Chris Byrd has rounded out his corporate experience and background with industry expertise and “mom-and-pop” customer service for his new venture, Circle Tool Supply.
As an industrial supply company, CTS provides a range of items from hand, cutting and power tools and abrasives to safety equipment and MRO (maintenance repair operations) supplies. Byrd keeps thousands of items on hand at his warehouses in Schererville as well as maintaining connections to key vendors for access to thousands of more supplies.
“We offer the consumables that keep an operation running, whether that’s janitorial supplies, ear plugs, fire extinguishers and even Gatorade as hydration is important to safety,” Byrd said.
Byrd’s background is rooted in steel and his industry’s corporate side.
“I started my career in the steel industry,” he said. “I love the manufacturing side of business and seeing the products made.”
He launched CTS in May 2011 after seeing changes in the corporate culture.
“The strategy was not as customer-centric as I would have liked it. It seemed to me we were getting further away instead of closer to the customer,” he said. “We were pushing everybody to the Web site and losing touch. You have to have personal relationships to keep a business running.
“We are going back to basics at CTS and we want to take care of customers in a way they expect to be taken care of.”
Byrd reached out to the NW-ISBDC at the beginnings of his business for some initial assistance on the start-up basics.
“When I met with Cindy (Bertram), I showed her my business plan and she helped me tweak it and guided us to a financial institution that supported us. She was just a wealth of information and any topic I wanted to talk about, she helped point me in the right direction. In the beginning, we also solidified some things such as finding an accountant and people who are experts for a smooth transition and smooth opening,” he said.
“Because I hadn’t owned my own business and had worked in the corporate world – where things are already established – I had taken that for granted. We discussed pitfalls and what most start-ups do wrong – the traps people fall into that are difficult to get out of and can harm the business. I got a good grasp of what not to do. The SBDC is a great resource to get a business going and once going, to take off from there.”
Byrd is already experiencing growth and is updating his Web site to position CTS for the future.
“To be quite honest, I didn’t expect to grow as fast and as quickly as we did. The whole idea is to build a legacy to one, many or all of my kids – something they can continue to build on and have success with,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight but we are doing so well and in the next five years, we are going to be a very healthy small business.
“Right now, we have one location and two warehouses, but in the future, we may move into our own building or have one built. Also, there may be plans to expand.”
As his business develops, Byrd will continue to rely on future advice and past lessons.
“I have worked for some great managers, average managers and some poor managers and with that experience, I have learned what to do and what not to do,” he said. “The SBDC is a wealth of knowledge and has tools to help me get going where I need to go. Advisors like Cindy have been doing this long enough that she can say: he doesn’t seem strong enough here, here are tools to support him on this. I can always go back to her and say ‘Here is where I am right now, what are the tools for that?’”