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 Subject : Personal History, by Brian Sonnenberg, Portland Bolt & Manufacturi.. 10/27/2011 04:25:35 PM 

April 14, 1995
Bobby Barnhill
President, WAFD

Dear Bobby,

Thanks for the kind words and the reminder. My first exposure to Portland Bolt and the fastener industry goes back to 1972. I was the purchasing manager for a large steel fabricator here in Portland. One of the many items I purchased was fasteners, specifically A325 structural fasteners along with anchor bolts, rods, expansion anchors, etc. My job put me in touch with not only Portland Bolt but Bethlehem steel, R B & W Modulus and of course many new servers of “Japanese bolts.” With respect to Portland Bolt, I always wondered why they as a company didn’t do more to service their customers the way in which their customers required servicing. I many times asked that question of my salesman there and he really couldn’t answer my question. The more our needs as a fabricator were neglected, the more vocal I became with my supplier base. In fact, I expanded my fastener supplier base and in that process met Luke Sullivan and others of the “good ole boy” network.

The new ownership of Portland Bolt in 1975 spoke with me (as their customer) about joining them and putting in place the kinds of things I had been asking them to do. It was an offer I could not refuse. So in November of 1976, I joined Portland Bolt and began to imprint a whole new way of doing business. I thought the fastener industry needed a serious dose of credibility. I had not been impressed much with the majority of suppliers and people in this industry. Very few commitments were honored or kept, and credibility was basically just a joke. I really wanted to change that at Portland Bolt and set out to do just that. For my model, I chose my closet competitor in Seattle. The company had the reputation we lacked and also held most of the market because of that. I consciously worked to become like that company and, if possible, better than it. Just to get in to speak with some of the customer base took years of persistence and effort. Thankfully, that effort paid off, and we were able to prove by action the things we were saying. Portland Bolt was and has been completely rebuilt many times. In fact, we will continue to reevaluate our efforts all the time.

I was not proud of this industry in 1976. In fact, I wasn’t proud of it at all for many years. Honesty and integrity are very important to me personally, and I often felt violated because of the conduct I witnessed within this business. My single goal was to function differently and provide for my customers, employees, and myself through a different way of “nuts and bolts.” In our part of the world to not do what you say is a real violation of contract, and I was amazed how different parts of the country varied in the application of their word. We owned and operated Jersey Bolt for 18 months before finally closing it down forever. I do know how it feels to tell employees that their jobs no longer exist. It is most unpleasant, and I vowed to never do that here in Portland. This is still a relationship driven business where the privilege of providing product exists for those who want to step up and do it the right way. My success formula is simple. Do unto others as you would have done unto you (and work hard!)

- Brian C Sonnenberg
Last Edited On: 10/27/2011 04:25:57 PM By P
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