Business Development Executive is Rainmaker for Compass

More than 16,000 CNC machine shops populate the US. Nearly all have less than 35 employees. Despite their small size, these companies often possess advanced manufacturing capabilities, like sophisticated 5-axis milling machines that run all night without anyone around. Many also have leading edge inspection equipment that detail every dimension and critical parameter.

But lacking from this otherwise impressive picture is the ability to market these capabilities to customers needing them. Nearly all machine shops rely on word-of-mouth advertising for new business. Some of the best owners and general managers devote a fraction of their time to prospecting. But most find that their skill set, while well suited to machining, is lacking in selling skills. Identifying and cultivating potential customers is well outside their wheelhouse.

“When we started Compass three years ago, we identified new business development as a top priority in support of all our companies,” said CEO Gary Holcomb. “Having strong on-line presence is part of the answer. And we have that. But traditional face-to-face selling is equally or more important. And early on, we found our guy, Jim Miller.”

Jim joined Compass Precision in early 2021 as the firm’s Vice President of Sales. Unlike professionals at other machine shops that might dabble in sales, Jim is fully focused on new business development. And his skill set is well suited to this responsibility.

For six years before joining Compass, Jim served as Vice President of Sales at Crenshaw Die & Manufacturing, a Huntington Beach, CA-based CNC machining and fab house. Before that, he and a partner started a machining and fabrication company – Custom Engineered Products located in Santa Ana, CA.  A few years later Jim went out on his own and began another CNC machine and fab shop, CJ Precision Manufacturing, also located in Santa Ana, CA. Jim joined Crenshaw Die & Manufacturing in conjunction with selling CJ Precision to Crenshaw in 2015.

“I love being in manufacturing, especially precision CNC machining and fab,” stated Jim. “With experience starting two of my own shops, I understand the entire business right down to running the machines. I can look at a part and instantly know which of our seven operating companies would be best suited to make it.”

Jim’s outgoing personality also helps him quickly connect with customers. Before getting into manufacturing 28 years ago, Jim worked in commercial real estate where professional sales skills are paramount. And it is no surprise that Jim served as both rush chairman and president for his fraternity, Sigma Nu during his undergraduate days at UCLA.

“Jim combines deep understanding of our job shop manufacturing business with a great love of selling,” explained Gary. “Customers naturally like him. And our people love working with him because he gets it. He is truly the voice of Compass with clients and the voice of customers with us.”

Jim’s role involves representing all Compass companies to prospective customers as well as working with existing customers on extended business opportunities. He gets particularly excited when Compass buys new equipment or completes an acquisition. Both provide more capabilities and capacity to serve customers.

“I am like a kid in a candy store when Gary tells me about a company we are buying,” said Jim. “The same with new capital equipment. Both give me more to talk about with customers. My bag of things to sell keeps getting bigger.”

Jim’s selling activities are both helped by, and helping, the growth of Compass, a manufacturer of precision, mission-critical metal components. The company was founded in 2019 by Gary Holcomb and two private equity partners based on upon the simultaneous purchase of three CNC machining companies in North Carolina – Advanced Machining & Tooling (Salisbury, NC); Quality Products & Machine (Charlotte, NC); and Tri-Tec Industries (Charlotte, NC). Compass added Gray Manufacturing Technologies (Denver, NC) to the fold in August 2020, then acquired Douglas Machining Services (Winona, MN) in March 2021. Since then, Compass purchased R&D Machine (Oldsmar, FL) in April 2022 and Strom Manufacturing (North Plains, OR) in July 2022, bringing its number of operating companies to seven.

Longtime natives of Southern California, Jim and his wife April moved to Charlotte when Jim joined Compass. Interestingly, both graduated from UCLA after attending the same high school in Long Beach. Their children Delaney and Kaden remain in Southern California and are students at their parent’s alma mater. Jim also has a son Cade who lives in Chicago and is a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

For more information about Compass Precision and its entire management team including Jim Miller, please contact Gary Holcomb, Compass CEO at