1/3 of the starting cost, we covered the rest with our life savings. We had a great business plan and good experience behind us. Even so, as young and new entrepreneurs, the bank insisted that we needed a co-signer.
We spent countless hours trying to design our logo. I will try to find early iterations of it and post it here...looked pretty silly. My brother finally told me to leave it to the Pros so we had someone at fiverr.com create our logo... and as the name suggests... it only cost us $5.
Credit Application for Business Account, Fax Cover Letter and Metal Pros Flyer... 3 of them any forms/documents/flyers we had to create
-40 days (to launch)
Forms/Documents/Flyers: the small little details
While on vacation in Cuba planning our new business, we made a long list of forms and documents we would need. Creating these forms before we launched the business was a good idea...and very necessary.
We had allot of metal to scrub and walls to paint
-30 days (to launch)
Moving into our new space: cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning
We quit our old jobs and moved into the old Superior Metal Centre building about 1 month before launch. The place was absolutely filthy. We took over after 20 years of it being a metal shop and we had less than a month to make it spotless. 20 years is a long time for dust to accmulate in some of the hard to reach spots... and 20 years ago smoking was still allowed indoors (as we were reminded from all the cigarette butts we found).
This is how our home page looked when we first launched
-5 days (to launch)
Launching metalpros.com: the beginning of our online adventure
Our ERP system, Odoo, has a very cool and easy to use website builder module. This allowed us to take full control of creating our website and not having to hire anyone externally, other than my brother who volunteered his time to create our quoting tool.
I must plug his amazing talents here. My dad got us our first computer when my brother was 10 and he never stopped learning it. He is a true expert and has a long list of achievements to back it up. He started his consulting business Bestlane Inc 15 years ago and was responsible for many successes in both the public and private sectors. See his many accomplishments at www.bestlane.com.
We launched our website with the end goal of giving customers everything they need to help them with all relevant decision making. Our website has undergone many reiteration since the early days with much more to come.
One of the underlying philosophies of Metal Pros is that we all share everything and each one of us will learn to do all aspects of the job whether it is customer facing, back of warehouse or accounting. We therefore decided we will only need one email and that is firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you want a quote on material or if you need a monthly statement or are inquiring about a missing invoice, email@example.com is the only email you need to know.
Our fork lift. We used it for all the heavy lifting... before we hired John :)
-4 days (to launch)
Bringing in the equipment: can't sell cut to size metal without the ability to cut to size
We got most of our material (saws/sheers) from Legere Industrial Supplies Ltd and our fork lift from Liftow. We were very excited to start bringing in inventory so we can play (very carefully I might add) with our new "toys".
Our most popular items, aluminum and hot rolled steel bars. Even in the early days these racks were pretty well stocked
-3 days (to launch)
Stocking Metal: can't run a metal business with empty racks
after 15-hour days of scrubbing and cleaning, our racks and shelves were ready to be stocked with inventory and our new fork lift was ready to do most of the heavy lifting. We had starting inventory of $60,000. It seemed like allot of metal back then but we realize now just how little that was.
Our amazing new sign
-2 days (to launch)
Our beautiful new sign: I may be biased but it's the coolest thing I've ever seen
The sign was installed by All Signs. They did a great job and it was not expensive...thanks Randy! They also provided us with stickers.
Coolest business card ever!
-2 days (to launch)
Our business cards are here: can't beat Vista Print for service, quality and price
You never feel like a business owner until you get those fresh ink smelling business cards with your name on them and the title of "Owner" right beneath it. You stuff a bunch of them in your wallet and for the next few months you try real hard to restrain yourself from being that guy at social gatherings handing out his super cool looking business cards.
Our first invoice
day 0: launch!!
Launch Day! Our very first invoice
I don't remember much of the first day except for the butterflies in my stomach when I woke up in the morning and the very first invoice. It was 1 square foot of aluminum tread plate...still is one of our most popular items, sold on over 562 invoices. Customer paid with a $20 bill which I think Julie still keeps somewhere. We had the $20 bill hanging up on the wall behind the front counter... but has been taken off at one point.
We had 69 invoices that first month in April 2014. A year later, in April 2015 we had 404 invoices...we were growing!
One of my favorite bands... John never heard of it until starting at Metal Pros. This young generation...
What is your favorite band?
A silly thing we created for walk in customers. "Tell us what your favorite band is and we will play it next time you're in the store."
Customers requested typical bands like Red Hot Chilly Peppers, Britney Spears and 50 cent, but there were also odd requests like jungle Sounds and The Italian National Anthem... anything goes at Metal Pros.
There was little dancing going on at times, thankfully not allot of singing.
Our Facebook page
Facebook page goes live!
What is a business without a Facebook page? click here and
As of 10/01/2017, everyone likes us :)
Our "respond in under 10 minutes" stamp, for fast response
Our famous 10 & 30 minute stamps are created
We like to show off our quick email replies (in case you didn't notice) by creating "responded in under 10 minutes" stamp and "responded in under 30 minutes" stamp. Thousands of stamps have been emailed to date (not that we're bragging).
Google us, we are hard to miss
Google Adword: for the most effective advertising
This is a true story. I finished updating the website on a Saturday with a display of all our products. Next day (Sunday) I setup Google Adwords allowing us to advertise on Google so when customers search for metal suppliers in Ottawa, our ad will show up on top of the search page. For those who are interested in this, we budgeted $10 a day which got us about 10 clicks. Check out Google Adwords for more information.
The day after (Monday) at about 10am, a customer came into the store with 4 material printouts from our website with the material that he is interested in highlighted. This was his first time at our store and he knew we had what he wanted because he Googled us that morning and the items he was interested in were displayed on our site. This is when we realized firsthand the effectiveness and power of Google.
We kept Google Adwords for about 18 months at which time we moved up to the top of the search page organically. There was no more reason to have to pay for Google advertising at that point, so we stopped.
Jamie was one of the first new friends of Metal Pros and he left us our first of many 5 stars reviews. Jamie does some awesome fabrication. Check outhttps://www.minijetboatbuilder.com
Our first Google review...thank you Jamie!
These days, we read reviews before we do anything. It's what keeps businesses accountable. We are proud to say that to date as of 10/1/2017, all of our reviews are 5 star reviews. We're not saying we are perfect but we try. Click here to leave us a review.
Similarly to Google street view, you can now virtually walk around the shop. Check out vista360.ca if you would like a 360 tour of your business
Google inside view: taking street view to the next level
Scott Hill, a Google licensed photographer, came and created a virtual tour of our shop. It was a very good price and he also took many professional pictures. You can now walk through our store without having to be here.
I wonder what Google would think of next.
We use Google Keep for tracking work orders, plate offcuts, knowledge base, incoming material and front/back to-do actions
Google Keep: a free Google App downloaded by 100 Million people and the lifeline of our business
I was looking for a way to eliminate paper and receive, track and prioritize the completion of all of our sales orders electronically. Google Keep not only achieved that but it also allowed us to track our offcuts, manage our "Knowledge Base", our incoming material and much more. We now have a tablet on every saw running Google keep and all of us have smart phones we use specifically for Google Keep.
Google Keep has become our lifeline and essentially our internal Google Search. We recently surpassed 10,000 notes in Google Keep and we joke that we have the world record... we just might.
These kids on the Carleton Ravens Race Team have too much fun and passion and they are all briliant. I don't remember having so much passion in University... should have gone to Carleton. I hope they will consider Metal Pros for employment once they graduate :)
The email communication outlining our commitment to improve our process for packaging material. We learned from our mistake and fixed it so it never happens again
BAD FEEDBACK = FREE PIZZA
We are not perfect but when we do get criticized, we act on it right away. One of our best customers had a grievance with the way we packaged some of the material delivered to them. We took the feedback very seriously. We drafted a process for safe transport of material and adhered by it 100% of the time. We never received any compaints since. We also sent a few pizzas their way as an apology. This experience strengthened our relationship and they are still one of our biggest and best customers.
You can even browse through our metals on the phone when standing in a long line at Costco with nothing else to do
Thanks to my big brother and bestlane.comwe launched a new addition to our website that allows customers to look through 6,000+ products for pricing and quantities in stock. It even tracks all sheet and plate offcuts in the store. Simply click on the product you want, specify quantity and length and add it to the cart. When ready, submit your request and we will email you an official quote.
Everything looks better with a "Metal Pros" logo on it
Metal Pros Sponsors Demolition Derby Car
We helped out our friends at Ottawa Metro Towing with material to build their Demolition Derby car and they were nice enough to put our logo on it.