As we near the end of the year 2019, I find myself reflecting on my favorite pieces of wisdom captured during this calendar year. One of my favorites, undoubtedly, is this snippet taken from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy: “Most of us are ‘living the dream’ – living, that is, the dream we once had for ourselves.”
For those of us so fortunate as to have achieved a dream we had for ourselves, only to realize it may no longer qualify as a ‘dream’ in the sense we’d originally intended, where does this leave us? And what does it look like to re-route once you’ve realized this bittersweet truth?
When I talk with SOLIDWORKS users in my daily life, we do, of course, take ample time to talk about their businesses, the products they create, and how they use our products to do so. But it’s important to take a step back at times and look at the course of events – occurring both externally and internally – that led them to make the choices leading them to where they find themselves today.
This theme has been a recurring one in my talks with Inertia Engineering‘s Founder & CEO, Ray Minato. Inertia Engineering has been around for over 15 years now, but before that, Ray spent quite some time in the automotive design, manufacturing and motorsports industries. From a young age, this is where he always saw himself ending up. He worked incredibly hard to obtain the proper experience and connections to advance in these worlds – dream worlds for many aspiring engineers, to be sure.
A photo of Gareth Kenworthy (Inertia), Daniel Granillo (SOLIDWORKS), myself, and Ray (left to right) from my visit with Daniel to Inertia earlier this year.
“I didn’t start my business until about 10 years into my career. My first job after graduating was in automotive manufacturing. My childhood dream – what was directing me into engineering – was to design race cars,” Ray told me.
Ray continued: “So I took a job making car parts – interior automotive parts. I figured: I’ll learn what I can. I spent about 3 years in a purely manufacturing environment. I progressed quite quickly, but it ultimately wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
And so, as all good (future) entrepreneurs do, Ray set out to seed opportunities based on what was available to him at the time, with the goal of getting where he wanted to be eventually.
“I was volunteering with a local race team during that time as well,” Ray continued. “I’d always wanted to get involved in motorsports. I decided to quit my day job after progressing from a Process Engineer to an Engineering Manager. I got put into that position and I was, by all accounts, successful – but that just wasn’t my passion.”
“If I would’ve stuck around, I would’ve become Senior Management. I was making really good money – more than my friends were.”
He began to become, even at that early age, more in tune with the idea that a personal sense of fulfillment in his work mattered to him. And, with each professional opportunity, his internal compass became more and more fine-tuned.
Without being too much of a spoiler here: I think these photo renderings displayed at Inertia Engineering capture Ray’s interest in the automotive space quite well. Picture below are Inertia’s ‘Company Value Cards,’ which are well-worth reading about here.
“That’s why I left to become a race car mechanic. It was my entry point into that industry. I figured I’d get in then find a way to work my way up from there. I quickly progressed into being a race engineer.
After spending “about 2-3 years” doing that, he finally got a job doing vehicle design for a small company. “That was kind of my first real professional gig designing vehicles. I was working as a race engineer on the weekends, and designing cars during the week,” Ray continued.
His childhood dreams were suddenly coming to fruition – the risks in leaving a lucrative job, fairly early in his career, beginning to clearly pay off to anyone following his story and stated inspirations. But something was wrong.
“I was doing what I always wanted to do, but I really didn’t dig the environment I was in. I found myself not enjoying it – kind of the way things were done.”
He was living the dream he once had, only it hadn’t turned out the way he expected. This inevitably sparked the inspiration that became Inertia Engineering.
“And that was the impetus for starting my own business. I thought: ‘Wow. I’ve achieved my boyhood dream and I’m just not liking it.’ It was a crisis of being. Thinking: ‘This is what I wanted, and I’m not really happy.'”
As you’ll learn in this article, Ray began to hold in increasingly high esteem the value of team culture.
“Sometimes, you forget to check in and ask yourself: ‘Is this still the dream I have?’ You can get too busy living ‘it’ or trying to achieve ‘it.'”
That didn’t mean it was smooth sailing from there on in. He experienced the fears many fledgling startup businesses encounter.
“I remember thinking: where would I even get customers? How would I do this? I’d had a few projects lined up as a springboard. My vision was, at the time, to eventually just have 3-5 people at a company doing what I/we do best.”
He had the industry experience necessary to run a design firm. He’d experienced several cultural dynamics that gradually informed his picture of the environment he’d like to foster. But jumping into the ‘driver’s seat’ of running your own business day-to-day, and being responsible for instilling the culture to varying degrees, would prove to be totally different, new challenges.
A photo-rendering of one of many fantastic designs Ray and his team at Inertia Engineering have come up with while working with their customers. Pictured here is an award-winning car seat, designed in SOLIDWORKS.
“At the time, I didn’t know how to run a company or build a great company or culture. I figured I just wanted to do what I do and control the way I do it. It took me a while just to learn how to run a company, sell services – that kind of thing.”
“The past 6-7 years, I’ve been focused on building a great company. For a while, I just wanted to survive and be profitable. Then, it became: ‘How do I build a place people ‘love’ coming to work? Where people feel inspired.”
Furthermore, through today, how does Ray look to consistently improve – and what does he find himself valuing from his professional experiences as a business owner now?
“There’s always things we can do better,” Ray offers. “We wanted to make a place where employees felt intellectually stimulated and enjoyed their time with their peers. What you enjoy the most about the work you do changes over the years as you age and mature. I started the company because the customer experience I witnessed over the years, I often saw bad ones. I wanted to make sure our customers enjoy working with us.”
“Now, I enjoy seeing my team be successful and deliver great results – watching them grow while doing that. That’s the most rewarding thing for me now. That energizes me: seeing my team do amazing work.”
Using SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, Simulation, PDM, and more, Ray’s team also has the tools to execute this “amazing work” for their clients.
This case study video, produced by Inertia’s awesome VAR partner Javelin Technologies, illustrates how Ray and his team at Inertia Engineering use SOLIDWORKS solutions in their daily work for their customers and partners.
“We’re looking to partner with companies in innovation, development, and manufacturing of new products. This includes entrepreneurs, and really anyone looking to really grow their businesses. We want to partner with our customers in business.”
The goal: to put their heads together with their clients and partners, with a holistic approach encompassing product development, engineering, sales, and marketing, to find the best outcome.
As for Ray: he is proof that the ‘best outcome,’ simply put, is not always the one you envisioned. But it’s often one that remains achievable – somehow, someway.