An Interview with E & T Fasteners CEO Eric Lenz

E & T Fasteners is a proud sponsor of local youth sports, community needs, and homeless shelters.

Although we typically talk about our products, the materials used in fasteners, the uses and applications that each fastener might be used in, we decided to mix things up a little and tell you a little bit more about us. Hey, maybe it will give you some insight into why thousands of customers have chosen E & T Fasteners year and year as their supplier of metric and standard fasteners and accessories.

We sat down with our CEO Eric Lenz for this interview. By the way, he hates the term “CEO”, as to Eric, CEO implies someone sitting in the big corner office, doling out demands, exchanging their stock options, and flying around in the corporate jet. That could not be further from the reality of who Eric is – if you talk with any of us at E & T Fasteners, chances are you may have also talked or worked with Eric personally. He loves to help customers all over the United States and has been doing it since 1984. E & T Fasteners was founded by Eric in 2005.

Let’s get down to it.

Q: How did you get into the fastener distribution business?

You could say that it was a family business and in the blood. My grandfather had started a tool and die company and kept it for over 40 years. He passed away in 1978 and my grandmother, and then my mother inherited it. Soon we were learning about injection molding, and the business morphed. As a youth, I’d learned the business starting in high school, doing the little jobs and work, then moved into more of a consultation and sales role later.

But like many others know, it’s sometimes hard to work with family when you have different mindsets on business and values – so I started out on my own and founded E & T Fasteners in 2005. We’ve grown to several locations and now serve fastener buyers internationally. It’s had its ups and downs, but truly I love this business.

Q: Who is your typical buyer?

For larger orders, we sell primarily to industrial purchasers who need parts to complete their own manufactured product, or to other distributors who do not have access to the right supply.

We have lots of smaller customers, which makes us unique. We also cater to maintenance departments, contractors, installers, or inventory managers. We even have many inventors/fabricators who need a few parts made while they are tinkering with a new product.

Q: What do they usually need?

Sometimes, buyers already know what they need, and they just want to get a part as specified. In those cases, we’re asked to quote on a particular specified part, quantity, and timeline. Our goal is to get that quote back as fast as possible at the right price. Most important for most is not just the quote time, but that they actually get their parts in time to make the final product. We know that a fastener is just a ‘part’ of the final product. No one should be slowed down by a distributor. Getting the cheapest price is fine, but getting it on time without hassle is finer.

Q: How many of those who reach out, buy from E & T?

We get hundreds of quotes out a week, and the majority of fastener buyers who reach out to us end up buying from us at some point.

Q: Whoa. Why is that?

Because we’re awesome people, haha.

Truly, it’s because they appreciate our speed. Plus, our pricing is actually very competitive. When a customer signs an order, we pull out the logistical stops to ensure that it gets there on time, every time.

Q: What happens when a buyer doesn’t know what they need?

We get those too. While we aren’t engineers, we’ve been in the fastener supply business for over thirty years, so we lend our expertise in knowing how to get what they need so that they can get the right product. If they need a design or to build a specification, we have partners who can help with that. It all starts with a conversation, and we’re an excellent place to start.

Q: What if they have a specification but don’t know if it will work?

Absolutely, we can help there. Haha, it’s a bad day for you if you buy thousands or millions of fasteners, only to find out they won’t work. If they have a specification but want to make sure it works, we can make samples and prototypes.

Q: How does that work?

For smaller samples, say 10-25 pieces, we’d likely machine each part one by one. For larger quantities, we’d build an injection mold. Today, we can even develop prototypes using 3D printing. We’d just need a 3D file from the customer, and away we go.

Q: So there are other companies that buyers can choose from. What makes E & T Fasteners different?

We believe we’re not always the right choice. Crazy, right? Our goal for any prospect – big or small – is to help them find a solution, no matter where they get the solution from.

Q: Wait. So you might steer prospective customers to a competitor?

Yep. We partner with a lot of ‘friendly competitors’.

The customers sometimes don’t know where to start, so a simple conversation can yield a lot of answers. First, we find out what they are looking for and the application needed. For example, does it need to be soluble, to have high heat resistance, to hold up under heavy torque? We guide them to a solution, whether it’s from us or not. If we can help them, either by getting their product specified or designed through an engineer or partner resource, we do that.

If we don’t think we’re going to be the best fit, it’s not in our area of expertise, or we’re not going to be competitive on that product/application, we most likely have a ‘competitor’ who might specialize in that product and application.

Certainly nobody else takes the time to try to source it down, but we will. We’ll help anybody that calls. The bottom line is: we love to help. When helping someone, they might return to us again for a need we can fulfill. We’ve gotten callbacks saying, “Hey, they worked out for us. Thank you so much. If we need anything that’s in your wheelhouse, we’ll come back”. And they do sometimes.

There’s nothing like trust, and trust is hard to find in this or any industry. When you trust us, you’ll be back.

Q: So your secret to company growth is: you provide quick turnarounds to specifiers who just want to buy, and trusted guidance to those who are uncertain of their needs?

That’s it! Our team is the hardest working team I know, and we don’t hire or keep people who don’t work efficiently, aren’t friendly, and can’t be trusted to look out for the customer vs. looking out for themselves. While we’re fun, we’re very clear about that.

Q: You offer two different phone numbers on your website – one for “Eastern US” and one for “Western US”. What’s that about?

Haha, yes I get that question often.

We decided years ago to have someone available on both U.S. coasts, specifically to be available ‘early’ or ‘late’ in the day, no matter what the time zone. You can call us and be helped. So while we’re not a big company, we are available longer than a big company might be available.

They funny thing is – we don’t want to confuse those people who aren’t on the coasts. Here’s the secret – you can call either number and get one of us to help you. We love you wherever you are! We even love Canadians, haha.

Q: The photo you offered for this interview pictures you at a youth sports complex. Why?

Because we are passionate about our local communities. It’s one thing to make a good living – and we do – but we’re a proud sponsor of youth sports whenever asked, or any community needs. We often will provide funds and meals for our local homeless shelters. People are so important, and this is our way of giving something back.

Q: OK, final question. How can people start the conversation or get a quote from E & T?

On our website at https://fastenercomponents.com/, there are several ways.

They could call us at one of those numbers:

  • Eastern US (800) 650-4707
  • Western US (800) 732-0530
  • International 1(704) 933-5774

They could search for a specific part on our site and then click “Request a Quote” which includes a simple form.

Or they can go to our contact us page here and reach out to several of us individually.

Either way, we’ll get you to the right person to help you!