The Build #28: Explore

When Rob Frantz was growing up, he wanted to explore uncharted territory. His childhood dream of becoming an astronaut gave way to another daring career as a Navy fighter pilot.

And after years of helping teams make fast, critical decisions, Rob made one of his own — he bought a company. Today, he’s helping to develop tools that can help save lives in a heartbeat.

It’s the story of Kinetic Ceramics, on The Build.


Announcer: [00:00:00] From 2820 radio in Philadelphia, it's The Build. Conversations with entrepreneurs and innovators about their dreams, their triumphs, and their challenges. 
Joe Taylor: [00:00:11] Explore. When Rob Frantz was growing up, he wanted to explore uncharted territory. His childhood dream of becoming an astronaut gave way to another daring career as a Navy fighter pilot.
And after years of helping ,teams make fast, critical decisions Rob made one of his own, he bought a company. Today he's helping to develop tools that can help save lives in a heartbeat. It's the story of Kinetic Ceramics coming up next on The Build. 
Announcer: [00:00:42] The bill is made possible with support from 2820 Press. Providing business consulting and content strategy services to customer obsessed companies nationwide. More information at 
Joe Taylor: [00:01:01] It's The Build, I'm Joe Taylor joined today by president of Kinetic Ceramics. Rob France. Welcome. Thank you very much for being here. So one of the reasons I think your story is compelling is because I don't think that civilians have a huge appreciation or understanding about all of the operational stuff that happens in the armed forces.
So my understanding is. You spent a good chunk of time moving from squadron to squadron in the operations role. So before we've talked a little bit about what's going on with Kinetic, give us a little bit of your background. 
Rob Frantz: [00:01:34] I guess it starts back in Naval Academy as a graduate class, 2002. And from there went to flight school spent a couple of years learning how to fly airplanes and ended up flying F18s based out of the West coast. I had a very unique path there with F18s, because I was part of something called the UDP program in the Navy, which is where we did a swap with the Marine Corps.
So I did land-based flying. For years, which benefit wise, a hop around all the Pacific, Japan and Thailand, South Korea, Philippines, Australia, pretty much around the world. Good chunk of time there. And from there, I went to instruct students on how to fly jet students, how to fly jets and then moved over there, back to the East coast.
To be on an aircraft carrier and support what we call the Admiral staff, which is kind of an operational directing all the big strategy of the aircraft. And then I was also flying some squadrons. I was on board there from, that, went to my civilian career, which brought me to Philadelphia. And it was during my time here kind of explored business ownership, entrepreneurship, which had always been in the back of my mind.
And I ended up buying this company. 
Joe Taylor: [00:02:37] Yeah. So that's an interesting and a little bit different. Yeah. From a lot of the entrepreneurs who we talked to on the show. So many of the folks we've talked to will say I had a great idea. I decided to build it out. I prototyped you had the ability to come out of a military career.
You had been with a major pharmaceutical company for awhile. And so tell me how the idea came to actually acquire an existing company versus spin something out on your own. 
Rob Frantz: [00:03:04] Sure. So the first idea actually came as I was getting in the military, I looked at acquiring company back then the deal fell through, but I'd always been interested in business.
So I went into regular civilian, made a pharmaceutical career, and about six months into it, when I actually started the, what I call the traditional startup entrepreneurship path, where I had this idea, it's a great idea for some software. And I actually looked at developing it and I worked on a  kind of nights and weekends type basis.
And that's what got me involved in the entrepreneurship group within Philadelphia. But as I went through that process, I came up with two problems. One is my job at my company was enterprise sales. So it was the opposite end of that. It was actually procurement. And so I understood the enterprise sales process software that I was building was tailored towards enterprise companies.
And I recognize that in order to do sales of my software, I had to dedicate myself full time to doing that kind of job to get any kind of traction. The problem I ran into was I have a family of wife, kids and supporting kind of the basic lifestyle wasn't kind of wasn't necessarily in the cards for trying to start up a whole new software company, right?
I'm not 23 living on ramen noodles anymore. But as I was kind of searching for ideas, I started helping other companies on how to run their operations and how to do sales and how to do marketing and all of these different aspects that were kind of things that I learned within procurement and pharmaceutical companies.
And as well, some of the things that I was learning as part of this entrepreneurship group, and as I was helping these companies run, I realized, well, why am I helping them run now? There's nothing wrong with that. Why am I not doing this for myself as well? And so I started searching for something that interested me, manufacturing, electronics, and that kind of led from one thing to another, as I searched for the right idea and stumbled into the small company.
Joe Taylor: [00:04:41] Well, yeah, so normally when I have this conversation, it segues into. Oh, and then I decided to open up as casual food franchise or hair salon. You went fully in and bought a manufacturing company. So how do you even determine that an opportunity like that exist? 
Rob Frantz: [00:04:59] It starts off with an understanding that, theoretically, every business is for sale and you can have two paths refining those businesses. One is just going and starting to contact companies or two is kind of searching through a network, whether that's online or through a system of brokers. And so my path for finding this company was both- kind of went out to the network, started contacting random companies, started looking at online and not online listings to see, okay, what gained my interest.
I started talking to companies that were for sale and understanding behind kind of the mentality of why they were for sale, what was driving the business, how that fit into my capabilities and if it was a good fit for what I know and what I wanted to do. It's like many things, I maybe actually sat down and talked with a half a dozen companies, but I probably searched through a thousand or more to find the right fit.
Joe Taylor: [00:05:46] So, what were the qualities that you were searching for that Kinetic flagged to you in a way that made you think I can take this over and I can make this thing successful? 
Rob Frantz: [00:05:55] Sure. It fit with my background, I'd call it, tangentially. I'm an aerospace engineer. This company requires mechanical electrical engineering.
That's kind of the stuff that I had tinkered with since I was a kid. And so that piqued my interest right there. Part two was it had a relatively solid, consistent, I'd say annual revenue. And it was a unique niche that not a lot of people know about. And it sort of  a very specialized area of expertise, that there was limited competition and known competition as I look kind of at the world and where we're going.
I figured that things are only getting more precise and this company fit into a narrative of a more precise world because the things that we make help other machines become more precise. And so as I look at all those aspects, like, okay, this is a great fit. 
Joe Taylor: [00:06:36] And so the company that you purchased has heritage that goes back to the late 1960s. It itself had spun off from a parent company in the eighties, and now you're taking it through this third chapter in its existence. What are some of the things that you're finding your encountering that are fairly easy or effortless to do? And what are some of the challenges that you've seen that maybe you weren't expecting when you first took on the project?
Rob Frantz: [00:07:02] I'd say the easy elements are the most basic easy element is we have a relationship with some companies, some big companies, that can be maintained and renewed that kind of give us a basic story of what we do. We're really good at manufacturing these actuators. So we're really good at manufacturing, certain products that we make.
So building stuff. That we can do all day long. And it's easy transition to understanding how to do that. The hard part was taking a company that had traditionally focused on research and development work and custom development work and turning it into, or helping it transition towards, a product based company. Because what they'd always done their heritage, if you will, was.
Somebody calls us up. We build a product for them. They go off and they go do their own thing. Phase two was we mostly do development work for other companies. We make a couple of products specifically. And phase three is kind of now we're going to focus on, at least my intent is to focus on we're going to build products and we're also going to help people develop stuff.
Joe Taylor: [00:07:51] So, what are some of the skills that you look for either within your existing team, the team that you basically inherited when you came into the organization and now with all of these new operations, you were scouring for talent. So what does your ideal team look like? What are the skills, the competencies, the traits that you look for when you're adding to that team?
Rob Frantz: [00:08:13] That's a good  question. It depends on where you fit within the group texts that we call, who build stuff. And there's a certain level of patience and methodical, you know, desire to do better and desire to look for problems and kind of solve problems within our own manufacturing process.
We have engineers and because we have kind of a specialty, the ideas, people who worked with real world problems, and this is something that we get into cause we work with academics heavily, and there's a difference between the academic view of solving a problem and the real world view of solving a problem.
So, we look for people who have had real world experience from operations and engineering perspective to try and slot them into the team for helping us develop new products, because that's what we do. And then there's the marketing sales aspect. And we have two kinds of use to that. One is short-term goals that we all have.
But you have to understand the long-term vision of where the company is going. And so be able to sell into that, it's generally a long sales cycle. You know, overall I'd say people need the same things at anybody look for good work ethic, integrity, an element of patience and an element of problem-solving engineering solving.
Whether we were before we were customer focused business and I try and help the customers that we work with solve their problems. We have more of a tradition of kind of making them pay for that service element in my philosophy is more, you know, let's make it right and let's do the right thing. Create a great product.
It's going to be somewhat expensive, but it's going to be fantastic and it's going to work forever. And that's the kind of ethic that we look for in everyone that we hire. 
Joe Taylor: [00:09:33] So thinking about you just gives us some great ideas about who to look for in an organization. So you're coming into an organization.
It's the first 90 days. Okay. You're the president. You're in charge. You've got a bunch of folks who've been with the organization for some time. Walk us through that first 90, that first a hundred days, who are the first people that you talked to? What are the first decisions that you make to make this transition work both for you and for the team that you now become in charge of? 
Rob Frantz: [00:10:05] So especially when acquiring a new company, the first thing that I did was as well as with the old owner, who's still with the company, was to tell everyone that, you know, we're not changing anything dramatically. Everyone still has their jobs. We're not moving, we're not transitioning anything yet.
We have this vision of where the company is going and you're going to see that kind of manifest itself. But all of you are valuable because you've all taken us to this point today. And we're only going to add more people to the team. The first thing that I actually did was I refurbished or renovated the break room, painted all the walls and put in some new flooring.
And the reason for that was the building we are in is like a land frozen in time from the 1980s. And it has the same kind of muted Brown motif that you might recognize you look at any kind of seventies and eighties era film. And the break room was a mini fridge and a microwave and half taken up by storage and things like that.
The message I wanted to send was one that I care about the environment in which you operate. And so we're going to make sure that it's right, as much as I can afford to do, and the company can afford to do. To make sure it's a bright, inviting place for you to come in and work and spend your time. And that was kind of the message tried to drill in to was to people who were visiting from outside.
It's an aspect of that bright kind of higher quality company that I'm dealing with. That you know, you pay them a lot of money for these products. As I walk in the building, I want to get this feeling that I'm working at a company, or I'm visiting a company, that that is high quality. 
Joe Taylor: [00:11:21] It makes sense because recruiters I speak with, especially in what we would call old line industries are telling me a lot of that same kind of story, because we hear about Silicon Valley has nap rooms and Teeter totters and trikes and all this very playful kind of stuff. And then here on the East coast, we are accustomed to this nasty old cobweb- wridden break room. The vending machine probably has some Fritos that have been in there since the Carter administration. It's not surprising. And so I think it surprises those of us that don't spend a lot of time in startup world to hear. Oh, if we actually invest in the environment, we can attract great talent, but we can also attract and retain great customers. Do you kind of folks gravitate to the environments that they want to be in and it ripples out in other ways? So what was the feedback that you heard from the team when you first made those changes?
Rob Frantz: [00:12:19] It's excitement. If you can imagine where, you know, the old world you walk into a building, it looks the same. It hasn't changed in 10 years, you know, kind of slow and steady and things happen every now and then you walk into a new space where it's bright, it's vibrant, it projects a sensitive excitement with all the new things are coming and you're entering this new exciting era.
And that's the feedback that they've given. They're all kind of excited. They want to help. They want to help repaint. They want to help, you know, make the company great again. They want to participate because they feel like there's a sense of something. 
Joe Taylor: [00:12:47] So leaning now on your enterprise sales experience. Okay, you're leading from one under the organization with changes to just the physical plant. And what you're doing at the other end of the organization is communicating the customers, not just the feeling that you didn't get the same service from us, but things are going to be better. So tell me a little bit about, you probably with an organization like this, you've probably got customers has been getting serviced for decades. Right. So tell me about the first call that you make on one of your old time clients to say there's a new sheriff in town. 
Rob Frantz: [00:13:19] Yeah. The previous owner, he wants to keep working with the company. He's still excited about where we're going. He's kind of a consultant for us right now with engineering stuff. And we've approached a lot of our biggest companies jointly. And the first time with most of those customers was. Kind of a hi, I'm Rob I'm with this company. Now I didn't say I owned it. I didn't say we're doing all these great things.
Just like, Hey, I'm with this guy and we're doing stuff now. And then as we kind of got introduced and understood the process, then we say, Oh, by the way, I'm now kind of running things though. Previous owner, he's still going to be supporting us and engineering, but I'm going to push the company. 
Joe Taylor: [00:13:50] So there's a little bit of building comfort and an execution and transition. And the nice thing here is a previous owner who, you know, we look at this from the other end of the table. Often with startups, we talk about exit strategy. It is physically impossible for you to be with your company forever. So, for some folks that time horizon is 50 or 60 years. You know, I've worked with one entrepreneur who went 52 years in this company before his kids finally said, like, dad, come on. It's okay. If you don't come to work every day now. At the other end, we talk to startups who say, Oh, I'm looking at an event horizon of three to five years. So for you, you know, thinking about where you are in your career, what's your dream for where you can take this business and how long do you think you want to spend building and extending and evolving this company?
Rob Frantz: [00:14:42] Current plan is I do want to be involved long-term 30 years, ideally. But my vision is that this company will be very different than what it is today. It's not going to be a, we built these electric actuators and that's all we do. We help other companies develop products. It's going to be a much broader place.
And so if the time is right for me to leave, certainly I'll pass reigns on to someone else. But, you know, my strategy is not to simply build up the company with organic growth. You know, when the opportunity comes up and I look to acquire other companies, I'm going to look to open up locations around the world.
So it's the other thing about this company. I consider it very much a kind of a mature startup. We have great products. We don't have any marketing. We don't have any sales, we're starting over. You know, we had kind of have product market fit and that's where I consider what our starting point. And so if you look at any of these mature startups, kind of where they've gone, where, what they've done over their last 10 years, for those that have been around that long, it's the same kind of concept.
Joe Taylor: [00:15:31] Yeah. One of the things that falls off the radar, there are still many thousands of companies in America that are so targeted toward a niche. It's funny when we work with clients that I'll do some collaboration with a partner agency who does a lot of manufacturing, VR, and you get to see into this world of publications and trade shows the exist for an audience of 2000 buyers and that's it. And so this is a company that can become famous. If you follow Kevin Kelly, the idea of a thousand true fans or famous to a thousand people, this is the same kind of thing. Like there are probably your client roster knows exactly who you are, exactly who your competitors are, but you're not necessarily, up until this point, the kind of company that's been on the front page of Wired or on the front page of Tech Crunch.
So how do you adopt or where do you find yourself adopting that strategy, where you want to start leaning out a little bit more? How do you evolve a company's identity? If you've been that kind of quiet, unassuming, you know, people probably pass the building every day and kind of, not really know what goes on in there to the company that, Oh yeah, everybody knows what's going on in that building. What's that journey look like for you? 
Rob Frantz: [00:16:48] It revolves around products and stories. So greatest example I have is we're trying to get a grant to build one of the world's first pediatric heart pumps, mobile PDX, heart pumps. And you know, it's not something that will ever make the company a ton of money, but it's, for us, it's kind of one of those, there's a clear need in the marketplace or the right company at the right time to do it.
So we should just do it. And the story that backs up this heart pump is what is the kind of thing that can go on kind of broader PR basis. Nobody knows what PA's electric actuators are. But when I say we build the world's first pediatric heart pump or mobile pediatric heart pump, people are like, Oh wow, that's a really great thing.
What else do you do? Okay. Then we can talk about all this stuff we're doing with different companies. So that's where we're trying to build some kind of great story that people can tell to other people about who we are and what we do. 
Joe Taylor: [00:17:31] That specific phrase, pediatric heart pump. I didn't know that such a thing existed.
And then you tell me that we now need mobile ones. And now I think, well, that should exist. That feels like the kind of thing that we should have in 2016 or beyond. So when you're thinking about who you tell those stories to, who's your ideal audience, how are you reaching out to the people who are going to bring that new business into your company? Whether it's the folks that participate in the grant, writing process, more folks who would ultimately purchase these products. 
Rob Frantz: [00:18:03] It depends. So something like a pediatric heart pump is something that I'll broadly tell people to say that this is really cool. This is something that I think is really having an impact for a fairly small population.
And so the target audience is not only kind of doctors and grant readers, but it's also our employees. It gives them something to be proud of that they've contributed to the world, this unique item. When I turned towards kind of our big enterprise customers, we talk more about the things that we've done with other customers on general terms.
We're working with big oil and gas companies to revitalize some of their old wells. So they don't need to build new ones. How can we help your business make new use out of old technology by using our technology? And so they can tell other people, Hey, we worked with this company. They helped revitalize your revenue is that we approach it.
Joe Taylor: [00:18:45] So we'll shift gears one more time, because one of the things that I know you're involved in is here in Philadelphia. There's a cohort of Bunker Labs for folks who are new to this. We've had some other Bunker Labs participants on the show before, but this is a national initiative led out of Chicago by an amazing guy named Todd Connor. What was going on with folks as they were leaving the military and coming back to America and finding employers reluctant to actually hire veterans, which to me seems bonkers. And yet I have bumped into so many folks that have all kinds of reservations about this and Todd's vision was let's just empower more veterans to create businesses and they in turn can hire more veterans, which is kind of a great self perpetuating cycle. So tell me a little bit about your involvement with Bunker Labs. What's working for you and how it's helping you grow this enterprise. 
Rob Frantz: [00:19:37] Sure. So my initial involvement was so I'm a Naval Academy guy. Mike Maher's a Naval Academy guy. I reached out to him a little over a year ago saying, Hey I'm interested in getting to know all the entrepreneurs slightly and veteran entrepreneurs when I arrived in Philly. So he invited me to a function that they had, where I ran into Joe, Witte and Mike as well.
And we started talking about this Bunker Lab group and that they were trying to start up in Philadelphia. At the time I was working on the software company that I was building and it was very interesting to them. So I said, yeah, I want to participate. If you guys are going to do this, they invited me in, which I'm very thankful for that. And we started meeting on a monthly basis. It's a new initiative within Philadelphia, but the nice thing is one is everyone involved is a veteran. They understand that we all come from a commonplace. We come from a broad segment within the veteran community. It does take a broad brush of experience and knowledge and operational experience, and it brings them together.
And we all have different ideas with all different backgrounds. We can not only learn about entrepreneurship. Learn from entrepreneurs in Philadelphia, but we can also teach each other. Okay. Here's what I've done. Here's who I've worked with. Here's who you should contact. Where are you taking your business?
Kind of sharing the good bads and others that we've been through over the last week and month and so on. That's what helps us, not just okay. Throwing good ideas around, but it also helps you think about, okay, how would I run my company based on what, because people are saying. 
Joe Taylor: [00:20:53] Give me an example of something that maybe surprised you or that you discovered from the folks within your group. 
Rob Frantz: [00:20:59] That's a good question. I'd say that the most surprising thing to me, again, is just the diversity of ideas. The diverse backgrounds and the diversity of ideas. You know, we're all tech oriented companies that are in the bunker labs because it's easier to be in one aspect is it's easier to, kind of, work together if you have the same basic foundation of what you're all working on. But again, the diversity that we have, one, who's a, basically a, nonprofit one who runs a point of sale service that's done extremely well. What you might consider the leader of the pack from the startups, and then you have others that are just kind of get off the ground.
And so diversity of companies has been very most surprising. It's not all software startups, just trying to do software stuff. 
Joe Taylor: [00:21:36] Yeah. I think that's the thing that we discover more and more on the show is that in many ways there's so many things that software companies are already doing when entrepreneurs find that sweet spot of here's a problem that's interesting to me that I can solve. Increasingly in America it's not necessarily a software play. I mean, yours is a combination. Research development and manufacturing play. Tell me a little bit about what you're learning about the manufacturing side. How are you bringing those operations into your organization?
Rob Frantz: [00:22:08] So manufacturing is a little bit different from the software world in that you have to think in terms. I mean, all companies have to things in terms of cashflow and inventory and process. It's the concept of, okay, if someone orders this product, it may take us six weeks to get it out the door. It may take an investment of a lot of money to actually build a product and ship it out.
And so the time scales that you deal with is very, very different from soft software companies. And it's learning how to prep for in manufacturing company. We don't, at least at our company, we don't keep all the inventory of everything we sell all the time. And so it's balancing how much inventory do I have versus how much do I make versus how much can I order quickly to define kind of the sweet spot of cashflow.
Now I'm integrating kind of the software side to try and make it a more seamless process so that, you know, taking my software background to incorporate how to create kind of an end to end view of what we're doing, which is where software really enabled. It allows us to view our data and kind of seamlessly take a process that's traditionally been done via paper and cards and make it digital.
And then we can do stuff with that data eventually. 
Joe Taylor: [00:23:09] How do you end up leveraging all of that in a way that makes you more competitive? With some of your direct competitors are probably organizations that are 10 times larger than you, or even more. So what's your advantage to being relatively small right now?
Rob Frantz: [00:23:26] Like all small companies say it's being nimble, right? We talk with a lot of big companies and they kind of say, can you do this? And because we manufacture everything in house, we have contracts with that we can work with when we need to, we can have a broad range of products that we develop and manufacturer.
So if you look at our website, which does need to be updated, you'd see like three different specific product lines that are completely different. And we can do that because we don't, aren't a big organization and we can quickly shift from one priority to the next to the next. 
Joe Taylor: [00:23:53] That's great. What's your dream for this? What do you really want it to be known for? 
Rob Frantz: [00:23:57] Kind of started to rebrand the company and. The new motto, if you will, or tagline or slogan that we're starting to use is precision innovation. And the company itself, if you look over at 60 year history, it's created a lot of amazing products, a lot of cutting edge products today, the products we make are extremely cutting edge, but nobody knows that.
And if you come and see our office, you wouldn't guess that we are a company that is on the absolute cutting edge of technology, hardware technology. And that's what I really know, want people to know about our company is that we're pushing the boundary of what's possible by making things more precise or faster.
Joe Taylor: [00:24:30] Tell me a little bit more from your experience and from the experience of folks that you, other veterans that you have been collaborating with. What are some of the challenges that we're experiencing in America when it comes to making room for veterans in the work force? 
Rob Frantz: [00:24:45] So I think it's a two-part problem. One is civilians who've never been involved in military understanding the capabilities of veterans coming out of the military and then. Veterans, especially if they've spent their entire careers or in the military, don't understand the language that civilians speak. I certainly ran into that problem when I was getting out is understanding how to say what I'd done, because at 20, some odd years old, I was in charge of hundreds of millions, of dollars worth of equipment, hundreds of people potentially doing amazing things around the world.
How do you, how do you make that into something that somebody who's never had that experience understand? And that's the hardest part is saying, you know, okay. Like at 26 I ran this group of people, 12 planes, and let's say 50 people for a month. I did all the scheduling. I did the, the managed all the people.
I did all everything from the operation side. It was me in charge of, and you know, same thing on down. As you get to the enlisted ranks, it's the young people who working on very complex equipment, fixing it to doing incredible things, what they have available. But how do you explain that to someone who's never done it before? That's where I've seen the biggest barrier. 
Joe Taylor: [00:25:48] I think it's a challenge because for many Americans military services, so opaque, we don't have a clear view into outside of what we see on television or in movies. And the regrettable thing is, I don't think anybody's making a movie about operational project management.
Rob Frantz: [00:26:05] I would go to that. But exactly. 
Joe Taylor: [00:26:08] But I think that's the thing, because you were directly responsible for something like $50 million in just equipment, right. That has got to be frustrating when you're going head to head for a job with someone who's, on their resume, looking like maybe they ran a $3 million a year retail operation, which ended up itself as impressive. But because we can't visualize what that job looks like. And so we mentioned Mike and Joe, who are the executive director and the project manager for Bunker Labs here in Philadelphia. When I first met Mike, Mike would talk in acronyms and code and it would be a lot of what does that mean for me? I don't understand what all those letters you just said are. It's funny when I do go to Joe's event, you know, you guys get into that shorthand, which is great, but I think you hit on something important, which is figuring out that decoder piece, that translation piece, so that we see people that come in.
And my bias, when I worked for Apple for six years, one of the things that we did often in our retail channel was we ended up in a lot of our operational and inventory roles, we would lean towards finding ex military, especially Marines who had operated some of the camps. And one of the things that we found is that you can not screw up an inventory situation if you have a Marine in charge of that, not happen. Shoplifting doesn't happen. Internal theft- it does not  happen. You get to the point where you stop asking questions like this shrink numbers should actually be higher, but you know what? I'm not going to ask what to know. You got it dealt with. It's all happened. But so, as you think about your own organization, what are some of the things that you think that you're going to do to try and even show an example of this, or to make it hospitable for veterans to come and work with you? 
Rob Frantz: [00:28:03] Well, that's one thing we're doing right now is not hiring veterans exclusively, but it's, I reached out to recruiters that we work with and other saying, Hey, I want to work with people who've been out of the military. It kind of the experience and background I need. Cause you don't need to tell me much more than, Hey, this person was this grade. Yeah, this is what they did. And I can say, okay, that's the right person for me, 10 minute interview and we can get to work. 
Joe Taylor: [00:28:25] Yes, there is that there is a standardization. You cannot get to a specific grade without having passed certain tests and achievements.
We, the analogous experience I find in the startup world is when we hear folks say. Oh, I went to Stanford or, Oh, I went to some other school. You can make an assumption and say, well, if they said they got an engineering degree from Stanford, I know they probably encountered this class or this professor.
And I know what that professor would have put them through, but that is such a tiny, tiny, tiny a number of people that you're ever going to encounter. Whereas with returning veterans, we have so many folks that have already been validated in so many ways, but I think again, you point out it's that communication piece.
If we, as civilians know more about what folks are capable of and what they achieved. We're no longer taking someone out of what would in a private enterprise be a significant executive role and then telling them well, You have your choice of retail jobs right now, which is what I observe a lot of folks coming into, because they don't know how to showcase their talents in a civilian, in a commercial operation.
Rob Frantz: [00:29:42] Right. It's translating the experience into the drop requirements. So when I went to my pharmaceutical company, I was lucky in that the guy who was sponsoring all hiring was a military veteran himself. So he basically said what he was looking for. And I remember very specific one of our interviews. He said, you know what, basically, I know you can do the job.
It's not rocket science. And based on your background, you'll figure it out pretty quickly. And that's generally the military experience. And what most people don't understand is, yeah, you have a title, you have a rank and your background, but most people who are in the military have had to do a broad range or have a broad range of experience across multiple disciplines because they've been taught to just figure out the job.
Joe Taylor: [00:30:17] Yeah. 
Rob Frantz: [00:30:18] Some of them were technical skills are required. They're given that technical experience, but outside of that, they just learn how to figure it out. 
Joe Taylor: [00:30:25] Well, I think we take for granted that things are defined. In business and you spend a lot of time on a boat. You don't necessarily know where you're going to be operating from, you know, the boat, but you don't know what, whether you're going to be off the coast of one country or another what the weather is going to be.
So you have to improvise, you have to develop that skill of dealing with the things that you don't know how to control. So tell me how you cultivate that same kind of improvisational culture among your team members. Both with and without military background. 
Rob Frantz: [00:30:57] I guess the kind of the cliche word is empowerment.
I know someone asked me that other days is how do I excel in this organization? And my answer was, well, don't just come to me with problems coming to me with a problem and a solution or multiple solutions to that problem. Even better, tell me there was a problem. Tell me you fixed it and that I don't need to worry about the problem.
That's the best and encouraging that kind of, I guess, empowerment. It helps people realize that they can be doing stuff. They don't have to be told to be doing stuff. 
Joe Taylor: [00:31:22] Rob Frantz, president of Kinetic Ceramics, thanks so much for joining us on The Build. 
Rob Frantz: [00:31:26] Thank you for having me and thanks for the one for the lab as well.
Joe Taylor: [00:31:29] The Build is a production of 2820 radio in Philadelphia. Our producer is Katie Cohen Zahniser and our consulting  producer is Lori Taylor. Our talent coordinator is Katrina Smith. Our research team includes Alison Hartman, Gianna Seeney and Gizem YALI. Our post-production team is led by Evan Wilder.
My name is Joe Taylor, Jr. Thanks for listening to The Build. 
Announcer: [00:31:54] Thanks for listening to this episode of The Build.

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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