HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. Since 1994 we've been encouraging you to go global because so many already see the entire world as one marketplace. The SBA says that over 90% of all US exporters are small business owners. Now meet the team at Automated food systems. A small business with a global market share.
As American as apple pie, the corn dog has won hearts all over the world because of this machine.
(Voiceover) Since its introduction at the state fair of Texas in Dallas in 1938, the corn dog has become a favorite American fast food.
Unidentified Woman #1: That's a great corn dog.
WANDA WALSER (Owner, Automated Food Systems): They saw this guy making corn bread in an iron skillet on a little street stove, you know? And he was mixing in to the corn bread, he would put these sausages in there, the weiners. And so they thought, you know, if they're on a stick, then we can just fry them real quick in no more than two to three minutes and we can serve them right like that and that'll be a lot faster.
HATTIE: So you're saying in 1938, the very first corn dog was served at the Texas State Fair.
WANDA: That is the legend in Texas.
GLENN WALSER (Owner, Automated Food Systems): This is the way a good corn dog starts. You start with a high-quality sausage impaled upon a stick. Then you batter it and you evenly coat it. Notice the vibrations makes that corn dog batter just come right down and evenly coat. And then you--gravity works that batter right in there so you get a nice, even coating.
HATTIE: So now this is my first fresh corn dog.
GLENN: There is your first real good one.
GLENN: Well, we're looking at a corn dog fryer. And this is the beginning of the process.
HATTIE: (Voiceover) Automated Food Systems has fully mechanized corn dog production, and since its first machine was built, the corn dog market has grown 25 percent annually.
GLENN: It picks up 26 sticks and 26 sausages and indexes them across in approximately two seconds. And then the sticker apparatus pushes that stick through the stick holder bar, into the sausage that's clamped on the other side.
HATTIE: (Voiceover) When he lost his job, he had to make a living for his family. Glenn Walser invented the first automated corn dog machine in 1976. Today, the company he and his wife Wanda own, Automated Food Systems, builds the machines that produce 95 percent of the some 2.5 billion corn dogs consumed in the US. The machines are owned and operated by large food processors such as State Fair and Jimmy Dean.
GLENN: A friend of mine that I had done business with before found out that I'd been fired and asked me what I was going to do. And I said, `I don't know.' He says, `Have you ever thought about starting your own business?' And I said, `Well, yes, but I don't have any money.' He says, `Well, that's all right. You have engineering expertise, and I'm willing to trust you and back you.'
HATTIE: Wow. So you had a friend that put the capital up at the beginning.
GLENN: Just a small amount. Just enough to get started. My previous employment was with the Hacienda Mexican Foods in Lubbock making taco shell fryers, which was a revolutionary machine in the early '70s. A fellow in the corn dog business from Abernathy, Texas, had visited the plant and saw what we'd done with the taco shell machine and he said, `We really need something like that in the corn dog business.'
I prayed to the Lord. I said, `Lord, you know my situation. You just give me something to do to make money for my family, and I'll glorify you forever.' And I guess he was listening, because I went to Abernathy and saw how they were making corn dogs manually and journeyed from Abernathy back to Lubbock. While I was driving, this vision came through my head of how mechanically I could do this at a much faster rate using less employees. And I said, `Thank you, Lord. Give me some money,' and he did through this friend of mine. And we started.
WANDA: And when he got through and built the proto model, he said, `Praise the Lord, it makes 400 dozen an hour.' And he knew it was a go.
HATTIE: He broke through. He knew he had a breakthrough.
WANDA: Well, he knew it was an answer. It was an answer for the industry.
GLENN: If you just think of 26 every five seconds. You multiply 26 by 12--that's 12 bars a minute--times 60, you wind up with a little over 16,000 corn dogs an hour. Everything on this fryer is almost scientifically developed over the last 20 years so that it makes it very easy for my customer to make a very consistent, high-quality product.
All of engineering is just a study of relationships and analysis of cause and effect. So on the corn dog machine, the heart of the machine is in the batter coating process. And instead of moving the corn dog down into the batter, I moved the batter to the corn dog. Then as the batter tank goes back down, the excess batter will drain off and then the gear rack will hit this chain and it will just rotate, just like a high jumper right over into the oil. And then it's a process of this cooking for 20 feet as it travels down the fry tank.
HATTIE: You've built these huge machines and there has to be a lot of dollars invested there. Do your customers make up front cash down payments, whatever, to get you the cash you need to build the machine before you can deliver it to collect it? There's a gap between the order and the collection.
GLENN: Yes. We require a sizable deposit, something like in the order of 40 percent to 45 percent, because these are very specialized machines.
HATTIE: Do you think some of us as small business owners underprice or undervalue ourselves? We underprice or don't charge enough because we don't realize how much it really does cost to run a business?
GLENN: Well, I have a philosophy about my business. `If you do not know your cost, you're going broke.' So it's inherently--that's one of the first things I do. Whenever I create a design, I cost it out so I know how much it's--I estimate the cost of how much it's going to cost me to either purchase it or manufacture it in our shop. And that goes into a spreadsheet, that we know our costs at all time, even of a new product. So it's very necessary to know your costs and to keep accurate records. Don't borrow money that you really don't need. Don't spend money on something that you're not going to use. Make intelligent decisions about what you do purchase and what you commit for. Analyze really what you need. Buy what you need. Don't buy the cheapest. Buy something that's quality, that'll last you for a long time.
If you buy something that's cheap, one of two things are going to happen. It's not going to serve what you bought it for, and you'll have to buy something else and you've paid double for it. Or it will leave you stranded when you need something the most. A good businessman never lives entirely upon past history. He lives upon the prospects of the future and what the insight that he can see developing in the marketplace, and he has to be aware of everything around him to see what the other population is doing--if he has competition, what the competition is doing; what the market really needs; what customers are asking for. Only if you are totally aware, and no one can be totally aware, but if you are open to what people want, you can serve them.
One of our early slogans was, `One of God's servants serving our customers.' And, you know, to be a servant is taboo in our society today. But if you want to be a success, you have to be willing to be a servant because you have to serve that customer whether you like it or not. You have to provide what he wants--not what you want to give him, but what he wants.
That's the secret of success.