Mike Giles, YEN Member Insights, January 2012

Mike Giles, SEMA YEN Member of the Month, January 2012

Mike Giles – SuperFlow Technologies Group

This month’s interview is with Mike Giles, Marketing Manager with SuperFlow Technologies Group headquartered in Des Moines, IA.

Mike, a graduate of the University of Iowa, has worked for SuperFlow Technologies Group, as it is called today - in some way, shape or form since he was 6 years old. At the present, Mike’s main job functions include a whole array of marketing functions, but above all it is his responsibility to manage SuperFlow’s brands and their respective images. Mike also oversees SuperFlow’s web developer and graphic designer, plans the tradeshows and make sure they happen without issue, coordinates the advertising schedule and budget, organizes email blasts, and writes press releases, newsletters and ad copy. “We’re a small company so we’re all asked to go above and beyond our core responsibilities, for me that is usually some minor IT work or building maintenance projects or anything else that needs some extra attention.”

What is your role at company and how many years there?
My current position is Marketing Manager and I have had that position since March of 2011. I’ve worked in the Marketing department since I graduated in May of 2009. Prior to that I’ve held positions ranging from lawn maintenance at age 6, to parts runner, to janitor. My dad was very clear when I was young that he wanted my brothers and me to be involved in his company if we chose to, but that like anyone else we would start at the bottom and work our way up.

How have you personally progressed through the company?
There are old company photos floating around where I’m still in diapers. As I said above I’ve held many positions at SuperFlow on the production floor and in the front office. I enjoy both sides of the business and have a great appreciation for how hard all the employees at SuperFlow work, regardless of what they do.

Where do you live and work? Company HQ location? Always been there?
SuperFlow headquarters are in Des Moines, IA. We also have locations in Colorado Springs, CO and Pulle, Belgium. I’m currently living and working in Colorado Springs where we design, engineer, sell and service our engine dynamometers, chassis dynamometers and flowbenches. I grew up in the Des Moines office where we manufacture all of our transmission testing products. I moved to Colorado Springs about two years ago to learn and understand the products that are handled at this location on the same level that I do the products I grew up around.

How have you seen the business (SuperFlow) change over the years?
SuperFlow was founded in the early 70’s by Neal Williams. His first product was a flowbench, hence the name SuperFlow. My dad grew up working for a company called Hicklin GM Diesel where he started mowing lawns and progressing through the company as he went through high school and college. Shortly after he graduated from college a spin-off company was formed to produce heavy-duty transmission dynamometers. He had to opportunity to buy it and from there started acquiring other companies around the country in similar markets. It wasn’t until 2004 that he purchased SuperFlow and the organization as it sits today was formed. We’re now operating 5 brands capable of testing anything from the engine all the way to the rear axles of vehicles that range from passenger cars to the M1 tank. We also have a handful of other brands that we operate separately from the SuperFlow banner.

What is the greatest challenge in being employed in a family owned company?
I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform because I know how hard my dad has worked to get his company to where it is today. The main thing is I don’t want to let him down. I struggle sometimes to separate work from home life because the company has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

…. perceptions?
This one’s tough because I have a great respect for everyone that works here. I’ve had other jobs over the years and can honestly say we’re fortunate at SuperFlow to have great employees. I like to believe I’m given the same respect that everyone else in the office gets, but I’m sure there are some people that believe the obvious ones like I’ve been handed everything, I’m dumb, etc, etc. I do my best to earn everyone’s respect through hard work and results. I won’t say I’m the first one in the office in the morning, but I’m usually the last one to leave.

…. held to a different standard?
Actually, no at least I don’t feel like I am which is nice. I put enough pressure on myself as it is. Naturally I’ve made some mistakes and there’s been no shortage of input letting me know about it which is fine with me. I’m relatively inexperienced when compared to people at other companies in my role so I welcome any advice, tips, info or criticism that will help me improve.

What are the advantages of a family owned company?
My opinion on this is probably biased, but I believe the culture is great. We’re a small company so there is a lot of autonomy and a relatively relaxed atmosphere. We work very hard, but we don’t miss an opportunity to have fun. For me this is more than a job which is good and bad. I’m so invested in what we’re doing that the highs are really high and the lows are really low. In other jobs I worked just as hard, but the outcome didn’t have such an impact on me personally. I love the challenges and the satisfaction of seeing things go well.

…. to the employees?

I think the relaxed atmosphere is a huge plus…. A strict corporate culture would never work here. Like I said previously, we all work very hard and get things done, but we also understand the importance of having fun.

…. to the community?
We’re still fighting everyday to provide local jobs and managing our business for the long term! The economy has had its impact on us just like it has on so many other manufacturing companies, but we’ve done our best to weather the storm. Ironically, it’s been a great time to focus on improving our core products and we’re looking forward to the tradeshows this fall where we can show everyone what we’ve been up to!

What advice he would give to a young person considering a career into the industry?
Do it! The automotive, racing and performance industries are exciting and fun. I’d get as much experience as possible while completing a degree. By the book I was fully prepared for all the core duties of my job. However, I didn’t get enough experience through internships to be fully prepared. For example, many of the marketing principles I studied were based around large companies with massive budgets. We’re a relatively small company with a small budget so it’s often hard to apply things exactly the way I was taught. As a result, we get to develop some creative solutions which keep things fun and interesting.

Also, it’s cliché, but time management is critical. You start each day with a list of things to accomplish but with email, phone calls, office interruptions, etc. you really only get part of the day to finish your tasks. I believe this skill is critical to success. We’re all trained and educated in our particular area so generally speaking we all know what to do. It’s the people who know how to do these things efficiently that really succeed.