Made in America with Don Buckner
Formal education has its place, but the days of a college degree being the sole differentiator between a successful career and a struggling one are long over. This country is packed with opportunities for those willing to work hard and push past challenges to achieve massive success. Don Buckner knows this to be true, as he built a multi-million dollar company without ever setting foot on a college campus.
Don Buckner was just 19 years old when he became a father.
While his friends went off to college, Don became the head of a household and began receiving another kind of education in life.
He got married and went to work for his wife’s family, settling in to provide for his growing family and assuming this would be his life.
Ten years later life tossed him another curveball as his marriage dissolved and along with it, his employment. Left to sift through the debris of what was, Don was also faced with the challenge of finding a new career.
He had $19.00 left to his name and no idea what to do. Left only with his will, determination, and faith, Don went to church. In the quiet of prayer, Don heard the message that he took to heart. He’d have to truly unburden himself of every last thing he carried in order to be open to receive the blessings and strength that awaited him.
Don gave his last $19.00 over to the donation plate.
“Okay Lord,” he prayed, “Now I truly have nothing.”
It was a gesture of faith and surrendering to lessons he knew he was being taught, and it paid off.
With a newfound clarity and unshakeable faith that he was going to be okay, Don started a small business that same day, right in his garage.
Within hours he’d secured $6,000 in sales and from that point forward, in spite of the ups and downs, he grew that company into one worth over $300 million.
“The challenge is to control your thinking,” says Don Buckner. “You can’t let your circumstances control your emotions.”
When everything around Don seemed hopeless and as if he was doomed to fail, Don could have given up and bought into the failure mindset. He could have found a minimum wage, dead-end job and turned to despair as his mentor, but he chose to tap into his faith instead. He chose to be diligent about his mindset, push through the depression and negative thoughts, and pour himself into creating a life filled with purpose and success.
First, he created success. Don has a sharp mind and an innate talent for business. He knows it is key to build things properly, and starting small is important. Two or three ideas put on paper and fleshed out into a plan is the way he went. He also rolled in a valuable lesson his father taught him; The most important things in business are sales, sales, and sales!
Even though was building a manufacturing company, he treated it like a marketing company and focused on sales at least as much as he did on his product. “If you have the best product in the world and nobody knows about it, it’s worthless,” he says.
Under Don’s committed care and leadership, Vac-Tron Equipment jumped from a garage to #13 on the Inc. 500 list in just 3 years. Even more impressive is that Don never borrowed any money to make that happen. Instead, he optimized on opportunities that others missed and took calculated risks to position himself and his company at the forefront of client demand.
Along the path of Don’s climb to the top, he had some nasty falls and remembers the lessons each one taught. “There’s a huge difference between going out of business and going broke,” his consultant told him. It’s one of the lessons Don learned the hard way, in spite of these words of caution hindsight revealed to be true.
Don Buckner held on to one business for too long, mistakenly believing it would be better for his employees and refusing to give up. As a result, his employees lingered along with him until things were beyond bleak, and he had to let them all go- many of whom were family and friends.
Another lesson learned, another hit taken, another time to push past the struggle and rebuild. Don accepted the loss and used those lessons to become stronger and smarter. Today he begins every interview of every candidate with a very clear statement that he does not expect them to be lifelong employees, and that their time together is temporary. This is because he understands no business is bulletproof and also because he wants to see people rise beyond their time with his company to achieve more and build their own dreams. He even supports education opportunities for them.
“I encourage them not to be here for the rest of their lives,” says Don. “There are better things for you to do,” he tells his employees.
It’s an unusual approach but Don is a firm believer in the American Dream and backs that belief up with actions. He believes in helping everyone achieve their own version, and sees himself as a mere part of their path.
Don built his American Dream from the garage on up. Then, when he recognized the pull to do more, he sold his company to begin his new path.
Today Don Buckner is CEO of MadeinAmerica.com.
MadeinAmerica.com centers on a buy & build American philosophy. It is built on Don’s belief that growing the U.S. economy depends on a strong and flexible manufacturing community. The goal of his new company is to, to raise awareness for the economic, environmental and community impact of American-made manufacturers, companies, and brands.”
Don will happily expand upon his beliefs about the value of supporting American made products and the companies that manufacture them. Listening to him cite business and economic principles to support this belief you’d never guess he is a self-taught expert in the industry, but his passion gives him away.
It’s the kind of passion found only in those who have lived, breathed, and suffered along their path to success, and who would not have it any other way. Don event went so far as to invest a fortune of his own funds into the first of its kind trade show last fall.
Made in America 2019 was held in the Indianapolis Convention Center, and featured hundreds of companies and products that are all American. It was a place to celebrate patriotism, faith, and the American Spirit while showcasing the quality and importance of the American manufacturing industry.
Events are hard, and Don took a financial hit in his first at-bat. But next year’s event is already in the works and shaping up to be an entirely different level of success for the unshakeable entrepreneur.
“Everybody has dream killers in their lives,” says Don Buckner. He’s had more than a fair share of them in his. But to him, those voices fall on deaf ears, because he doesn’t have a moment to waste on their negativity. He’s got more important things to do, like build his dream, and help you build yours.