Charles D. McCarrick is an entrepreneur, inventor, and lead visionary of Micro-Ant. In 2022, Micro-Ant won the SatCom Innovation Group Award for Most Innovative Product of the Year for the successful development of its Ultra-Wide Band (3.5 GHz) Ka Antenna System. The system enables connectivity over extended frequency bands in Ka for roaming across multiple satellite operators in all orbits.
Charles has a PhD in Advanced Electromagnetics from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He is also the author of the book “Lessons My Brothers Taught Me,” about how budding entrepreneurs can harness life lessons and their personal qualities to yield success.
Charles grew up with five siblings, all of whom taught him important life lessons that he later applied to his career. His evolution from quitting his day job to founding and succeeding at building an extremely valuable high-tech business has been quite a journey.
With more than 10 patents to his name, he pioneers and supplies unique equipment to the communications industry.
What you will learn
- From brotherly wisdom to booming business: Turning life lessons into a published book
- Charles shares what inspired him to pursue a PhD in Advanced Electromagnetics
- Introducing Micro-Ant: A company transforming technology and connectivity
- Discover some surprising ways antennas are used
- Learn about the 4S Framework: Salability, Sensibility, Sustainability, and Scalability
- Charles shares what his next passion project is all about
- Plus loads more!
00:00:03 - 00:01:49
Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Charlie McCarrick. Now, Charlie has an accent that I had trouble struggling with, which I thought he was almost Irish, but he's actually American. And we had a quick chat about that. I've got an Australian accent, which is because I'm from Sydney, Australia. Charles is an entrepreneur, inventor and lead visionary of Micro-Ant. In 2022 Micro-Ant won the SatCom Innovation Group Award for the Most Innovative Product of the Year for the successful development of the Ultra-Wide Band 3.5 gigahertz Ka Antenna System. And we're gonna find out what that it really means. The system enables connectivity over extended frequency bands in Ka for roaming across multiple satellite operators in all orbits. So Charlie's a micro and obviously in the communications business. He has a PhD in Advanced Electromagnetic from University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He is the author behind the book Lessons My Brothers Taught Me about how budding entrepreneurs can harness life lessons and their personal qualities to yield success.
A little bit more about Charlie. He grew up with five siblings, all of whom taught him important life lessons that later applied to his career. His evolution from quitting his day job to founding and succeeding at building an extremely valuable high tech business has been quite a journey. And what I love about Charlie is that he's not afraid to reflect on mistakes he made along the way because without learning from errors, he wouldn't be where he is today. Charlie has more than 10 patents to his name and he pioneers and supplies unique equipment to the communications industry.
So Charlie, that's quite a resume. Thank you very much for coming on the show. It's an absolute pleasure.
00:01:50 - 00:02:00
Oh, you're kidding. Thank you, Jeff. It's, yeah, I've been watching a number of your podcasts. You're a bit of a celebrity to me. And so to see you here live talking to me, it's a real thrill.
00:02:01 - 00:02:31
It's an absolute pleasure. I just love doing this podcast because I get to learn so much. And what we try and do is get behind the success of the qualities, success, the stories behind successful entrepreneurs and especially in the tech and more digital industries. But, Charlie, so your book is Lessons My Brothers Taught Me. Now, there's an interesting thing about that. You've got a sister as well. You left her out.
00:02:32 - 00:02:47
No. Well, she's in the book and I actually dedicated the book to her. She was the oldest and somehow managed to stay clear of all of the high jinks. So, yeah. So, but, she was certainly present.
00:02:47 - 00:03:34
Okay. Right. Okay, yeah, I saw her and mentioned so it's not as if you left her out, but it was just, I went, my sister, well, I had a sister too when she was born 15 years after I was born which, sort of, that was interesting because we were three brothers and then suddenly a sister shows up 15 years later. And it's like your idea of family changed almost. It was really fascinating. But enough about me, look, the other thing I want to know is what inspired you to write the book. Obviously, you had quite, I've read a bit of the book and it's got some very colorful descriptions about the battles between the brothers and in often supporting events. So, is that what inspired you to write the book using that title?
00:03:35 - 00:05:51
Well, when I began it, I wasn't, I didn't plan on writing a book. It was during COVID and all non-essential employees had to work from home, meaning those that did not lay their hands on the product. I was not an essential employee in terms of moving the product to the company. So I was one of the people working at home and I found a lot of time in my hands where I was sewing and doing different things, building fishing rods. And I was just musing about all the things that the company had gone through and how relatively successful we were when looking at all the missteps that we had made. And I was wondering, you know, how did we get past those steps? I mean, there's, you know, some of these things think that they were gonna just drop us dead in our tracks, but we always managed to get through them. And I said, you know, I'm gonna try to write down the evolution of the company so I can understand it for myself. What happened, how we dealt with it. And as I was writing it, it was slowly becoming a manuscript. And I said, you know, this could actually be a book that others might find useful. So as I was reading it and reading it and going through the manuscript and as it evolved into a book, I noticed there was certain themes forming and many of the situations that I had gotten into and gotten out of, they were a kin to those that I had gotten into with my brothers while I was growing up. And I realized that many of the character traits that I possessed and many of the experiences that I had came from those times. And I decided to give them credit and so I called the book Lessons My Brothers Taught Me and in the book, I talk about these various lessons. They weren't really meant to be teaching me anything. I think they were, these were done for their own amusement. But these events that took place, I had a moral or a lesson that each one after each one of them. And I attribute those to how I got through various issues as I was developing the company. So essentially the book is about how I use the experiences that I had gone through growing up with my older brothers to get through, to navigate the business through difficult times.
00:05:51 - 00:07:32
Right. I love that there's a very good storytelling technique which is to tell a story and then make a point. And you're telling the story and making a lesson, which is the same deal, which is fantastic. So because people say what's the point of the story and you obviously are producing a lot of lessons from all those stories, which is a great way to teach. So that's fantastic. And the other thing I love too is that you sat down and wrote about your life. And in other words, the thing I love about writing for me is that you, I write to learn and also to understand. And I think that's because you gotta take all this stuff in your head that's washing around. And we've, we have so many conversations ahead and I think the idea of putting it down on paper or liter, you know, virtual paper, is to make sense of it and sounds like you've taken your life and tried to make sense of it. And what did we learn along the way which is fantastic. So, and this is what I love about books and that's why I think you writing a book is just awesome because when I read a book and I'm sure I haven't read all of your book and I, but I'm going to, in fact, when I finished this call, I'd have my normal practice to spend a fair bit of time reading in the morning is I'm gonna sit down and start reading it and I make notes. So just you have the distillation sometimes, you know, 40-50 plus years of life lessons that are distilled by the author, you know, full of expertise and experience into just a few pages which I find, a great way to learn.
00:07:33 - 00:09:24
Well, you know, I've read a number of business books and some are extremely popular and I think they're probably desktop books, guidebooks for many people in business. But the thing about those books and they're good books to read, the part I like best is when they were calling upon actual experiences they had, but in many of these books, all they're doing is they're simulating data and trying to come to prove some sort of causation and present that information. And it's a lot less interesting to me. And at the end of all this, you see, this is really good stuff, but it's actually speculation. The author really didn't do any of this stuff, but rather gathered it for me, you know, get a lot of information that others had done. And I'm not saying that these books aren't immensely popular and or that they don't provide some very valuable information. I don't find them particularly entertaining. It's certainly not a fun read. So I wanted mine to be a little bit, a combination of a story, a memoir. I wanted it to be fun and funny and I wanted to provide information all at all at the same time. And whenever I see somebody get up and give a speech, they always say start with something interesting, start with the person, something personal, tell a little story because people want to know how it's going to turn out. And so that's what I did. I'd rather just say, here's a lot of information, here's some graphs, here's what others say, here's a bunch of stories and by the way, they're tied together by these little, you know, these various things that took place as my business involved. So I was more interested in keeping it interesting and alive and as well as personal and not go overboard or burden the reader with too much on concept structure and all that, you know, business parlance.
00:09:24 - 00:10:13
Yeah, I love the fact that you mentioned that you would rather hear a story by someone who's done it rather than just collecting data and then trying to create a structure which we all want templates for life. Mostly what I found is that they tell me how to do it, write down. And we all know deep down that that's not the truth.
So, alright, so you grew up, your brothers and you. I heard that you constructed basically like an Olympic Stadium of different activities that involve running, jumping, throwing, patting. Tell us a little bit about that before we get to why you started Micro-Ant and why you got a PhD.
00:10:14 - 00:11:39
You gotta realize we live in the middle of nowhere, the middle of nowhere means there were no neighbors whom you could walk to or visit. And the only entertainment that we could have is that for which we could make for ourselves. So we would take old lumber trees, whatever and build roller coasters out of it. And I describe the various amusements in this park that my brothers had created and of course there was no safety opposite or of parental guidance, you know, supervision to make sure nobody was getting hurt. So, oh my gosh, you know, we younger brothers would be put into these rollercoasters or into these swings or these various rides that my older brothers would create and somehow survive them. You know, you see kids wearing knee pads in bicycles and, you know, helmets when they're riding bicycles. Well, are you kidding? You were getting the crap beat out of you if you attempted to put, you know, any kind of safety gear. And just, I mean, you just went through it and then they would give these things really creative names, you know. And they were great at the market. My brothers so get on the rollercoaster or, you know, get on the simulated flight machine and it, which was a wheelbarrow and they push you off the bar, you know, and, you know, at the end you met gravity, you know, in a very manner. That's one thing that all the rides had in common. So, yeah, we, that they found ways to amuse us and we found ways to amuse ourselves.
00:11:39 - 00:13:47
Yeah, that makes me reflect on my stories of my brothers. We used to make jumps for bikes, we used to make bikes with long forks, we used to jump creeks, we smashed bikes, we rebuilt bikes. We disappeared into the fields behind our place because it was at the edge of Suburbia. But there were a lot of fields to experiment in and we had a reserve where we could disappear for an entire afternoon. Come back a bit bloodied and a little bit muddy and, yeah, I totally get it because we did stuff that I'm just amazed that, you know, we’re all still alive as well. So it's, yeah, and there were no knee pads for me or gloves or anything or a helmet. No, we didn't do that. So I totally get that. So, you grew up with an, in an adventure playground that you created with your brothers and obviously sister stood most probably at a distance aghast at what her brothers were doing. And she's going, oh my God, look what they're doing mum. Anyway, so it's, but that was very typical of the time. So, yeah, now we wrap kids in cotton wool and we walk them to school and we pick them up in cars and the nanny stays alive and well, today with so many rules to make sure that kids don't get hurt. So, but those adventures you've got, obviously you learned a lot of lessons and that's where the book came from. Lessons My Brothers Taught Me.
So, but you went and did a degree and it was in communications and Micro-Ant now is in the whole communications satellite technology area space amongst other things, I'm sure. What was the inspiration for you to like was it something that interested you? Did you see man land on the moon? Where was the inspiration to get into and do a PhD in Advanced Electromagnetic? What was the inspiration?
00:13:48 - 00:17:43
I was a late bloomer. I wanted to be a rock star. I played my drums forever and I played in a lot of bands. We played a variety of night clubs. I thought I was going to make a living at it and, you know, I was gonna be good. How can you go wrong? You can sleep as late as you want and you just go in there, you get paid in cash and all this sort of thing. But, you know, at least, and we made it to the recording studio. But, you know, to make a long story short, the money wasn't adding up to any kind of a sustainable existence outside of the house. I was gonna have to live with my mom and the family for the rest of my life at the income I was making. So I, you know, I drove into a number of different occupations. A dishwasher, a cook, you know, a lumberjack, cutting down trees. I was a nurse at one point and actually became a surgical nurse for a while. And then, and, I decided that I was gonna go back and get, I want to go to medical school so I had to go and get my bachelor, yeah, my bachelor's degree. And I took some courses in physics and biology and I said, whoa, this is way better than anything to do with the medical industry. And then I started taking some engineering courses. Now, I was probably in my DNA already. I have five, of the five boys in a family, four of them are engineers and my dad was an engineer. So engineering was in our blood, so to speak. And it seemed to make sense to me. It's almost as if I had no choice. So I decided to go to engineering school first. I got a degree in Physics and then I took that and went to get a bachelor's in electrical engineering. But I had no particular objective in terms of a specialty until I was in one of the laboratories over there. And I saw an antenna. I said, what is this? And I was just so intrigued and mesmerized by what was taking place. I mean, even to this day, I get so excited when I see this, you know, this artistic shape of conductors and insulators, you know, formed in such a way that I can see like the physics, the electromagnetic that are taking place. It is such a wondrous and beautiful thing, you know. And to me and I just fell in love with the antenna design and the beauty of it was is nobody wanted to design the antennas to this day. It is almost impossible to find the antenna designer. I looked at some statistics the other day and in the state of Florida for every 100,000 lawyers, attorneys practicing, there is one antenna design person who puts an antenna designer as their occupation. So it is pretty rare. But it's something I absolutely love and it was the best decision I ever made next to starting my own business because every, you know, communications let's face it. It's, I mean, it's ubiquitous, right? It's everywhere and you need the antenna on each end of a communications link. So you're gonna need me for one end to the other or maybe both. And so antenna designers will always be in demand. So therefore, antenna production and solutions will always be in demand. So I was fairly certain that it was the right. I enjoyed it with a passion. I knew that I would always have unless the antennas and physics somehow, you know, changed over the years that I would always have employment and that eventually I could start my own business, which was always in the back of my mind even at a very young age growing up.
00:17:44 - 00:18:02
So what era was this? You went and did nursing, went to do medicine, then went and fell in love with antenna design, which actually I find fascinating. In other words, you sound like you almost fell in love with the art of the antenna rather than the technology of the antenna. Is that correct?
00:18:03 - 00:19:18
That is exactly right. And, to this day, I mean, I am really familiar with Maxwell's equations which are the equations that govern, along with a couple of other equations, govern the physics behind electromagnetics. And I can look at those equations, you know, going back to first principles and instantly I could start envisioning the three dimensional solution to a problem, you know, based on those equations. And I can see it really quickly, almost instantaneously. And then if, but if I have to explain to somebody, you know what that design is that takes a lot more time. Then I have to use the, you know, the jargon that is common to designers or in, or engineers in general the documentation, all that that goes to. Yes, I guess you could tell, like, get a little excited about it and it's very, it's rare that anybody wants to have a conversation with me about antennas. No, rare. No, this might be the only one. And because of that, that's why you find me a little bit incensed and enthusiastic here. Yeah, I just love everything to do with antennas. I just play and have a knack for it. If I have one expertise in this world, it's the ability to design antennas.
00:19:19 - 00:19:25
That's amazing. It's almost like you were born to be the antenna guy.
00:19:25 - 00:19:28
I'm with you.
00:19:28 - 00:19:49
Well, that's amazing. So, in other words, you are already, when you look at it, you're visualizing 3D diagrams on how to build it and everything else almost instantaneously. That is just look, you can't, you cannot, it has to be an act for you to be able to do that.
00:19:50 - 00:21:10
That's why it's simply me. I certainly understand antenna science, but I would say I would practice it as an art because it is highly creative. You're talking about shapes and figures and these structures have the ability to do some sort of electromagnetic response to them. Now you look at art, right? And it does something with light so that you perceive the art in a particular way, whatever the artist is trying to convey to you. It's not a lot different with the antennas instead of light though we're using electromagnetic spectrum. And those that can see it will see the beauty in it. And you might look at and say, oh, that's why. I mean, I remember telling my brother, oh, I'm gonna go, I'm gonna, you know, go into antenna design and start my own company. How many antennas does the world need? You know, you'd be surprised because we, you know, every customer wants something different and unique. So we have as many products as we do, you know, customers that just, you know, everybody wants something different and the thing is for most people, they see it really, really difficult. And I love that because for us and our company, the way we've set up, it's really easy. It is lucrative. We would never say that to anybody.
00:21:10 - 00:21:12
I won't tell anyone.
00:21:13 - 00:21:21
It gives us the opportunity I think to provide value. It's something that we really, really are excited about.
00:21:22 - 00:21:47
Okay. So let's move on to the next part of the story. You've done your degree you'd be and then you fell in love, I don't wanna be a doctor. I wanna be the antenna guy. You'd fallen in love with antennas. Do you love your wife as much as the antenna or is it a battle?
00:21:48 - 00:21:49
Let's just say it's a different kind of love.
00:21:50 - 00:22:06
Well, that is the perfect answer, Charlie. That is the perfect answer. Well done. Yeah, so, alright, so what happened next? Did you go and do a PhD after that or did you go and start Micro-Ants? What was the next part of the story?
00:22:07 - 00:23:21
Well, I started a job at another company that was designing antennas and they were in Massachusetts where I was living at the time and I had my master's degree. So I was entry level. I had no experience, but certainly I had passion and the owner of that company, John Sivey, founder, president and an MIT graduate and an antenna expert on his own, right? He recognized my abilities and he hired me. So in a very, in the span of about two or three years, he wanted me to become the chief scientist for the company, a scientist. In reality, you should have a PhD. And so he spot to be to get my PhD, which I did and then I was promoted to the chief scientist and I was going good and I said, I, one day I'm gonna be running this company, I'm gonna, you know, be wearing a top hat and monocle and I'll be wearing a cape and I'm gonna be running this show over here and I'm gonna be the number one guy. And when Mr. John Sivey retires, you know, people will be saluting me and that you know, I was all set. That was my career plan and what appeared to be my trajectory at that time.
00:23:21 - 00:23:48
Okay. So, alright, so you're seeing this career laying out in front of you into the future, you are going to be lord of the business manner. You are going to be calling the shots, smoking a cigar while dictating around what to do. Alright, yeah, I do love that picture. That sounds really good. Was sipping a gin or a cognac? What would you be sipping?
00:23:49 - 00:24:00
I'm not so sure if it's as a guy as it would be a pipe because I want to be able to sip, I wanna be able to sip the cognac and and take a puff on the pipe, you know. And so yeah, so something like that.
00:24:01 - 00:24:19
I think that and I think that's a really worthwhile goal. I think that really is and so, but it doesn't look like you're quite there yet. So, where was the inspiration for Micro-Ant? It's like you're, when the company was there a moment going, I want to do it for myself. Was that? So, what was the call?
00:24:20 - 00:32:47
You see? I have, we have set this up nicely. Okay. Well, we were assigned to this project. We did a lot of antenna design at CV engineering and we had a lot of product, we had a product catalog, but we also did some really heavy, I would say, contracting and consulting where I was a specialist would come into a project and either fix it, get it running or what have you. And I was assigned to one of these projects and it was worth a fortune. I mean, the money we charged these people at the time for was ridiculous. In fact, it constituted at least one third of the total revenue for the company over that period of time. So I said that's it, you know, what more could you expect of an employee? And I would come in and meet with John Sivey because this was, I was going to Middleton, Rhode Island for this particular project. And the CV engineering, the company I was working for was in at Massachusetts and I would come back to home base and talk to John Sivey and we talk about different jobs and things that are going on the company because he want to make sure that we were still connected and he said, do you know Charlie? He said, going forward next time, we, I wanna start confiding with you and everything that's going on with the company and our next steps together. I said, oh boy, this is good. He’s getting ready to retire. Alright, and I'm gonna go shopping for, you know, for that cloak now, you know, and all this other stuff. But I left his office and it was about a 90 minute ride to the Middleton, Rhode Island gig.
And I get there and a technician says to me, I hear that your company is for sale or possibly sold. I pressed out laughing. I said, where the hell did you hear something ridiculous? This is a technician, right? How would he have the, I'm sitting there with the owner. I mean, how would this guy possibly, well, you know what the son of a bitch was right. The company would not only been up for sale, it was purchased.
I just couldn't believe it. And I'm talking. I said, well, where did you hear this? From the program manager. I talked to this program and she said, yeah, it's true. Where did you hear it? I heard it from the CEO. What? So I called John and he says, yeah, yes I sold the company. I can't believe it. And my first reaction was just betrayal. I felt I had been betrayed and now there was this new owner that I had to prove myself to. Is he gonna make me the super guru? Maybe he is. And I appreciated that John has every right to sell his company but to not tell his employees, not tell his key employee, you know, you can imagine what that would do to culture, in fact, did to culture. I mean the, well the number one person for the company disappeared in a hurry at me. So but ever the optimist I said, okay, this new owner, certainly he will see what an incredible asset and resource I am to the company. Who knows what this guy will do? You know, maybe he'll give me a raise, you know, maybe he'll give me ownership of the company, a limousine. I, you know, I don't know. So I said, well, I'm a little disappointed with John but let me meet this new owner and see what he has to say.
So, the owner came in and he did not ask me what my hopes were, what my dreams were or anything about the company. He simply said to me that he was not making as much profit as he could. He needed to show his partners in the acquisition that he could turn things around and develop a profit. And so the first thing he’s doing, his first course of action was to reduce my salary by 20%. No question about that. No rhyme or reason. But just based on that. And I said, can this get any worse? You know? It's so, he said, I said, I don't know. He said, well, you know, go, you know, let's talk again next week, you know, and we can work out the details and then we can start talking about where the company, you know, is going from here. So I went straight to the HR person. I said, look, I'm gonna be on vacation next week. So, okay. And I would, in that week I called everybody I knew in the industry. I got the name Micro-Ant and I went and got it, not trademark, but I went to have it registered as a business in Massachusetts. Started co calling some of my customers, I, there was no employment contract with a visa. I was free to do everything I want. In other words, I started laying the foundation for business. Yeah. And I had a shred of, you know, hope that they would do these potential customers, give me some business. So I said, that's enough of me. I said it did not matter if I, it all failed and I ended up shoveling shit for a living. It was better than having to work with somebody who at a whim could just completely change my, the trajectory of, you know, of my professional development. And I said, no, I've got to take control for myself, you know, this is ridiculous. And that's so that's exactly what I did. So I went in next week and I had my hand stretched out a smile. He had a smile on his face. Oh my gosh. I thought it was gonna kiss me and I think he thought that I came and said, you know, pretty, you're right. 20,000. Make it 25. But instead I said, you know, thank you very much. I hope that you have success with your company, but I'm done and I saluted and the shock on his face made it all worthwhile. I'll go back and do it again and I play it over my mind again and again, you know, it's some of the times he, I, as I played, he drops to a knee, you know, and tries to kiss my hand. And other times I slap across the face. But in the reality of it was he, look a shock on his face. And I don't know if he was choking or saying, wait or that I just turned it left, you know, as if there was a camera on me and I needed to make a perfect exit, which is what I did.
So then I'm often running and I'm driving home. I'm excited. I can't wait. And how much business that I have booked? Zero, right? But it was, but that didn't matter to me because if somebody would say, oh, you left a position where you had all of these various benefits and most important you had stability and you had security. Those don't exist. They're an illusion, right? The only thing that is secure is in how you perceive yourself and the faith that you have in yourself to succeed at anything. And when people say I would start a business if this was most recently, if I had a year worth of work ahead of me, I say, forget it. I said two weeks, if your threshold is more than two weeks, forget it. You know, I said, you don't have to make, take a dive in a leap like I did, you could break it up into the small steps. But for me, I said, I am done. I don't care, you know what the situation is. I'm not ever going to work for anybody ever again. You know, and somehow some way I was right all the time, I may not have believed it, but all I know is I was not turning back, I was never going to go back to that. So that launched the company and I started out consulting initially and then eventually started making product and started generating a revenue which allowed me to bring on additional team members. And then the company grew from there.
00:32:48 - 00:33:04
Wow, that's a great story. And I cannot believe that someone had lack of awareness to think that they're gonna motivate staff by reducing their wage by 20% off the bat. Like you, it removed your hopes and dreams almost in one stroke of a pen.
00:33:04 - 00:33:55
Holy cow. Yes, that's amen to that. And others say, you know, he really did you a favor. He did you a favor because of the otherwise. But, and that's probably a ring of truth to that because had he said instead to be, we're gonna keep your pay the same and maybe as the company makes more money or maybe he said things are tight right now. We need to reduce your pay. But, you know, we want
or Charlie, what is your, you know, what are your hopes and dreams? What are your aspirations? Where do you see yourself in three to five years? It would have, I would have probably been satisfied to stay there forever. But you're right. The stupidity of the proposition that he had made was something that was not going to be missed on me and certainly not something that I don't want to experience twice. So I was out of there.
00:33:55 - 00:33:57
How's that company doing today?
00:33:57 - 00:34:05
They went straight to hell in a handbasket.
00:34:06 - 00:34:17
Yeah, I can see you're smoking a pipe right there and wearing the cape by this time. Alright.
00:34:18 - 00:34:20
And composing songs but yeah.
00:34:20 - 00:34:47
Yeah. And by the way, I know I saw that, you know, you want to be a rock star and I, you know what, I think you've got the looks and the hair to do it, Charlie. So maybe there's a future. Yeah, maybe you can just masquerade as a famous rock star because that's what you look like to me in the photos. And do a legacy tour. No one would know and you know.
00:34:48 - 00:34:50
That's right. I know, I still haven't given up that dream but you know.
00:34:51 - 00:35:36
Don’t ever give up that dream. You don't know what lies beyond do we? Okay. So okay, so Micro-Ant, tell us a bit about Micro-Ant today. How many employees and what sort of revenue you, whatever you can share. I've just been to say you've walked away, become a consultant and then started building your own product. So where is, let's go straight to where you are now. So I've got some other questions as well including duffel bags and people will know what that is in a minute. So where is it, where are you today? You sound like you're selling some fantastic technology and communications tech. And so how big is the company today?
00:35:37 - 00:39:57
We always hold ourselves somewhere between 50 and 100 employees. 70 is the sweet spot. There's really no need for us to grow much larger than that. We supply an attendant to the who’s who with the industry. I'm not going to give you exact revenue figures. But there were no complaints but that the company that the name Micro-Ant stands for Microwave Antennas. Microwaves are the frequency spectrum within the radio frequency band between one gigahertz and 40 gigahertz. So we design it attendance primarily in those bands. And you had mentioned earlier about some of the Ultra Wide Band SatCom products that we sell. So we do things for terrestrial as well as satellite. You certainly heard of X7 and Sirius Radio, we did their antennas. So that was a commercial opportunity for us, but we do a lot of things as well for the Department of Defense, all the major, not only defense contractors but those that are making like Airbus or Lockheed Martin or, you know, the list goes on and on Boeing, Northrop, some of our customers. So we design antennas. Anybody who needs a high end custom antenna that they're not able to get anywhere else. That part of the reason the company was so successful, I was always more interested in providing value as opposed to competing on price. In other words, if somebody else could do what we could do, do it cheaper or better, I'll just, I'll tell him about it, you know, go to the other guy, you know, you go get it from them. But if we had something that nobody else could compete with, then we could pretty much set our price. And those are the kind of customers that we wanted. The one that would appreciate the value and the as well as the competitive edge that using our technology would provide them. And the thing is in the beginning, I had a sense that it was gonna be difficult for me to compete against the company that I had just left and others that were like them. And for me to make a name for myself, I had to take on the jobs that nobody else wanted to take because they were too damn hard. The specifications were too onerous and there was it, there was gonna be a lot of effort into executing it, the development.
So we took those on and I thought that I would do that in the beginning to make a name for ourselves. But that kept coming back and coming back and coming back until I realized we will never get an easy job. They're every, somebody said, oh, this job is so hard. They're all hard. If it wasn't hard, we wouldn't have the opportunity. People don't come to us with the easy stuff. They've gone to the other guy or they've developed it themselves. So, that's what we do. We provide the most difficult solutions in the antenna industry and for some of the customers that I mentioned to you and for GPS antennas, for instance, you'd think. Well, that's a cheap little thing. What are those? $5, $3, 50 cents? Well, the antennas that we make for GPS, they sell on the market for anywhere from 1200 to $1500 a piece. And they provide like centimeter accuracy and they're used for geodetic surveying or they used on tractors that are using to plant seeds and, you know, and so fields so, and many of our customers and by the way, are in Australia. So, you know, both satellite and terrestrial use. So we kind of the brand behind the brand, you know, you never see the name Micro-Ant anywhere but we are everywhere you have used. I would be surprised if you've used a communication device, anyone on the planet, you have used our technology.
00:39:57 - 00:40:06
Well, in other words, you're in a very custom niche really within the industry that solve big problems for companies.
00:40:07 - 00:40:10
A custom dish but with a very high demand.
00:40:10 - 00:40:22
Yeah. So what are some of the interesting ways antenna is used? You talked about basically you're so accurate your antennas that they actually can guide a tractor to within what?
00:40:23 - 00:40:27
Centimeter accuracy on the, on these GPS antennas.
00:40:27 - 00:40:28
00:40:29 - 00:40:35
Sub centimeter. Yes.
00:40:36 - 00:40:46
Wow, that is amazing. And agriculture tech has certainly come a long way in the last decade or so, hasn't it?
00:40:46 - 00:42:18
Agriculture really has. I remember sitting in looking at one of these farmers journals that had a tractor on it. It was every bit as complex. The technology of this tractor is in a fighter jet. I couldn't get over the things that were on this jet. The fiber is only there as a matter of convenience. It can gladly go 24/7 without any operator on board the sophistication of the technology of these tractors. Yeah. So agriculture and autonomous vehicles, both land and in the air. Things like, you know, UAVs, we're seeing a lot of emerging technologies. The really hot thing now is the so-called self acquiring antennas, meaning that you just set them down and they have a beam forming, an adaptive beam, a beam, you know, meaning the coverage that links to them to whatever the target is, you set it down on the table or roof your car, then it tracks the various satellites up there, of which there are a lot of satellites up there. The so called GEOs, LEOs, HEOs and BOs, you know, earth geo, right? That Ge-stationary Earth Orbiting, and LEO, Low Earth Orbiting, et cetera, et cetera. You've heard of SpaceX, you know, and so that's one of the LEO systems that are out there now. And we supplied them with a lot of ground terminals.
00:42:19 - 00:42:38
Right. Okay. Awesome. So these the Junior Crane World internet access because the Russians tried to block signals. And, but then Elon Musk came in and said he's got these low orbit antennas, whatever or the satellites.
00:42:38 - 00:42:40
LEOs, yup. They’re the LEOs.
00:42:40 - 00:42:57
So basically, and I've heard people in Australia are using them a lot too, instead of satellite. Well, as an alternate to the other systems. But, like the speed is great. So isn't he, how many have he launched 2000 or something of these?
00:42:58 - 00:43:24
That's some crazy number of them. He's launching them faster than they could put reg, he's smart because he knows it takes the government so long to affect regulations. Get’em up there and when the regulations, well, they're already up there, you're gonna have the grandfather to be in, you know. So oh my gosh. So it's a little alarming but eventually, you know, his plan is to get to Mars and maybe he'll take the constellation with him.
00:43:24 - 00:44:04
Yeah. It's amazing. So let's move on to some business lessons which are, I think contained not only from watching your brothers, but within what you call the 4S Framework. Here we go. We've got a framework, 4S. So 4S is Salability, Sensibility, Sustainability and Scalability. So, can you tell us a little bit about the importance of this structure for business and entrepreneurs? So tell us about the 4S I suppose, principles of business that you use. So let's start with Salability.
00:44:05 - 00:51:04
Okay. Well, just a little bit of background on them when I was reading through the original manuscript that the forest structure concept framework hadn't, didn't exist yet. But at least I hadn't identified it but I, as I looked through the different things that the elements that had brought the company from me as a press and into this organization with all these processes and other things going on. I realized that there was a transformation that took place. The transformation had to be some characters at, you know, characteristics, attributes, things that were inherent to me that somehow flowed and transformed into a company. And as I read through it again and again, I realized there were four categories of these characters which you just named the first two, salability and sensibility. Those are the character traits that we all have to some degree. Those are personal character traits, meaning salability is your ability to sell yourself for, meaning that you're not necessarily a sales person, but in everyday life, you want to be a person that others want to interact with and you want to be able to interact with other people and they interact with you because you have some value to add either in a conversation or maybe you have integrity or something else that makes them want to to engage with you. These are the things that you emote. This is you are the source that they come out.
Sensibility is those things that are taking place in the world and that you are absorbing and taking in like, you know, it's an awareness, a situational awareness of the environment you're in, whether it's the industrial environment that you're in a competitive environment or maybe, you know, it's out in the middle of the desert and it's, in other words, it's taking in the various elements that you're able to see and learn about taking that data internally so that you have the ability to make good decisions so that you can survive as a person and then as a business. Now the next two traits are characters. These are more pertinent to the business, but the business is not a business until less people and that some people can argue. Well, no, what about a parking lot? There's no people, I'm not talking about that kind of business. I'm talking to business about the type of business that is in the business of creating jobs as well as providing a valued product with services and building equity. And something that is going to have a reputation that involves a framework and contributes to the community. So the first of the third, the, but the first one that applies to a business is what I call sustainability. And a business becomes a company when you have people involved, right? And this is how I try to distinguish them. A business is essentially this thing that is doing transactions, its operations. But there's no, there's not that life blood, there's a culture, right? That brings life to it that creates this so-called company. And one of those things is sustainability and sustainability is brought about when you have a team or a culture and you have the people that are bringing this enterprise to life. Like I bring out if you have a one person operation, it can't possibly be safe, sustainable because if that person goes, oh the company shuts down. Like if I have, it's just me and I'm mowing grass for a living and the lawn mower breaks, that's not a very sustainable job. I better have two mowers but the people pushing it and then in the mower itself, right? And so to have sustainability, you don't have any reliance upon any one capital asset or any human resource. Sustainability means you're able to maintain an existence, you know, independent of one but you know, essential item.
The fourth which is scalability again, is growth. Now we can grow it as individuals. But I mean it in the terms of a business or a company growing, it means that they are producing more of the same quality. That's what I mean by that growth, you think oh, we're earning more money. That's growth. Oh, we're in a bigger building. We hired more employees, and we have greater revenue. Those are certainly interesting growth, met metrics. But I see them as a byproduct of true scalability and true scalability you're able to grow and you do not compromise the quality of anything. You increase quality. I always use without naming any names is a coffee chain that you might be familiar with that you have always gone to when the original coffee chain started. I mean, the original coffee house started, they roasted the coffee right in that cafe. You smell the, you know, the aroma of the roasting beans and you had a barista in there who knew exactly where the beans were sort and how to roast them and made the coffee and you talk to them as they made your coffee. Yes, you got a great coffee, but you got an experience, right? That was, that brought you in there and kept coming back then they grow the operation now they have several cafes and they find out well, we really can't get that quality barista in every one of them. Well, we can't roast beans in every one of these shops. We have to do it at a central location. And then what you have is a diluted product. And I'm not talking necessarily just about the product that you drink the coffee, but the whole experience is diluted, I would say, has it grown? Are the revenues off the chart? Do they have more? Yes. But is that scalable? Did they maintain the quality? And I'd say absolutely not. So what I mean by scalability is that the product that you are making more of has exactly the same performance criteria and compliance and expectations that the customer has that you've agreed to with the customer, you're not using cheaper materials, you're not, you know, you might find by economies of scales ways to reduce the cost, but the quality must be absolutely the same quantity changes but not quality. I can't, I try, I can't articulate that to people and many of them just don't get it. Well, we're making more money. We've scaled, we have twice as much if that is your goal. Great. You know, but that's the difference. I think. What, how an entrepreneur thinks and how a business accountant might think.
00:51:05 - 00:51:14
Yeah. In other words, you want to make sure you maintain the full experience and also the culture that you created as well.
00:51:15 - 00:52:30
Well, that's right because it's a, you know, with the company really gets big if I don't, if I get to the point where I don't know the name of every employee or something about them or I haven't sold them one of my sort of moon bags. Then things have gone awry. It's time for me to get the hell out because now it's grow well beyond my ability to be able to participate in a meaningful way that's fulfilling to me So, and you want quality minded people, you know, you, it's like you don't want a doctor to follow people around and forcing them to make sure that they practice good health care. You want people to be trained in health care so that they take care of themselves and they have healthy habits. It's the same thing with quality, essentially healthy habits, that you practice within the company to make sure that the product is meeting the standards that the quality team has set and you're just practicing quality minded, you know, practices. It's as simple as that. When you have a culture that is practicing in that way, you've got not only a sustainable company but one that is primed for scalability.
00:52:31 - 00:53:04
I really love it. I think that's really great and I think it sounds like you want to get to the soul of being the entrepreneur as well, not just being an accountant, entrepreneur, which and you need to have good systems and processes which enable quality and also enable scalability. So now I have a little question about the second point, sensibility. You don't mean being sensible. You mean like being aware and listen to your senses? Is that what that means?
00:53:05 - 00:55:21
Well, if I'm going to offer a product to an industry, it better be one that's going to be something that's gonna have value that I'm gonna be able to sell. It's going to have something that distinguishes it so that others would want to purchase it. So that's given. But now what about partnerships, both with your suppliers and with your customers? Oh, my gosh. We have been screwed by more of our customers and it happens less and less these days and if they do it, it's because they are absolute bullies with, you know with lawyers and expenses that count that we can't possibly muster or fight up against. However in the end, it's between people, right? It's somebody making a decision if you can be sensible, you know, to the type of person, the character of the people or the person that you are transacting with the forget contracts, right? You can compose a contract that is, you know, it has mutual, that is mutually beneficial in the end. It comes down to the character of that other person and I've seen some shocking things happen and of course, it just does, it doesn't happen in just business people who could be taken advantage of everywhere. But you know, this notion of the zero sum game, I don't know how that ever came about and I don't know how you do business with that person twice. So, you know, we didn't know that particular customers were going to, you know, steal, misappropriate our intellectual property and produce the products on their own. And, but once we learned how that happened and what the mechanisms were in place, one was to stay away from that customer, but to look for that and look for other mechanisms that would prevent that from happening. And as we stood back and said, of course, that customer is going to do that. And of course that was, you know, that was within the agenda the whole time. But at least now we have, you know, we're sensible enough to know what to look for in the future. So it essentially means looking for warning signs, right? Being aware of all the obstacles that could be in your path and converting them into opportunities.
00:55:22 - 00:55:24
Right. Okay. Alright. It makes more sense now.
00:55:27 - 00:55:28
Oh, good for you.
00:55:31 - 00:55:52
Okay. So let's move on to a very interesting passion project business that you're doing called Swordy Moon. Tell us how that started and what does Swordy Moon do? So this is gonna be I read a little bit about it. So maybe you could show us what Swordy Moon produces.
00:55:53 - 00:59:26
Well, this is one I have literally hundreds of these bags. And can you see that swordfish on there? There's a swordfish and there's a moon embroidered around. That's one of the earlier versions. And that's the so-called Swordy Moon, Swordy is short for swordfish. I was spending a lot of time on Martha's video going fishing with a lot of the locals there and they were really into fishing out in the canyons off the edge. And one of the things they like to fish for was swordfish. But swordfish both generally hit at night. So they would want to go fishing for them at night and I would take them out of my boat and we'd go fishing. And I says, okay, you know, we'll fish all night, but nobody could. One person always has to be awake. I don't want us to drift into the shipping lanes and get run down by one of these huge cargo ships. Oh, no, no. So I'm sleeping there and I have an uneasy feeling. I get up, everybody is sound asleep. So, I said, what the hell? And so they would always ask me, come on, can we go swordfishing? I said no. Last time we went swordfishing, you all fell asleep and it was a fool. But they said, but it's a Swordy Moon, right? And I, and that had as if that was gonna convince me, oh, now it's worth dying. But I just thought that was hilarious, this Swordy Moon. And then it so happened during COVID, one of the other things besides writing a book, I was doing a lot of sewing and I literally, I said, after 100 bags, I was gonna stop because I had no idea I was gonna give it to. So with 100 bags, that's when I started writing the book. And I said, what am I gonna do with these bags? And that's kind of how Swordy Moon was born and we put a website together and there's an enormous amount of interest in it, but I haven't launched it yet because I need a CEO to run it. So I'm working on that but I just don't have the time to put in it right yet. I'm very, I'm really close to that but that here's the idea of a Swordy Moon. It's a duffel bag but it's made completely out of marine grade materials. Like it's YZ zippers that will seal and be water resistant. Never rust. If there is any metal on there, it's stainless steel, marine grade. The as I was explaining earlier to you offline, all the materials that are made from marine canvases that have a polycarbonate coating. So as to be UV resistant as well as they never get moldy, they scratch them, forget it, they never fade in the sun. It's all you can do to penetrate them with a knife. They're really tough bags. I liken them to, you know, the so-called YETI Coolers which are a really high end cooler and you see a lot of boats with them. It's the same thing with these. This is the I call it the YETI of duffel bags and if you were to go to the website, which I think is called swordymoon.com, you'll see some of the bags we have on it and the prices and you can do anything you want on there except order a bag because I have it but I have the machines. I have the, and we did build up a lot of bags and I will probably, my goal is to launch it this year and, it's something I'm kind of excited about.
00:59:26 - 00:59:29
I look forward to it. That'll be done.
00:59:30 - 00:59:31
I'll send you a bag.
00:59:31 - 00:59:33
Okay. That'd be fantastic.
00:59:33 - 00:59:35
Oh, you know? Oh, hell, yeah.
00:59:35 - 00:59:43
Yeah, I'd love one., I'm about to buy a, looking at buying a boat or sharing a boat. So, I might need one, I think.
00:59:43 - 00:59:50
Oh, you're going to need one, you know, and they come in three sizes and I put one inside the other inside the other. So you get it all as one kit and here you go.
00:59:51 - 00:59:56
I'd love one. That would be fantastic.
00:59:56 - 01:00:37
I'm on my boat now. Did I mention that? It's a Viking which is made here in the states. It's as a sport fisherman, it's 52 ft and I take it out for fishing and fun. And when I'm not in the office, actually, I wrote a lot of the book here. This was one of the safe places I could come during COVID. And I do a lot of work and thinking here because I could be completely alone and isolated when I need to be or walk over to the, you know, the local bar when I don't want to be isolated. So, yeah, I am here floating about the boat.
01:00:38 - 01:00:43
That's, well, that's very interesting. So, really, it's a man cave for inspiration for you.
01:00:43 - 01:00:45
Yes. A floating man cave.
01:00:45 - 01:00:56
Floating man cave. I like that. And that's part of, one of the goals I'd like is one looking at us because it's very hard to justify a boat from how much it costs you for everything.
01:00:57 - 01:01:24
It is a liability, you know, you see, I'm sitting here in the boat, not cruising on the boat, but that the price of diesel fuel right now, you know, it's, I can't run the boat like I used to, you know, run off and go fishing. Hey, let's run because, you know, let's go to the Bahamas that's not happening. It's fuel is just prohibitively expensive. So I can only take short runs and you know, and fish a fraction of I would otherwise I want to.
01:01:24 - 01:01:28
Yeah. Is it a flybridge cruiser? Is that what it sounds like? Has he got a flybridge on it?
01:01:28 - 01:01:31
It has a helm and it has a flybridge.
01:01:32 - 01:02:30
Okay, cool. I can imagine it. So in Australia, they produced a Riviera. I think I've heard of the Vikings. So, that was my original big boat dream was to have a flybridge cruiser. And so, but not sure yet, I'm sort of looking at different types of boats at the moment, but anyway, it's fun. So, but I love the fact is a mobile man cave. That's a really really good floating man cave, however you wanna call it so that's great. So, I've used up enough of your time and great to interview on a boat. That's awesome. So, that's fantastic. So any last tips for entrepreneurs that are on the journey or entrepreneurs that are about to start the journey that you think are really important? I know we already mentioned a lot, quite a lot. You know, your 4S, salability, sensibility, sustainability and scalability. Are there any lessons that, you know, tips that you'd like to leave for our listeners and viewers?
01:02:31 - 01:04:40
Well, if you're considering starting your own business, and I'm talking more to the person who has considered it and said, yes, this is what I want to do is then they want to know how, what, where, why, how this is the first thing you should do and ask yourself is what is motivating you. Why are you doing this? And knowing that is important, I'll tell you why it's not money that's gonna blow out you and sustain you. It's not a smart business decision, accounting, a good customer. It is that illogical, crazy determination that perseverance that will from within that is going to sustain you when logic, money and everything else is absent. And you say what is motivating me to do this? In my case, I did not want to go back to corporate America. I did not want to work for the likes of somebody who, you know, did not care anything about me except how I affected the bottom line that I didn't ever want to be in that situation again, I wanted to be in control of my destiny. Not because I want to be in control so much. I did not want to be in control. So if anybody was going to take charge of it, it was going to be me. So you have to understand what that motivation is. If it's to make more money, then think twice if it's to have more free creative license, okay? You're on the right track. But if it's because you have this indescribable need, this itch. You are a free thinker. Risk does not scare you because you see it, you identify it and then you find strategies to overcome it. Those are the things, right? Those are the building blocks of a good entrepreneur because once you have made that decision and you have identified that thing that is going to motivate you and sustain you, the thing that I call the kinetic energy of what is going to push you forward, then you are really ready to start your business venture.
01:04:40 - 01:04:56
I totally get that when I started jeffbullas.com blog. It was an incredible curiosity about social media and I believed it was gonna change the world and I wanted to be part of that journey and I was curious as shit.
01:04:57 - 01:05:13
Curiosity. You just hit the nail on that. That is a really good motivation and you were able to put that in a single word. See, that's why you are successful because you were to boil it down to that one single word. Yeah. So, it's good for you.
01:05:13 - 01:05:47
Yeah. It's and then the other thing I think I would share with my viewers as well as yourself and I'm not talking to anyone who doesn't know is you got to play the long game and that means that you are going to ride the ups and downs and you're exactly right in that, if it's an innate curiosity and passion that drives you and you happen to have the skills that support that you obviously do, you are built to be who you are today. In other words, you are living your authentic self and you just happen to make money along the way.
01:05:48 - 01:05:55
Right. Just a positive byproduct of all this craziness. Yes.
01:05:56 - 01:06:08
And a lot of people don't live considered lives. They don't sit down, allow themselves time to think. They're afraid of silence, was afraid what might show up themselves.
01:06:09 - 01:06:38
Yes. Afraid. You know, that's right. The fear how that paralyzes, you know, could paralyze us in so many different ways. And the fear for me is looking back that I should have done or I wish I had done instead, you know, I jump in and then I said, well, it didn't go as I planned. But so what? I still did it and I'm not regretting that I, you know, that, I didn't give it a shot. And I was wondering for the, for my entire life, whether or not I had taken the right path.
01:06:39 - 01:06:53
Well, it's fantastic and I love your passion. I love what you've done in your life and the lessons you've learned. And one thing that sums you up is you're never gonna die wondering.
01:06:54 - 01:07:01
That's right. Thank you, Jeff. This has been such a pleasure.
01:07:01 - 01:07:23
It's been an absolute pleasure, Charlie. It really has been and I will promise you that I will visit you in Massachusetts and in real life because I'd love to, it would be an absolute joy to actually share a cognac or a beer at the local bar near your boat and just talk shit for hours. That would be fantastic.
01:07:24 - 01:07:33
So, yeah, when you come, you will be sporting a Swordy Moon bag and as we say, pack the bag, not the baggage, right?
01:07:34 - 01:07:35
I love it.
01:07:35 - 01:07:44
So you'll be in style and you'll be able to come right to board the boat, you'll feel, you know, right along with the rest of us that you're geared out properly.
01:07:44 - 01:07:49
Fantastic. Thank you Charlie. It's been an absolute joy. Thank you for coming on The Jeff Bullas Show.
01:07:50 - 01:07:54
Thank you, Jeff. I loved every minute of it. Bye bye.
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