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Discovery Channel Feature

by Jon Meighan, CEO

How does a manufacturing guy end up on Reality TV?

Two years ago a Hollywood producer asked me to be a part of a documentary about a regular guy, Glenn Bryant, in his 50’s trying to start a business. They wanted an entrepreneur mentor and I agreed to help him.

I offered him a job in sales for our natural rubber dog toys. He sold zero. I continued mentoring Glenn in entrepreneurship until eventually he disappeared and that was it.

Months later, I saw an advertisement that said, "Discovery Channel – Undercover Billionaire – Glenn Stearns". Glenn wasn't Glenn Bryant. He was Glenn Stearns and is a billionaire. I ended up being on the show for about a minute.

John Meighan on camera
Camera crew at Lake Erie Rubber

Ending up on Reality TV, Again

Fast forward to 2020. Covid-19 went from a background news story to a major problem. My growing manufacturing business was being threatened by something I had no control over.

In May 2020, I got to do a follow up show. Glenn Stearns would mentor small businesses during the challenge of a global pandemic.

We supply rubber components for the Rail, Construction, Building Isolation, and Oil & Gas industries. I assumed the show was interested in our smaller rubber dog toy business, One Leg Up.

After finishing initial interviews with Glenn, it was clear there wasn’t interest in the pet products.

They brought in a manufacturing guru, Dave Evans, that founded Fictiv. Fictiv is funded by investors that include Accel, Intel Labs, and Bill Gates. Glenn and Dave both advised that despite the slow down, I should be investing in Lake Erie Rubber and its custom molded parts. I needed to use my engineering education and manufacturing experience to improve and differentiate Lake Erie Rubber.

Rubber molding manufacturing
Rubber factory floor

Re-inventing Your Company – In 27 days

In the face of declining sales, profits and a bleak economic outlook, I followed the advice of 2 guys I barely knew.

We had 27 days with Glenn. I lived at work for that 27 days. I invested the cash we had been saving at an uncomfortable rate. We needed to make sure every part of our business fit our Speed, Quality and Technical Solutions mantra.

I taught our employees how to deep clean the equipment, organize the shop and create processes to sustain it all. I developed new messaging, a new website, and started a new marketing campaign.

I missed my sons first day of school and taking my daughter to her first day of dance (which I had promised I would do). My son genuinely believed that I slept at work.

I needed everything to be complete before the film crew’s time was up.

Jon Meighan with camera crew
Jon Meighan with his family

What’s the Point?

We transformed our customer experience and the focus of our business in 27 short days (working 60 days of hours in that 27 days). All of this despite the challenges of a global pandemic, a slowing economy, and dealing with filming a TV show.

There is never a bad time to challenge your company to make huge improvements that will better serve your customers. Anyone can do it and now is the perfect time to start.

Watch the Discovery Channel show, Undercover Billionaire – Comeback City, in January to see how we did it.

The Lake Erie Rubber team
Jon Meighan with Glenn Stearns the Undercover Billionaire

What is Lake Erie Rubber

I put everything on the line to leave a Fortune 50 company 3 years ago to save jobs in Erie, PA. I purchased a small manufacturing company that had declined for years but has now grown substantially for 2 years in a row.

Lake Erie Rubber is a custom rubber manufacturing company that was started in 1961. We supply custom rubber components mostly to the rail, construction, building vibration isolation, and oil and gas industries.

We also created our own pet product division, One Leg Up, designing and manufacturing natural rubber dog toys.

Our goal is to grow Lake Erie Rubber to continue to improve the pay and benefits for our current employees, add more new jobs in Erie, and to be an Erie community asset.

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