Staying Lean: In an industry that can sometimes prioritize size and scale, we decided to stay lean. This approach allowed us to be nimble, adapt quickly to market changes, and ensure that our team always worked closely and efficiently. I recall the time during the COVID-19 pandemic when many larger firms faced logistical challenges. Our lean structure allowed us to pivot quickly, make immediate decisions, and continue serving our clients with minimal disruptions.
In the world of business and within every industry, there are forward-thinking leaders who go against the status quo and find success. Their courage to take risks, embrace innovation, and inspire collaboration separates them from the competition. Until 2002, Apple’s famous slogan was “Think Different”. This attitude likely helped them become one of the most successful organizations in history. This interview series aims to showcase visionary leaders and their “status quo-breaking” approach to doing business. As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luke Smoothy.
Luke Smoothy founded Get It Made in 2011 with just $200, initially as a side-hustle alongside his job as a furniture designer, driven by a mission to make manufacturing simple and find a better solution for designers and engineers everywhere. Today, the London-based company is a multi-million-pound-a-year business and an ISO 9001-– accredited manufacturer, providing manufacturing services to companies across the globe, and has steadily grown to become a 3D printing, CNC machining, molding and aluminum extrusion expert. Smoothy has worked on thousands of complex projects for customers across various industries including aerospace and medical, and in R&D, collaborating with companies such as Hitachi, Airbus, and Stanley as well as institutions such as the Imperial College of London.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Greater London, and always enjoyed working hard, staying up late to finish homework at school. I went to a school that was a “technology college” so I had the opportunity to experience product design from 13 years old. It was always my favorite subject, and coincidentally what I was best at. So when deciding what to study at University (College for the US readers), I decided to continue this by studying Product Design. This resulted in working as a commercial furniture designer for a few years, and then realizing I was quite good at helping others in getting their products into production. And now 10 years later, I run Get It Made.
Can you give us a glimpse into your journey into this industry and share a story about one of the most significant challenges you faced when you first started out? How did you end up resolving that challenge?
The biggest challenge I faced when I started out was managing a full time job and what was my side hustle, Get It Made. I worked from 9pm-1am most evenings during the week.
Who has been the most significant influence in your business journey, and what is the most significant lesson or insight you have learned from them?
I don’t have many references to look to, emulate or ask questions. This is not intentional, but I didn’t have a long career before starting Get It Made, and I don’t have a peer group or any mentors. It is something I would love. However, one person does come to mind, my old boss. Sometimes I think “What would he do”, “how would he treat this person”. He was always well respected for how he treated people, and that is something I would like to emulate.
Can you share a story about something specific that happened early on that you would consider a failure but ended up being a blessing in disguise or ended up being one of the most valuable lessons you had to learn on your own?
Hiring someone who was very bad for the business. It means I now take much greater care in who joins the team.
Leading anything is hard, especially when grappling with a difficult situation where it seems that no matter what you decide, it will have a negative impact on those around you. Can you share a story about a situation you faced that required making a “hard call” or a tough decision between two paths?
Well, I’m not sure my difficult decision directly impacted others, but I have always had to grapple the decision of taking Get It Made down one of two paths. Either bootstrapped — organic growth — or accelerated growth by taking VC money. I believe I have taken the correct path. Yes, of course the business could have technically been larger, but I think in its current state it is a better business, and I still own 100% of it. Luckily I can see this play out as competitors went down the VC route.
Let’s shift our focus to the core of this interview about ‘Successful Rule Breakers’. Why did you decide to “break the rules”? Early on, did you identify a particular problem or issue in how businesses in your industry generally operated? What specifically compelled you to address this and want to do things differently?
When I started Get It Made, there were no “manufacturing as a service” businesses. The manufacturing landscape was full of terrible marketing, pretty awful service and generally ignored doing business online. So this was the one thing I was doing that was leading the way. It was my own experience in dealing with manufacturers that compelled me to do things differently. I was essentially creating a service I would have loved to use; a manufacturer that was easy to work with!
In the ever-changing business landscape, how exactly do you decide when to adhere to industry norms versus “breaking the rules” and forging your own way? Can you share an example?
There are two things that come to mind: the start-up norms of raising money from investors and the manufacturing industry’s quality standards.
I went against the grain in not raising money from investors to fund growth. All of our competitors did just that. I believe that the best route to growth is by focusing on the customer and growing organically by doing a good job. Yes, it might be slower, but the business will have a much better foundation. I also own 100% of the business.
The one thing that always needs to adhere to industry norms is quality, and for that, we stick to the strict ISO9001 quality management system. Some things are tried, tested and proven to work.
What guidance or insight can you offer to new entrepreneurs trying to follow existing and accepted industry norms while at the same time trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace?
Personally, I would always go down the “extreme customer service” route, make your service the differentiator. It doesn’t require a large investment to perform this capability, it just requires time, care and attention. But it is often the thing that wins business, particularly in B2B.
Here is the main question of our interview. To make an impact, you have to champion change, get creative, and take risks. Please think back about the decisions you’ve made that have helped your business get to where it is today, and share your top 5 strategies or decisions that helped you succeed by doing things differently.
As a leader, how do you rally others to align with your vision? Also, how do you identify those who may not be fully committed or even silently sabotaging or undermining your efforts? What steps do you take to address these situations?
If I am honest, I have always found rallying others around a vision a challenge, but maybe it is just that my expectations of what this should look like are higher than what is normally possible.
Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?
I think I would be very happy with just sustaining our current level of business activity. If we could grow by a small amount that would be perfect. Get It Made is currently a great size, and is very manageable. For me as the sole owner of Get It Made, it does not need to be bigger. However, one thing I would love to improve is our sustainability. If I also had one real ideal scenario, it would be to have a Director of Operations for Get It Made, which means all the day-to-day running would be handled and I could pursue something new.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Being in a position of influence comes with a responsibility to advocate for change that can enhance our global community. If I were to inspire a movement, it would be centered around ‘Global Educational Equality.’ Education is a fundamental pillar for individual empowerment and societal progress. However, access to quality education is immensely disparate globally, both in developing nations and within marginalized communities in developed countries.
My movement would aim to harness the collective power of individuals, organizations, and governments to dismantle barriers to education and create inclusive, accessible, and adaptive learning environments for all. This would involve leveraging technology to create scalable educational platforms, developing infrastructure, and ensuring that educators are adequately trained and resourced to nurture the next generation.
At ‘Get It Made,’ we’re passionate about making high-quality manufacturing accessible and comprehensible. This principle can be extended to education — making knowledge accessible, comprehensible, and applicable to all, thus enabling individuals to innovate, solve problems, and elevate their communities.
The cascade effect of universal, quality education is profound — it fosters innovation, reduces inequality, and promotes sustainable economies and societies. By enlightening minds, we empower communities to forge their own paths towards prosperity, and in doing so, we collectively create a brighter, more equitable future for all.
How can our readers continue to follow you or your company online?
Best to follow me on https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukesmoothy/ and just check out our website: https://get-it-made.co.uk/
Thank you so much for sharing all of these insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is an accomplished entrepreneur and visionary leader. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc., while attending Ohio State University and grew it to become an industry outlier before selling the business after 25 successful years. With the launch of his second venture, [re]start, a career development platform, Chad aimed to help people find meaningful career opportunities. Under his leadership, his team was recognized as a “Top Workplace” award winner for over a decade, twice being ranked the #1 small and medium-sized business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023, enabling him to focus on building an online community of high-performing leaders and continuing to make a positive impact in people’s lives.