Founded and operated by husband-and-wife duo, Daniel Miranda and Jodie Marion, Just Right has grown significantly since its start in 2013. Daniel is a third-generation sheet metal worker from Veracruz, Mexico who was studying to be a certified public accountant when he moved to the U.S. in 1996. Life circumstances brought Daniel back to the sheet metal industry, and he eventually earned many cards (building trades, service and architectural) with the Local 16 Sheet Metal Union.
In 2017, Just Right built its own fabrication facility in Vancouver, Washington, and is now expanding their space by adding a 35,000 square-foot warehouse. The new addition will include a solar array to offset energy consumption for the entire facility—shrinking the carbon footprint of all ductwork produced at the facility.
Working smarter by being leaner and greener is a prime tenet of Just Right’s philosophy. Investing in technology is one way to reach those goals, but having a crew that buys into the idea is also key.
Daniel works with his fabrication crew on two key practices. The first is working safely and more organized to produce higher-quality work. The second is working faster, which involves continuous innovation. One advantage of being a new company is that the shop’s processes and layout are still flexible. New ideas can be implemented and evaluated without fighting against an entrenched way of doing things. Ultimately, this agility makes for a faster turnaround and better value for customers.
Challenges in the industry
Just Right’s biggest challenge in the industry has been finding a niche in a landscape of larger, long-established sheet metal companies. Lacking the resources, name recognition and privilege of larger companies can be an obstacle, but Daniel believes there can be a greater cooperation among the companies.
He uses the analogy of a “crab vs. ant mentality”: If you put a thousand ants in a bucket, they’ll work together to help each other out of the bucket. If you put crabs in a bucket, they’ll pull each other down so nobody gets out the bucket. Rather than directly competing with or trying to become like these larger companies, Daniel sees Just Right’s value as a support to them.
Another challenge of being a small business is simply building the infrastructure. Jodie says, “Every time we aim a little higher, we have to improve our infrastructure—all the supports that no one sees but are essential to healthy operations. The best way to improve our paradigm is by studying other models.”
The mentorship with Skanska provided just that.
The Mentor-Protégé Program by the Port of Portland was developed to overcome barriers small businesses face in the industry. The three-year program pairs small, diverse firms with two mentor companies. Together, they develop a strategic plan specific to the needs of the mentee that helps their firm overcome obstacles. The Port facilitates monthly team meetings and provides an array of free technical assistance.
Just Right was paired with Skanska, working closely with Project Executive Ryan Richards at the PDX Terminal Rebalancing Concourse E Extension project.
Daniel says the mentorship helped him learn from someone who is ten steps ahead of him. “Other companies think of me as a competitor, but Ryan has no interest in me failing. Whenever I ask a question, Ryan’s only aim is to help Just Right find its way,” he explains.
This open, learning relationship truly helps both our companies be better together.
Daniel is a mentor himself, and trains new apprentices at the Local 16 Sheet Metal Worker’s International Union hall. He believes that the best way to improve is to share your story so it can help teach others.
“Just Right has done a great job on all the projects they have worked on with Skanska. They do a lot for their community by providing services and donations, including building tiny homes for homeless folks and planting trees. They continue to grow as a company yearly. I would continue to recommend them on future projects,” says Ryan.