Monday, April 2, 2018

Customer Spotlight: Paul and Kathy Short

Meet Paul and Kathy Short. They are the owners of Specialty Repairs in Newfoundland, Canada. Specialty Repairs started in 1995 and specializes in custom modification. With over 10 million views on their YouTube channel, the online presence that Paul and Kathy have established over the years is quite impressive. The videos they post usually showcase repairs and restoration of the items that come through their shop. Paul is known for his quirky sense of humor and online as the “Modfather,” while Kathy is known to film the videos and is nicknamed “Upper Management.” Over the years, they’ve created a working dynamic of taking care of business, taking care of their customers, and adding a twist of fun into the mix for everyone to be a part of.

Cleveland Punch and Die chose to interview Paul and Kathy Short to share their story with you. We hope that you are able to learn and apply something valuable to your business or personal life. 

CPD: How did Specialty Repairs start?

Paul: “We started off as a small engine repair shop. I grew up in a small, very northern town. It was an iron-ore industry town. The winters were 9 -10 months long. So, I used to do a lot of repairs on snow-mobiles, dirt bikes, and motorcycles. When I graduated from school, I became a heavy-equipment operator.

Later on in life, I decided to get away from that and worked at a dealership. A lot of the customers that were used to me working on their vehicles followed us to our business. After that, we turned into an automotive shop."

CPD: How did you guys go from automotive repairs to fabrication work?

Paul: "Specialty Repairs has gone through a number of transitions over the last 23 years. The type of work that we’ve been doing is much different than when we first started. While we were doing the automotive repairs at the start of it all, some big local farmers said “Hey Paul, can you weld this for me?” So, we started doing some welding. From the welding came the fabrication. We needed a lathe and a milling machine, so then we started doing machining work. Then it snowballed from there. Next thing, we had an ironworker show up.

Now, 23 years later, we’re getting ready to put in our first CNC Plasma table! And it’s only me and my wife here!”

CPD: What do you guys do the most right now?

Paul: “The most we do right now is fabrication work.”

CPD: How do you plan to use your new CNC Plasma table?

Paul: “Well we’ve developed a lot of designs for farm tractors here now. I’ve customized them over the last several years. We’re going to start offering all the things I’ve designed for those tractors in the marketplace."

CPD: What has been the influence behind all of your work?

Paul: “Everything kind-of evolved. There was a need for a certain skill, so I studied the skill and I practiced the skill until I mastered it. Then, we integrated that into our business and continued on from that. For example, if somebody would want something done that I was unfamiliar with, I would keep going at it until I mastered it. We call it “from the fat to the fire.” Our slogan is “If I can’t mod it, I don’t want it!”

Somebody said to me one time, “Paul, what is it that you don’t do?” And I said, “Well, we don’t make bread here in the shop!” 

CPD: Would you tell me a little more about the Coca-Colaitems in your shop that we see in your YouTube Videos?
Paul and Kathy's Coca-Cola "Mini Museum"
Paul: “About 10 years ago, I took this obsession of restoring old gas pumps and old Coca-Cola machines. Now, we have something like a mini museum right next door to the shop. Things are done really nice. For example, we have a Coca-Cola cooler that we turned into a sofa that has 100 hours of labor done on it.”

CPD: Do you sell any of those Coca-Cola items or do you keep it?

Paul: “No, we just keep it. I’m kind of a hoarder.”

Kathy: “A clean hoarder!”

CPD: As a married couple, how do you two team up and work together for your business? What’s the dynamic like?

Kathy preparing to ship custom orders
Paul: “Kathy looks after all the administration work, and basically handles all the business decisions. I don’t try to do her job and she doesn’t try to do mine. I refer to her
online as “Upper Management.”  

Kathy: “He’s the “Modfather,” and I’m “Upper Management.”

CPD: Let’s talk about YouTube, how have you been able to become so popular online? 

Paul: “I used to restore old motorcycles, still do sometimes. While I was restoring these old motorcycles, I would post a few short videos on YouTube. Then I started posting a few short videos showing people how to weld. After that, I was designing and showing trailers and carts to put a welding machine on. People really started loving it. My videos were very serious though. I wouldn’t smile or anything. I would get in there, get the job done, and get out."

Kathy: "All business."

Paul: "But every now and then, Kathy would come into the shop. When Kathy is around me, I would be hammering around and having fun. We’ve been married 37 years, so we’re always having fun. A lot of people started to notice. Our viewers would say, “Well, how come you don’t have Kathy in more of your videos? When Kathy is not there, you’re very serious.”

So then, I said to Kathy one day, “Maybe you should get more involved with the videos, because people are liking what they’re seeing.” Of course, that’s what happened! Now, she’s the camera-lady, and I’m just a guy who does the rest.”

Kathy: “And of course Paul is well-known from the “forum days.” When he started YouTube, he was already well known in the restoration and modification world. That's why he took off from YouTube quickly."

Paul: "There’s a forum called TractorByNet©. People go there to talk about their different types of tractors, problems with them, what’s done, and what you need to do to fix them. I’ve spent thousands of hours on that particular forum. There’s another forum called WeldingWeb™. They also have a magazine that comes out monthly. We’ve been featured in their magazine a couple of times as well. So, yes, we were also kind of well-known around the internet.”

CPD: Are there any secret ingredients to your videos?

Paul: “Our philosophy on the internet is “Keeping it real.” What you see on there is exactly the way it is when the cameras are turned off. We like to do videos that everybody can relate to.

For example, last year I went on a service call. So, I had the welding machine hooked up to the pickup. I hooked up a dash-cam to the pickup on the way there and posted a video from the dash-cam. The next morning, we received an email from an American solider who’s over in Iraq. He said, “I just want to thank you for including the dash-cam video because it got me out of this place for an hour. I really enjoyed the road trip.” The only thing we don’t do on the videos is use any bad language. I’m not saying I don’t swear! We just make sure not to put it on any videos.”

Paul with his tractor
CPD: Back to the business, what has been the most common challenge in regards to operating your business over the years?

Paul: “Keeping the customer happy and willing to come back is probably the biggest challenge. Our economy in Newfoundland is not doing so well, so business is a little slower than it normally is. The last, say, 10 years starting a year ago were boom years for everybody here. That’s all done, and people are really having a tough time around. The rest of Canada is doing pretty well, but here the government came out with a really hard and heavy budget on the population. When you’ve got a budget like this one, people tend to hold onto their money. Of course, that has a trickle-down effect.”

CPD: How have you been able to react to this change?

Paul: “Through our YouTube channel, we’ve launched online sales. We are marketing our new designs and have gone global! So, we don’t rely only on local business anymore.”

CPD: What would your advice be to anyone aspiring to do something like what you do?

Paul: “Be prepared for sacrifice. You have to work hard, and you have to put 150% into every job.”

CPD: What do you think has been the biggest reason for your success?

Paul: "My wife. There’s a saying, “Behind every successful man, there’s a great woman.” I’m telling you, if she didn’t come to work tomorrow morning, I’d shut the doors and never come out here again."

Kathy: “It’s not news to me, but I’m humbled and touched every time I do hear it. Our YouTube viewers comment on it, it is what it is and it’s what they see. They say you can’t fake a good relationship.”

Paul: “You know what? I had someone interview me one time. They were sitting by the Coca-Cola
 collection in our mini museum. They looked around and said, “You have a successful business. You pretty much mastered everything that you’ve done. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? I said, “Well, I’ll tell you my greatest accomplishment. You think that’s a hard question, that’s an easy question!” He said, “Yea? What is it?” I said, “I’ve had the blessings to marry the perfect woman. With that perfect woman, we raised two great sons. Those two sons went on to be members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who have gone out to help people in the world.” I said, “That’s my greatest success.”

CPD: You talk about helping people a lot, sounds like you guys really like to do that. 

Paul: “We love people. We call our YouTubers our “Internet Family.” You wouldn’t believe it. I got sick last year. I’ve never had a sick day in 22 years in business, and I had two heart attacks in two hours. I almost died. You would not believe the cards and the well wishes. People were calling the hospital from all over the world, crying!”

Kathy: “A lot of notes were sent to us saying we're like family to them.”

Prepping before a video to their "Internet Family"
CPD: People you hardly knew?

Kathy: “People we didn’t know at all!”

Paul: “Never met any of them. Say for instance we get really busy and I don’t have time in that week to do a video, Kathy starts getting phone calls and emails asking us if we’re OK. I’ll say to Kathy sometimes, “You may not like me, but the YouTubers do!”

CPD: Speaking of, what are your YouTube plans for the future?

Paul: “The plan is to a lot of videos about the plasma tables. We've put up two stainless steel cabinets above them. On the cabinets, we put the company’s name of who makes the tables. I said to Kathy, “I don’t care what they say, Cleveland Punch and Die’s emblem is going up on the cabinets." I want everybody on the video to see their emblem, it is already there. We did a YouTube video the other day and I was showing our viewers the new cabinets and the new lighting in the shop where this table is going. We consider the two stainless steel cabinets our new “Wall of Fame.” I told Kathy, “Any company that we hold in high regard gets their sticker on the cabinet." TrackerCNC
© is there and Cleveland Punch and Die is there as well. Those are the two companies in the last 23 years that we highly admire. Of course, we tell our viewers that there’s really nothing in it for us, we just try to pass the word.”  

CPD: How did you find out about Cleveland Punch and Die?

Paul: "They contacted us! We found the company to be... well... excellent. If somebody told me they’d give me $1000 to say something bad about Cleveland Punch and Die, I’d have to tell them to keep their money. They’re a really, really good company. They make an outstanding product. We’ve probably done 6 or 7 videos about them just because we wanted to promote them. They’re probably the best company we have dealt with online in the last 23 years."

CPD: What do you enjoy most about working with Cleveland Punch and Die?

Paul: "Working with Cleveland Punch and Die has been fascinating for us. They sent us a quick-change system for our Edwards™ Ironworker. I’ve gone from taking about 5 minutes to change a punch, to literally maybe 20 seconds! I mean, the tooling that you guys put out is so much of high quality that I said to Kathy the other day, “Every time I look at Cleveland Punch and Die’s work, I appreciate them so much more.” It’s unbelievable! Their workmanship is second to none. They must have the best machine facility in the world. The tooling they’ve sent here is just fantastic. We just want to say thank you for all that you do! We appreciate everyone’s workmanship. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

CPD: What are your future plans?

Paul: “Because of the near-death experience, I’m going to appreciate life a whole lot more than I have. There’s really not a lot to change. Kathy and I will work here all day and we’ll go and get on the motorcycle and go for a drive. We’ll just talk or turn on the music. We just enjoy life that way. We like simple things in life."

Paul and Kathy are in the process of getting their website up in order to go global with their business. They are always posting videos of what they have in the works. If you would like to enjoy more of them, subscribe to their YouTube channel

Paul and Kathy excited about their new tooling

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