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Starting with a Small Niche…And Quickly Becoming a Massive Success Story: A Conversation with Eli Rosenbloom (Part 1)

With Eli RosenbloomEP 143

When Eli Rosenbloom noticed that the price of certain specialized vehicles was unusually high, he started to do some research – and soon started to manufacture them himself. The result? His company, FR Conversions, is on the road to becoming the biggest ambulance manufacturer in the United States and potentially the world. Meny Hoffman and Eli talk about the problem of knowing too much before you start, understanding the barrier to entry before you invest, the issue of information sharing, the best way to train employees, the importance of choosing a specific avatar, and much more!

Transcript

[00:01 – 07:18] Opening Segment

Eli’s journey from commercial ambulance operator to van conversion company owner
How he has expanded his portfolio and opened several new factories
How to help alleviate logistical problems in manufacturing and distribution
Where the idea for manufacturing wheelchair-accessible vehicles comes from
[07:19 – 14:02] The High Cost and Complexity of Building Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Wheelchair-accessible vehicles are expensive and were not profitable 20 years ago
Why the complexity of building a mobility van is much greater than building an ambulance
How Eli took apart and rebuilt his van with the help of a fabrication shop
The need for more affordable wheelchair-accessible vehicles
[14:03 – 20:55] The Challenges and Successes of Building Customized Vans and Ambulances

Minivans are a small segment with low demand and high cost to produce
Building a car is complicated, with thousands of parts, and custom fabrication is expensive
The barrier to entry for manufacturing vehicles
Why the target audience for Eli’s vehicles is himself
[20:56 – 27:26]From Craigslist to Cohesive Distribution Model for B2B Vehicles

Understanding your client is crucial in B2B and B2C businesses
The power dynamic between the customer and the company
Service and maintenance are critical in industries where downtime is not an option
Business models should be based on passion and target customers, not just profitability
[27:27 – 34:05] Scaling Up a Unique Manufacturing Business

How labor is the biggest challenge for FR Conversions
Information sharing is a significant challenge as the company scales
The need for better systems to handle escalating complexity
How building software has been a secret sauce for managing the process of scaling up
[34:06 – 44:51] Closing Segment

Tips on delegation and root cause analysis for business success
Delegating authority and responsibility is vital for scaling up
Understand the root cause of problems, not just the surface issue

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Practical Pointers
Don’t always wait to get all of the facts before you start your business or a new project; if you do, you’ll probably just get scared away. Sometimes, when you see a real opportunity, it’s best to just dive in with what you know and learn on the job.
One of the most important things to learn about investing in a new, niche business is how high the barrier to entry is - meaning, how hard it is for someone else to do what you do. When the barrier to entry is high, it takes a long time and a lot of work to start; but once you’ve started, it means that you’re not likely to have many new competitors.
If you market a product towards everybody, you’re likely to lose focus. Instead, narrow your avatar to something much more specific, just as Eli said that he was building ambulances for people like himself. You’ll probably be more successful by aiming your marketing towards a specific segment of the population; you can always branch out to other populations later.
The number one problem for scaled businesses is information sharing. To avoid information drop, make sure that you are aware ofwhat you know and what your employees don’t know, and avoid getting lost in your own bubble and assuming that everyone knows the same things that you do.
If you want your company to run “your way,” surround yourself with employees whom you’ve trained to do things your way. Don’t teach them which bolt to use; instead, teach them the reasons that you use a particular bolt. By teaching them the “why” instead of the “what,” you’re training them to think like you.
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Guest Bio
Person Image
Eli Rosenbloom

With over 20 years of experience as an owner and operator, Eli Rosenbaum has executive management experience in emergency pre-hospital care, manufacturing, and software. He got his start as a commercial ambulance operator & EMT and eventually went into vehicle manufacturing while simultaneously developing ERP software for manufacturing and distribution. He is currently the CEO of FR Conversions, the only ambulance manufacturer worldwide that has increased production during Covid.

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