Paying it Forward
Scott Rix, VP of Operations for Troy Tube & Manufacturing Co., Mentors Employees, Helps Them Become Leaders
Scott Rix started his manufacturing career at Chesterfield, MI-based Troy Tube & Manufacturing Co. purely by accident—but he can’t see himself doing anything else.
“If I had to do it over again, yes, I would get a college education,” he said. “If you marry that with the hands-on experience I’ve had, it would be tremendous. From what I’ve learned here, the joy I see in what I've accomplished and the many people I've helped, I'm cool with it. I love coming to work and have fun doing it.”
Rix is the vice president of operations at Troy Tube, a CNC tube bending and tube fabrication business in the Detroit metro area. He’s been with the company 40 years, starting when he was still in high school.
Neighbor Joe Maniaci—mentor, teacher, guidance counselor, father figure— approached Rix when he was 15-years-old and asked him if he wanted to work for him. Maniaci was working at another tubing company but, having an entrepreneur mindset, wanted to start his own business. And he wanted Rix to work for him.
“I was his first employee,” Rix said. “He’d pick me up on Saturdays and I’d work on whatever Joe needed. At 16, I got a car, so I’d go to Troy Tube after school and work through the evening.”
In 1979, his senior year of high school, Rix had accumulated enough credits to take only two classes—government and machine shop. “Machine shop was on-the-job training for me,” he said. “After first-hour government class, I'd leave and go right to work. I basically worked a full day, in 12th grade.”
That same year, Maniaci brought in his teenage nephew to work in the plant. A few months later another teenage boy joined the company.
“Now he's got three teenagers working for him, running his business,” Rix said. “Joe would come out of his office, show us what to do, go back in the office to build his business, come back out, and guide us on what we needed to do to fabricate tubing, such as brake lines, fuel lines and hydraulic lines. He mentored all three of us, taught us the tricks of the trade.”
Maniaci also taught the young men how to work with people: to treat them fairly, to be patient, to listen.
“People will make mistakes but that’s how they learn,” Rix said. “We call it ‘tuition.’ You pay your tuition, you're going to be educated. I used to be what they called the ‘firefighter’—I’d go out and solve everyone’s problems. However, over the years I’ve found that it's better to let people understand what's taken place, then let them come up with their own solutions to resolve the issues.”
Work began to increase, as did the employee roster. The company outgrew three buildings before settling into its current 66,000-sq.ft. of manufacturing space. “About every 10 years, we doubled,” Rix said. “Now we're in our fourth building and we have approximately 102 employees, running two shifts with $26 million in sales.”
Along the way, Maniaci added family members to help manage the company and the third-generation is adding to the company’s success.
For Rix, the best part of his job is watching employees he’s mentored find success in their personal and professional lives—welders, tube benders and other employees who have moved into management positions. With the average span of employment at Troy Tube being 16 years, Rix is taking what Joe Maniaci taught him and paying it forward—helping workers find their potential to become leaders.
“I feel a great satisfaction when I see individuals who I've mentored since they were in high school succeed,” he said. “It's a joy to me to walk out on the floor, look at people and see their smiles. We have a family atmosphere here where our employees enjoy their work. The owners are fantastic. They treat everyone with respect. I am very fortunate that I took a chance on Troy Tube, learned a great trade and ended up with a great career.”