Business advice contest — and I won!

Elenor Snow

Elenor Snow 2013

I spend part of my time reading business sites around the web (always more to learn) and I came across a website holding a contest called “Five Tips for $5,000.” The direction suggested:

share your advice for business start ups or small businesses along with your name, email, website, business name, short bio and a head shot to accompany your five small business start up tips, and you will be entered for a chance to win $5,000.

I felt I had some lessons to share from nearly 3 years of running Micro-Metrics, so I whipped up my five tips and submitted them, and then continued reading my way around the web. Several months later I got a phone call saying that my entry had been chosen the winner!! AMAZING!

Here’s what I wrote:

Elenor Snow – President, Micro-Metrics Company

I “became” a start-up (I was a ‘kept wife’) when my husband died suddenly and left me a manufacturing company. I had helped out in his company and heard him on the phone with customers for 16 years, but never even thought of owning or running the company! Here are my painfully gained lessons.

  1. Prioritize! Handle everything you can, and no more than that. If some part or process is a money-costing problem, work on it till it’s fixed; leave the other stuff till later. And don’t stress about it — you can only do what you can do: everything else has to wait.
  2. Triage! If you’re stuck with multiple or awkward steps to get something done, but it DOES get it done, and there is something else that is not getting done? Streamline or replace the awkward-but-working processes after you have everything actually working!
  3. Learn! In two years, I’ve read seven accounting books. (I do my company accounting; my accountant does my taxes.) I hired (by the hour) a math-and-engineering professor to teach me the arcane math I may have to explain to customers. I read business books at night.
  4. Create a verbal self-image (a personal ‘elevator-speech’)! I use this one: “I’m the youngish widow who doesn’t resist asking for help and advice.” By defining myself a certain way, I am able to overcome any internal resistance to asking someone for help (even though I’m a bit shy).
  5. Ask for help! Despite being a ‘do-it-myself’ kinda gal, I seek info, advice, help. I sit with my (two) excellent machinists and describe a problem I’m having — and wisdom just falls out of their brains! My distributors taught me a lot about advertising. People love to help!, the company that ran the contest, also took my ‘brief bio and a few of my business goals” and wrote an excellent little introduction to me:

Forever Learning: The Elenor Snow Story

Little in Elenor Snow’s background prepared her for the discovery, in 2011, that she would be running her own manufacturing company.

That’s when her husband, Michael Ray Laurence, longtime owner of the Georgia-based company Micro-Metrics, passed away. Snow, an editor by profession, was suddenly in charge.

“I’d helped out a little but hadn’t paid much attention to how he ran the company,” Snow says. “Perhaps I should have!”

Despite the enormity of the challenge, the 58-year-old Snow stepped up and has adapted to her new leadership role with characteristic spirit and resilience. In fact, her wise, good-humored advice is exactly what led The Company Corporation’s judges to name her winner of its recent “5 Tips for $5,000” contest.

Founded in 1961 and located in a suburb of Atlanta, Micro-Metrics manufactures precision devices used to inspect a variety of coatings and films. After taking the company’s helm, Snow’s first business goal was to update its processes and components. “For me, the cue for what to replace next is: what is frustrating me the most at the moment?” she says. “If a 30-year-old process takes days to get through, then it has to be replaced with one that takes much less time and frustration.”

Snow’s second goal was to keep Micro-Metrics’ products “relevant.” Currently she’s arranging for custom-made microscopes that are more precise than the current tools on offer. The project has been two years and many thousand dollars in the making, but a production-ready model is just around the corner. And while Snow admits that the project is “frighteningly expensive” (paying for the new scopes will cost nearly one-third of the entire cash resources of the company), she’s convinced it will be a long-term win for Micro-Metrics.

Snow’s third business goal is to increase sales. She has spent very little on advertising since taking over the company, but with those new scopes in the pipeline, she plans to get the word out to the trade in a big way. “I’ve been gathering resources, studying what ads and articles are out there, and consulting with my local SCORE advisor – preparing for an ‘ad blitz’ once I have the better scopes in hand.”

Her secret weapon? Curiosity.

“In two years, I’ve read seven accounting books. I hired a math-and-engineering professor to teach me the arcane math I may have to explain to customers. I read business books at night,” she says. In fact, self-improvement is Snow’s number-one priority as she moves Micro-Metrics forward. “My goal is to get smarter both about business and about the niche in which I find myself!” she says.

A modification to the H-501 Pencil Hardness Gage

Because the white plastic can make it difficult to see the milled numbers for the leadholders, I have begun coloring the numbers. The one is red and the rest are blue, to make them easier to see quickly. cleaned-3

I have also upgraded the lead holders again as a few customers had difficulty with the thinnest leads sliding back into the holder.

Coming soon: enhanced/upgraded microscopes!

It’s been a long difficult slog, but it looks as if Micro-Metrics will finally have the new enhanced microscopes for the Tooke Gages in the next several months! (I started locating scope designers and possible production facilities back in April 2012!) I was able to test the penultimate version a few months ago, but there was one (what I hope was the) final problem with the design:

My sourcing company and the factory say this can be easily remedied. I won’t approve production, however, until I have received and tested the actual, final, perfect prototype — these new scopes have to be beyond excellent! One of my Micro-Metrics customers has been trying out the prototype for the past few months (it works, it just hangs up on the focusing screw) and he says his guys are very happy with it because it’s clear and easy to read.

I am also having designed an enhanced version of the metric scope; rather than continuing the universal reticle (which has approximately 2mils between hashmarks), I working for a “finer” reticle, with at least a fineness equivalent to the new English scopes. I don’t have the final specs on the metric reticle yet, but I’m hoping it will be at least as fine (in microns) as the new English reticle is (in mils).

For those of you with the current universal scope in your gages, I will be offering a swap program if you wish to upgrade your scope to the new enhanced version. Details to come.

(And yes, the next upgrade I will be working towards after the new scopes is a camera adapter for the Tooke Gage!)

New H-501 Pencil Hardness case

new H-501 carry case
Following on the success of the MG402 case, Micro-Metrics has added a similar case for the H-501 Pencil Hardness Gage.

The H-501 Pencil Hardness Gauge now comes in a polypropylene carrying case complete with the testing device, fourteen leads in a carrying case, a dressing disk with four replacement adhesive sandpaper disks, and a technical data sheet.

If you wish to replace your old-style vinylette case, please contact Micro-Metrics or your favorite distributor to purchase a replacement. The new case costs $34.00 (plus shipping).

new H-501 carry case
(Shown, above, with a red pen, not included, to demonstrate use of the pen slot.)
The new case has a cut-out to carry a pen. Because everyone seems to want a different kind of pen (indelible pen, erasable marker, pencil, grease pen), no pen is included in the case: pick your favorite!

MG402 new carry case

new MG402 carry case

Following on the success of the new plastic carry cases for the Tooke Gages, Micro-Metrics is pleased to offer a plastic carry case for the MG402 Microgroover.

In the case on the left (below), the positioning block and Microgroover have been pulled out of their fitted foam “nest.” On the right, they fit into their own slot.)

new MG402 carry case

new MG402 carry case

H-501 Pencil Hardness Gauge: two upgrades

All-metal lead holders

upgraded H-501
Having heard that the lead holders occasionally break in use, I’ve replaced the part-metal and part-plastic lead holders with all-metal lead holders. These have proven to be durable.

upgraded H-501

upgraded H-501

New replacement sandpaper discs

The stack-of-five sandpaper discs used with the H-501 dressing disk (part number H-501-20) is now replaced by a higher quality “single disk at a time” version using a better adhesive. The disc kit fits into the H-501 carry case, so you will always have spares on hand when you need them.
upgraded H-501

You can now purchase replacement disc kits (five sandpaper discs, without the plastic disk they mount on) instead of having to replace the entire dressing disk. Disc kits (part number H-501-20R) sell for just $11.

upgraded H-501

The plastic disks (H-501-20) are, of course, still available; and they come with the five sandpaper discs.

Administrative updates

Veteran- / woman-owned certification:Commissioning picture from the 1970's
I’m working on getting Micro-Metrics certified as a veteran-owned business with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (I served on active duty in the Navy for 6 year and was in the Reserves for a number more.) I’m also looking into getting the company certified as a woman-owned business. (That’s me back in the early 1970s when I was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserves.)

PO Box address gone away:
I have closed out the Micro-Metrics Post Office box (back in 2012, actually), so please make sure all correspondence and deliveries are sent to the physical address. Please also note the updated FAX number.

Micro-Metrics Company
4450 Ansley Lane
CUMMING, GA 30040-5252

Voice: 678-947-3723
FAX: 678-807-2867

October update

LED bulbs
At long last, I have found a direct source for the #222 LED bulbs, so Micro-Metrics is able to lower the price of the LED bulb to $1.80.

Upgraded H-501 Pencil Hardness Gauge
The H-501 Pencil Hardness Gauge has been upgraded. In place of the previous gray plastic body, the H-501 (and the dressing disk base) are now made using a higher-quality white plastic. The lead holders now come with all-metal barrels, instead of the older version that was part metal and part plastic.

Technical Data Sheets

There is a new webpage on the Micro-Metrics website with links to the Technical data sheets that come with Micro-Metrics products as PDFs in printable form. (I have reformatted them so they can be printed on 8-1/2″ by 11″ paper.) There is also a white paper entitled: “Measuring:   the Geometry of the Tooke Gauge.” (A customer requested a TDS on how to replace the lightbulb, which is also there now.)

Coming soon: CTH02 double-sided cutting tip holder

Pictures updated Oct2014: Visit the CTH02 website page here:

Our new machinist has a purchase order in hand to machine 20 new longer (double-sided) cutting tip holders. I used an old example that we measured to create the new drawing from, but the new ones is much prettier!

CTH02 cutting tip holder

This holder allows two tips to be mounted on opposite sides and, like the shorter, single cutting tip holder (CTH01), allows easy use of the cutting tips without having to manipulate the Tooke Gauge to make the incision and then manipulate the gauge again to view the incision through the microscope.

CTH02 cutting tip holder

With this tip holder, you can:

  • make multiple incisions with your most-used tip(s) without having to keep switching the gauge to viewing position
  • mount two of the same tip to allow for checking two incisions against each other
  • “bracket” your incisions by mounting two different tips to create different incising geometries

CTH02 cutting tip holder

Some of our customers have said they prefer the larger tip holder because it’s easier to handle than the smaller one. Others prefer the smaller one because it fits easily in a pocket.

using CTH02 cutting tip holder
(Obviously, I’m holding this one upside down so the tip shows.)

Anodizing the OG202s

OG202 anodized

As part of the upgrading of the OG202 metal-bodied Tooke gauges, going forward, the OG202s will be anodized. Aluminium alloys are anodized to increase corrosion resistance and increase surface wear resistance . The anodic layer is non-conductive. Anodizing will protect the aluminum parts by making the surface much harder than natural aluminum. Aluminum oxide is grown out of the surface during anodizing and then becomes aluminum hydrate, which is extremely hard. The porous nature of the anodized layer allows the product to be dyed. Type II anodizing gives an anodized layer of 0.0002″to 0.001″.

OG202 anodized

The following text is modified from the Aluminum Anodizers Council

Anodizing’s Benefits
Durability. Most anodized products have an extremely long life span. Anodizing is a reacted finish that is integrated with the underlying aluminum for total bonding and unmatched adhesion.

Color Stability. Exterior anodic coatings provide good stability to ultraviolet rays and do not chip or peel.

Ease of Maintenance. Scars and wear from fabrication, handling, installation, frequent surface dirt cleaning and usage are virtually non-existent. Rinsing or mild soap and water cleaning usually will restore an anodized surface to its original appearance. Mild abrasive cleaners can be used for more difficult deposits.

Aesthetics. Anodizing offers color alternatives and unlike other finishes, anodizing allows the aluminum to maintain its metallic appearance.

Health and Safety. Anodizing is a safe process that is not harmful to human health. An anodized finish is chemically stable, will not decompose; is non-toxic; and is heat-resistant to the melting point of aluminum (1,221 degrees F.)

Since the anodizing process is a reinforcement of a naturally occurring oxide process, it is non-hazardous and produces no harmful or dangerous by-products.

OG202 anodized