Saturday, May 18, 2024

9 questions for Jason Dingess

MFGCON, North Carolina’s largest Manufacturing Convention, will be held November 13-14 at the Durham Convention Center. Business North Carolina will be spotlighting board members and sponsors leading up to the event.

This week, we highlight Jason Dingess, owner, Quis Machinery. After working alongside owner Frank Quis Jr. for three years. Dingess purchased the company in early 2017.  Quis specializes in offering machinery to solid-wood and upholstered furniture manufacturers and kitchen cabinet, millwork, and plastic companies throughout the Southeast.

How did you become interested in woodworking?

When I was younger, I saw pictures and a write-up of Thomas Jefferson’s portable lap desk that is held at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. I was fascinated by this piece that he designed with his carpenter. I thought about the  interaction between Jefferson and his carpenter and how they brought it to fruition. Moreover, I wondered if that carpenter knew the Declaration of Independence would be at least partially written on his work and how that may have affected the design.

Tell us what Quis does?

We are supplier of machinery to primarily woodworking manufacturers. Woodworking makes up 70% of our business, the plastic industry about 20%, and aluminum manufacturing 10%. We have partnerships and vendor relationships with manufacturers of various types of equipment to aid in production.  Like a custom tailor, we rarely sell “off the shelf.” Certainly it happens, but where we shine is in the process of helping the customer discover their own unique fit.

What was your career path before Quis?

After graduating at UNC Chapel Hill, I initially worked in sales at various corporations such as CEB, Merck and Stryker.  While I understood the need for large companies and learned a good deal, I really wanted my place in the community to be in the world of small business. I jumped from sales to woodworking by finding an apprenticeship in Mars Hill, N.C. with Gary Rawlins.  After a year with Gary, I attended Woodworking School in British Columbia for two years  and then went to work for chairmaker Brian Boggs. I started my own wood shop in downtown Asheville and then my wife, Corey and I started a family. Later, one of my father’s best friends, who worked for a woodworking machinery supplier, thought my background in capital-equipment medical sales along with my woodworking experience  created a natural fit for selling woodworking equipment. He introduced me to Frank Quis, and the rest is history.

How did you eventually own Quis?

Frank and I had a lot in common and got along very well. His father had started the business in Statesville in 1956, and there was a long lineage that I respected tremendously. So, I began learning from and working with Frank in 2013, with mutual agreement that I would eventually buy the company. Having been  mayor of Southern Pines, he started to find that he wanted to do more for his community as he retired.  Soon after he became a Moore County Commissioner, I bought the company and became sole owner January 1st, 2017.

Is Frank still involved in the business now?

I use his advice and expertise constantly. One of the reasons I bought the company was because of his strong relationships with customers. I also knew he would be just a phone call away. I talk to him constantly about all aspects of the business.

How has your business progressed since your purchase?

We had a record year in 2017, and are on pace to exceed that in 2018. We started out just selling woodworking equipment, and have expanded into aluminum, plastics, and some material handling.

What has been the key to this success?

I know this sounds simple, but asking a lot of questions and listening intently to our customers has been our key success tool. Not making cursory assumptions about clients or prospects is essential to us. Simply placing orders for equipment is easy, but listening to their needs and designing machinery to meet these has been our secret sauce.

What are your strengths and how do you apply them to your role?

I have a good sense of empathy. So, I am always trying to put myself in our customer’s shoes. If I had a super power, I think that would be it! I try to feel our customers pain, their excitement, or their passion.

For most of our customers, buying our equipment is the largest investment they have made besides their brick and mortar. That can be very stressful. For these companies, it is nice to have someone they trust with such a huge financial commitment. So if you have empathy and put yourself in their shoes, I think it translates to an excellent business relationship.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Increase the value we bring to clients. For instance, I would like to expand our service area. Not in the traditional sense, but with things such as smart preventive maintenance. I’d also like to consider an expansion into software.

Norwood Teague
Norwood Teague
Norwood Teague is Executive Event Director for the NC CEO Summit, and mfgCON

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