A Conversation With ...Chris Schlesinger
Chris Schlesinger’s Arizona-based Best Finishing Inc. has thrived delivering tumbling, grinding, deburring, polishing and buffing supplies and products to the metal finishing industries.
Chris Schlesinger’s Arizona-based Best Finishing Inc. has thrived delivering tumbling, grinding, deburring, polishing and buffing supplies and products to the metal finishing industries. She recently won the Master Success Award from the Arizona Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and was named Distributor of the Year by the Minority and Small Business Alliance of Southern Arizona.
Q: Why do you think you were picked to win these awards?
CS: Innovation and teamwork are directly responsible for our performance and momentum. The qualifications to be on the BFI team are very high. We require hands-on, top-level polishing and buffing machine experience of our application team members. It’s a skill that requires a massive amount of shop experience that isn’t taught in any school and can’t be found in an instruction manual, and it produces significant results for our customers.
Q: Explain what you mean when you say that “intellectual capital” is the reason behind the success of your business.
CS: Collectively, Best Finishing has what is likely the deepest and broadest brain trust for a company of its size in this industry, and it’s focused on developing innovative product and regional distribution solutions that are reducing operating costs and creating a lot of value for our customers.
Q: It seems your company is truly customer-focused.
CS: We collaborate with our customers to develop and deliver high-performing, cost-saving products and services that contribute to their success. If there ever was a story about smart, focused people working together from all sides of the production and sales equation, this is it.
Q: You work with SBDC and the SBA’s Office of Women-Owned Small Businesses to pursue government contracts. Has that been difficult?
CS: Procurement requires a laser-sharp focus, a lot of creativity and a project manager’s diligence. Our team already uses those skills on a daily basis to develop cost-effective solutions for our customers, which makes us well-suited to succeed in procurement.
Q: You started your company in 2000 with $500 and a personal line of credit. What led you to the finishing industry?
CS: I saw a real opportunity to serve finishing customers better by creating a business model that offered a customer not just a product, but the best possible solution for his or her needs. From the start, we said that we would not represent any one supplier exclusively. We wanted to offer our customers optimal solutions from manufacturers around the world who could provide products to our specifications that add value.
Q: Tell us about your “just-in-time” inventory management and delivery system that sources, tracks and puts products in the hands of customers reliably and quickly.
CS: It has been a big factor in our success. New customers often come to us when their former suppliers shut down their production lines or couldn’t deliver product when it was needed. You can have the best process or product in the industry, but if you don’t get it delivered on time, it becomes meaningless.