Mountainstate Machine and Gun
There’s something about Ed Lanham’s skills as a machinist that seems to naturally attract customers. As a teenager, he worked in his grandfather’s gunsmith shop. After serving in the Marines, he supplemented and surpassed his income as a warehouse worker by repairing guns for friends and other customers. When Ed was ready to start his own business he turned to SCORE for help.
Recognizing the advantage of being versatile in both services and capabilities, Ed went to school full-time in 1993 to learn computer numeric control (CNC) machining, which would enable him to fabricate a wider range of custom metal parts.
To hone his business management skills, Ed took advantage of classes offered by Unlimited Future, Inc. (UFI), a local training and support organization. On his own, he acquired equipment, evaluated locations and lined up customers.
Everything seemed set for a successful start up. Still, Ed had some nagging doubts. “I was still unsure whether I made a mistake or overlooked something,” he says. “Luckily, my UFI instructor arranged a evaluation of my business plan by a team of SCORE mentors.”
Mountainstate Machine and Gun enjoyed more than a decade of steady growth until early 2005, when illness forced Ed to temporarily close shop for five months. Thanks to the wise moves he made to structure his business during those early days, he was able to continue paying his bills. And when Ed reopened his doors in July, his customers were waiting for him.
“Dee stressed the importance of networking, which has helped us get things back to normal more quickly,” he says. “I’m bidding on a new project for a manufacturer that will enable us to expand and hire employees.”
SCORE mentors Terry Flesher, a retired oil company executive, and Lyle Ramsey, a former metallurgist, were generally pleased with Ed’s work, but expressed concern that a lack of operating capital might cause cash flow problems. Ed soon discovered how right they were.
“In just six months, I had plenty of customers but cost overruns and other problems had eaten up my funds,” he says. “That left no cash available to buy supplies for the work coming in.”
While Flesher and Ramsey worked with Ed to refine his business plan, SCORE mentor and former business owner Dee Cook helped arrange funding from UFI’s revolving fund to ease the cash crunch until revenues stabilized.
“I was all set to close a deal with an area manufacturing company,” he recalls. “When I described it to Terry over the phone, he immediately recognized that something was wrong with the numbers. As it turned out, signing that contract could have cost me thousands of dollars and even my business.”
Ed plans to continue calling on SCORE for help and advice. “It would be a mistake not to,” he says. “Any new business that doesn’t use the services of SCORE is missing the boat.”