Back in 2008, Brad Watts and Scott Rauter were working for competing surface coatings companies and wanting to branch out on their own. They confided to a mutual friend, who introduced the pair and advised them to start a powder coating company together. Six months later, they launched Micron Metal Finishing, a full service powder coating/custom coater job shop located in Bridgeview Ill., serving Chicago and the Midwestern region. Watts is happily married with children, and Rauter is the bachelor who can’t play enough golf. We wanted to know how they managed to stay friends after all these years.
PF: As business partners, how has your friendship grown and changed over the years?
BW: If you want to get to know someone quick, go into business with him. We spent an enormous amount of time together the first few years; you can ask my wife more about that. We continue to spend countless hours discussing our visions and direction for Micron Metal Finishing.
SR: I think our friendship has strengthened over the years. It’s like when two people go to war: if you make it out, you usually have a friend for life. I know business is not war, but sometimes it sure feels like it.
PF: What advice would you give other entrepreneurs who may want to start a business with a partner? Any ground rules or words of wisdom?
SR: My advice would be to make sure you partner with someone who has the same work ethic and business ethics. We did set some ground rules up when we started, such as not hiring family or friends.
BW: You need to be able to communicate very well with each other. There’s no way you will agree on everything, so you have to expect to give in some of the time. It is important that each partner has their individual roles in the organization well defined.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
BW: A mentor told me to always tell the truth and never break your word. That advice seems to work well both professionally and personally.
SR: My father was also was in the coating business and told me “Scott if it was easy, everyone would own a business.” So after an especially long day, I say that to myself and it gives me a little comfort.
PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
BW: An 11-year-old Pontiac Firebird that I bought for $600 when I returned home from school. I think I would take a lot more road trips if I was driving a Rolls Royce Phantom or a Bentley.
SR: A 1991 Dodge Dakota truck. It was not my dream car, but it wasn’t pretty bad for a first car, at least that’s what I thought at the time.
PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
SR: I wanted to be a trader at the stock market.
BW: I watched guys walking on the moon when I was very young, and was sure that I would be there, too, someday. And then I discovered the world of powder coating!
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
BW: I caddied at the local country club when I was old enough. I learned a lot of new words.
SR: In a steel plant, and what I learned from it was that I did not want to work in a factory my whole life, so I better go to college.
PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
SR: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
BW: Most of my charitable contributions go the The American Cancer Society as I have lost both of my parents to that disease.