Home to Office and Back Again
As BIG KAISER celebrates 30 years, Chris Kaiser reflects on running a company from home again.
It’s been 30 years since I started KAISER Precision Tooling USA, and I never imagined I’d be running this company from home again. Like most BIG KAISER employees, I’m working remote at least a few days each week to maintain the required social distance. I can relate to the experience many are having now as they juggle work and family at literally the same time. Isn’t this the experience of parents everywhere who are also entrepreneurs working to start a new business?
Back in 1990, after living and working in the U.S. for nearly a decade, I started this company out of necessity. I knew we needed to change how we were selling the boring tools manufactured by my father’s company in Switzerland, Heinz Kaiser AG. I had a vision to increase sales with better marketing, product deliveries and customer service, but my goals weren’t shared by the agents and partners we had at that time.
That’s how I found myself sequestered at home with two little boys regularly knocking on the door asking when I was going to come out and play. As much as I wanted to do that, I also needed to focus on setting up a new company from scratch. There was no building, no equipment, no staff.
Many late nights were spent working with a friend in his basement, writing a business plan, setting up systems for accounting and IT, and making the first boring tool catalog. During the day I sought legal advice, met with lenders and looked for a facility that would house this new company.
In July of that year, I was joined by my long-time partner, and now BIG KAISER Vice President, Jack Burley. Operations Manager Tim Grosch also started in that first year. There were many other friends and influential people along the way, but these two have been with me on this adventure since the very beginning.
On August 1, 1990 – coincidentally also Swiss Independence Day – we opened the doors at our first facility in Elk Grove Village, IL. It was two minutes from my house so I could spend a lot of late nights at work, after dinner with my family, just as my father did when I was little.
After 30 years, I’m proud to say we’ve had a good number of customers from the very beginning. Possibly the first was a Swiss-born machinist who carried Heinz Kaiser boring tools back from his vacation in Zurich to his job in the repair center at United Airlines in San Francisco. United remains a customer of BIG KAISER today. Some of those old boring tools are repairable and still in service.
Many U.S. companies in defense and other industries bought SIP jig-boring machines made in Geneva, Switzerland. They also invested in precision boring tool kits – packed in a wooden case – from Heinz Kaiser AG. We’re grateful that companies like Bell Helicopter, Sikorsky, Caterpillar, John Deere, Metalex, Vermeer and Viking Pump – among others – are still with us to this day.
I look forward to reuniting with long-time customers, partners and friends at a 30th anniversary celebration sometime later this year. In the meantime, I hope we can all get back to the office and a more normal routine very soon. Seeing my grandson on FaceTime and Zoom is just not as good as going outside to play!
Until then, stay well and stay positive.
Is there any chance someone has a PICCOLO boring tool in the original wooden box from that time? I would love to have a photo of it.