Charles Heidenreich and Reidar Aamotsbakken met about 10 years ago, when both worked at Gammex RMI, a machine shop in Middleton. Finding a common interest in entrepreneurship, they started meeting once a week outside of work at night to go over ideas for what kind of new business they could start.

They settled on a machine shop for manufacturing and soon added design services, opening Swift Manufacturing & Engineering in 2011. It capitalized on their respective strengths: Heidenreich had started as a machinist and Aamotsbakken had degrees in chemistry and biomedical engineering.

But more than that, they knew how to get along.

“A lot of start-ups have problems with conflict resolution, between the partners,” Heidenreich said. “Like not having the ability to speak about how they feel about the other person’s performance or where they’re spending their time and energy. We don’t really have that communication barrier.”

But that doesn’t mean starting their small business has been easy. Few who haven’t lived it understand just how hard it is, Aamotsbakken said.

“You have a budget, but everything is always more expensive, and there’s always unexpected things that take up your time,” he said. “All of a sudden you have to spend a day with an insurance audit, for example, so you lost that day, and now you’re behind already. So things take longer and cost more even than you thought in your wildest dreams.”

“You basically say goodbye to your personal life,” Heidenreich added. “People (in start-ups) who still have these luxury habits, like going to hang out at Starbucks for an hour, or taking days off, with a lack of focus on the business, those businesses fail pretty fast. Until you’ve developed a team that can really take on some of those responsibilities, with the same kind of drive, sharing the same kind of goals, you just have to live this 24-hour-a-day job.”

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Karen Rivedal is the education beat reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.