The importance of networking and memberships

One of our resident guest bloggers, Jon Cantin from and has provided another interesting and useful article on how important it is to network and utilise the various memberships available in the industry. Jon now resides back in St Catherines, Canada and is very excited to have recently purchased the only Trotec Speedy 400 Flexx in Canada! It is a very worthwhile read so please enjoy.


I started a few months ago from absolute scratch (I’ve been gone from North America for 7 years!) with a brand new Trotec Speedy 400 flexx and the adventure hasn’t stopped since. I’m entirely self-taught in the CNC world, I had no industry contacts (or customers) and worse, began in August when “it’s summer break” here in Canada and the world economy seems to be going downhill. Great time to invest your lifes savings in a high-end CNC shop isn’t it?


Despite the challenges, I knew from my previous business experience that advertising for the services I have to offer is a great way to dig a hole for myself. Advertising is very much hit and miss… and in the CNC field, the prices are as astronomical as their tolerances for finished pieces. So where do you begin? NETWORKING!

How do you meet a demographic that’s tough to get a hold of in person much less the phone? Networking by joining trade associations with their (sometimes) sky-high fees. I tried a number of “free” networking events, I spent two months to going to more than my fill of them and got nothing, I’d review who I met that day and generally, none of them were a prospect for where I’m directing my business. It’s one thing to meet a prospective client, quite another to find one willing to spend money for your services. I joined a few industry specific ones and bang… started to gain some traction!

What’s funny about networking is that you often get referrals to other businesses that you wouldn’t have met otherwise. Tracing back how A lead to B and C which gave you a project seems to have as much serendipity as anything else in life. Meeting the right people at the right time and having them REMEMBER you when one of their friends need your services is an incredibly random process so networking is still very much based on relationships. The more you stand-out, the better.

Inserting yourself into supply chains

There is no way around hitting the pavement and meeting people that are in the same industry as yourself, yes, some are competitors, but generally shops specialize in specific services and use other firms to augment their capabilities. For instance, you might have one CNC shop with a top of the line Thermwood CNC router but sometimes in need of the high precision a Trotec Speedy CNC laser can deliver to their clients or design abilities beyond their capabilities. has itself worked with a number of local CNC shops to produce some of our stuff for our own clients! It’s not an industry that’s give and take, it’s more like inserting processes into a supply chain to provide the end client with exactly what they need.

What I discovered is that high quality machinery “word of mouth” leaks out and other companies tend to gravitate to that. I’ve lost track of how many GMs and executives I’ve met who ask me in on way or another where my CNC laser comes from. Each time, they were RELIEVED that I had an European machine, say what you will but the premium you pay on certain machines is well worth it and many told me that if I told them I had a Chinese machine they would have nothing to do with me.

Sure, I could have saved myself a fortune buying an Epilog Zing or going Chinese like a few “competitors” have around here but I’m now getting projects BECAUSE I invested into a large format dual source laser. Zings are good little machines but don’t have passthrough, don’t have fiber and CO2 capabilities in one machine and clearances that are big enough that I can put that Zing in my machine to engrave it! I hate to say it but in manufacturing, price is really the LAST THING you should be looking at though there are some numbers out there that will make your head pop.

I’m probably an outlier as I gave two deposits on my machine within an hour of closing the deal to purchase my Trotec to make absolutely sure I secured a slot in their manufacturing plant! It took me about a minute to decide to go Trotec and I’ve never regretted it. In fact, in quotes, I specify that I have an Austrian CNC laser, specify that I have a fiber tube (for metal projects) and even send the spec sheet upon request… something I’d fear doing if I had something from any other inclass manufacturer.

Nobody is calling!

So, you joined a bunch of related associations and are networking like crazy, guess what, the phone still won’t ring off the hook! Like most companies, real profits come from a small subset of the entire client base and in manufacturing, that subset can be rather small. The more capabilities a shop has, the more niche they need to drive their investments in order to help their clients to the upmost of their requirements. If I ran a pizza shop, I’d be frightened but this is manufacturing where the specs are best sent by email with a phone call to confirm details and timelines.

The more specialized you become in the manufacturing world, the more you attract specific verticals and build-up a name for yourself to find other like clients. The phone might not ring as often but the cheques tend to get exponentially higher over time if you don’t screw anything up. It’s quite astonishing some of the opportunities I have in the air at present, it’s very easy to sit back and wait for them to come in but as a friend told me a long time ago, the worse thing you can have is machinery that isn’t moving in the shop… that’s a constant loss that takes away from future potential!