hey this is
edwin dearborn with growth driven and i
am here with stacy sass
and she is with cody builders supply out
of austin texas
and we’re going to dive deep into what
is driving growth for her
but here’s our message
all right stacy thank you for that
patience on that little intro there
that we’re adding to our video um so
you’re in austin texas we met through a
mutual friend
and can you tell me a little bit uh
of your brand what it does how you got
going on it
okay well um we’re a metal fabricator
a metal fabricator so we you know we
build things and i’m actually second
so my parents um
my mom and my stepdad had businesses
that evolved
through time um a lot of
trial by fire changed their business
model so they started out in
you know more direct-to-consumer
residential products burglar bars
they went into uh there was a boom here
in austin and they went into uh stairs
and rails
uh for hotel chains and things like that
they went to commercial it was this
evolution and it was very uh
economically variable
and where the winds went the business
went and um
other business decisions that maybe were
not optimum as well but
anyway they have eventually evolved to
they sort of had this idea okay
like where do they have the money and
uh they can’t take it back right like
how can you you know because after
you’ve been burned a couple of times the
bank didn’t come through this kind of
where do they have the money they can’t
take it back and that would be public
so once um a municipality or a county or
a state
says we’re going to build blah they put
it to the voters or
you know they put it through the
legislature and they allocate the money
and so that money is going to be there
so then it’s just a matter of
how to get it to your bank account
though that’s what my mom would always
say build a channel
to the bank account there’s the money
how do we get it into
our bank account and that’s how we got
into public works
it’s also consumer driven i mean uh
population driven
you know the more you know people the
water you need the more people the more
transportation you need
um so that was how we ended up
in this business and i joined the
business um
now it’s about 20 years ago my parents
passed away about seven years ago so
i took over that which was sort of the
original plan maybe not in
exactly the way it turned out but so
we’re i’m second generation in this
in this industry in public works that’s
great okay so
you your parents built this business how
many years ago when did they start this
when they finally got into public works
was 1994
okay and and i came in in uh
the year 2000 um which we may get into a
little later like
you know how that sort of went you know
awry and i i came in to sort of
help uh resolve the problems that you
uh they’d actually encountered
throughout their business uh
experience their careers um the the
sort of the missing ingredient if you
will yeah
well um to longevity yeah yeah so you’ve
been around for about a little over 25
years quarter century
they what i understand from what you
told me they kind of
went in with one strategy but it evolved
basically on hey let’s chase the dollars
and the opportunities
which is what really entrepreneurship is
about is
how do you remain um you know liquid
in your emotions how do you remain
opportunistic to see where things are
and i think the second thing you brought
up which
is going to be a point here even more so
i believe in the next decade
you said your business is population
we’re going to see a lot of people
to texas to idaho
to nevada where i live in las vegas uh
i mean i live in henderson 70 of the
people live in the city are former
so we’re going to see i think we’re
working on that ratio here in austin
yeah yeah a lot of places are working on
that ratio
my point is is that i think a ford
looking entrepreneur that wanted to
start something like you
would go okay i need to go where
the population is going hence the
opportunity whether it’s boise
austin tampa
las vegas we’re going to see a mass
that’s a great takeaway from you and
then number two
i think you have to be you know you have
to be
nimble in your motions to see where the
opportunity you may say okay we’re doing
but then you then at some point you said
okay we’re going to get into public
works that’s where the money’s at
right okay good um there was something
else you wanted to add
well i wanted to say that you know
exactly what you’re saying
but i i wanna it’s actually
exponentially more than that because
we’re also non-regional
we actually deliver from uh
new york to hawaii okay
um and and you know so we follow
and and we’ve been in public works since
1994. the previous evolution was
you know before all that a couple of
decades before all that so this has been
pretty stable for us
or for you know my company um and but
that is another thing
is you know even regionalities can
uh you know rise and fall
um so if you can maintain
that nimbleness that flexibility
and not even lock into a region even a
high growth reason
region because austin has seen many
booms over the years
which they you know invested in um and
austin overbuilt and all the commercial
development stopped you know yeah we
this is the ultimate hedge betting
is what we do and um
yeah yeah good good point i mean as an
entrepreneur you have to be
constantly looking at the trends and
where the opportunity lies
you know like before march of this year
many business people thought okay i’m in
a booming economy i’ll just
ride the wave then the wave crashed
we saw a lot of small businesses but
again we’re also
to your point we’re seeing businesses
into okay where can we go let’s do zoom
instead of live conferences let’s hire
remote teams versus getting everybody in
an office which we can’t do
because of quarantine we’ve had to adapt
but we don’t necessarily have to wait
for a virus
to inspire us to to do that i think you
know we have to have foresight
basically is what you’re saying your
company is kind of built into the dna
you know and you’re looking for like
where’s the next growth area
let’s move our services into that into
that spot
exactly okay now and the virus is
nothing compared to economic forces
of course that that happen over time i
mean this seems like a really big deal
but um you know the price of steel in my
doubled over the course of three months
like i think it was back in 2006. now
that was a market force
you know nothing compared to the fire so
there’s really so many things that can
happen that can seem
insurmountable if you’re not flexible
yeah i agree i agree and you bring up a
good point
i think the heart of entrepreneurship is
the ability
to change rapidly and adapt to whether
they’re market forces
who becomes president covet comes out
depression recession
i mean who knows what the future holds
but we know that there’s going to be
dramatic change at some point
exactly that’s just a given in life so
you took over seven years ago
what was your biggest challenge you know
sorry to hear about your parents gone
you know you obviously rose to the
occasion you took the helm
what for you was the biggest challenge
to really
coming to be the leader of that brand
um confidence um from the person
you know i didn’t find out until you
know maybe a couple years later but a
couple of my key guys like did uh brush
up their resume
no just in case do you know i mean
people you know change isn’t people’s
favorite things
um i obviously worked on a lot of
you know continuity and internal
continuity of philosophy continuity of
programs and a lot of internal public
um i was on a lot of the
customer uh communications i did the
contract administration before a lot of
the negotiation before so
the customers weren’t worried but
internally there was
you know surely some concern okay so you
had to
shore up team confidence with some
internal public relations
to let them know that you had control
the company’s not going anywhere
we’ve got this you can believe in
and we’re you’re always going to have a
right okay good so now once you’ve got
the the team to buy in
on the new leadership what was the next
initiative that you took
externally to start to drive growth for
your business
externally yeah like you like
obviously you have to get more clientele
you have to fill the funnel with
right how did you go okay now we’re
going to grow the business this way what
was your next initiative after
kind of really solidifying your position
as leader
right and i did have a specific strategy
um what we did now in public works right
it’s you know we cheat because all the
projects we do are published
you just have to find them and there’s
services that that
that you know collate them
and categorize them by region and
provide you with the information because
the government’s required to
publish their planning and open bid
but what we did specifically at that
moment and this was you know
longevity geared as well uh
we we concentrated on what we did
absolutely the best at
there’s a lot of different types of
projects we do regions we do well in
um new things we’ve tried
uh it’s funny story up in the pacific
northwest at one point
they were doing a lot of investment on
fish hatcheries
and fish infrastructure there’s such
things as a fish ladder
i mean who knew okay and their public
and they deal in the type of materials
and craftsmanship that we specialize in
so we bid on them but that was
you know we lost money the first time
and and did better
um and on subsequent projects and then
they quit investing in the area so
what we very specifically did is
on our core competence competencies what
we do
absolutely the best at what we’re going
to have the highest battery average
we we got um i don’t want to say you
know conservative
you know because it has sort of a
connotation of slow growth or no growth
but um we we really got concentrated
on something we do very very well and
um you know one of the losses was the
person who generally would do the sales
so that would be
that came to me and and these were areas
i could speak
uh you know with a high degree of
um of confidence and intelligence you
know what i mean so we kind of narrowed
it down we concentrated our estimating
efforts and our job procurement
and assignments and the things we went
after the things we were probably going
to get
do you know what i mean yeah yeah so i
want you to speak to me on this because
i’m very interested in this
when you say you concentrate on your
core competencies
it’s funny you say that i was talking
with one of my clients
that i’m i’m the virtual chief marketing
officer for
he’s a real estate developer and i
brought that up to him
he seems like he’s trying to do a lot of
different things in a lot of different
directions and i said
eighty percent of the things that are
coming to you are probably a waste of
because it’s not your core competency
but what my question is
how did you take me through the process
determining what that is did you have a
did you write it down did you articulate
how did you come to what that core
competency is
and then how did you execute on that
well um i was the company’s cfo
so i could do the math
i literally just told her where do we
make money
what kind of projects do we rarely
lose money um do you know what i mean
like we you know
we have types of projects that we can
make tons of money but you know you
could also lose it
so one of them so one of the things i
one of the policies that i
verbalized not as much as documented was
no disasters you know
you started faster yeah yeah
but the way you canceled out the
disasters i’m just taking
the process is that you as a cfo you
looked at the numbers
and you took all the emotion out of it
and you just said here’s the math
of where we win we’re going to double
triple down maybe on the where the
say that we do the best exactly okay
so now that you did that you determined
where to go and how to go to get those
numbers up
what did what was your next step well i
published a strategy
that that enumerated that and
although yes
i want my audience to take take this
away she because i’m a big advocate of
this by the way
i’ve heard this a thousand times you
need to articulate
in writing your strategy right so
i just wanted to highlight that right
yeah we i specifically published it
and although when it came down to say
maybe the foreman
over the night shift you know
at the steel shop maybe he’s not going
you know what we really need to
concentrate on you know because he’s
he’s the he’s working on the results
of these prior decisions um but we did
make it broadly known you know we
we as a company we pre covet of course
had you know gatherings we’d do you know
periodically and there would be some
sort of statement of
you know progress strategy so it was
articulated on the broader scale but
it was more um relevant to
our sales and estimating area because
that’s the you know the nose of the
plane you know everybody else
is going to project manage and fabricate
whatever the job is that comes across
their desk but it really
took a buy-in at the estimating and
sales area unfortunately um
uh you know there was uh agreement with
one of our oldest employees um who
you know spanned the entire period of
time agreed with that strategy
we had you know some different ideas but
they were
you know crowd with agreement and look
this is what we’re going to do
we need to give our our guys in the shop
a steady stream of work you know we need
you know we need to give them things
they’re not going to make mistakes on or
it’s not going to
come back and you know need more
massaging to figure out let’s
just to maintain the confidence
yeah so you came up with a written
strategy then you got buy-in
and everybody understood not only
the framework of the strategy but really
the understanding of the
why of the strategy why we’re doing
these things and that you got the buying
and the agreement
i think that’s another critical point is
i think sometimes
if and when companies or brands put out
a strategy
it’s just done through force right
or this is the way it is and
people do it without building that
internal buy-in particularly with
long-term employees that are
so critical to your success right
yeah okay so now you got the buy-in with
the written strategy
tell me what you did next to kind of
start executing to kind of fill the
funnel with more opportunities
well so we you know with the with the
narrowed scope of opportunities we
describe to pursue we um call
you know we pull them off a server
practically right it’s a search engine
that tells us what kind of projects are
like that
and um that’s what we invested all of
our estimating
you know man hours into um and
drove the number of estimates which you
we have a ratio every once in a while we
figure it out
ten to one ish ten estimates to one sale
in our
in our area um so we just drove that
number it’s a
again it’s a you can if you can do 10
estimates you can do 20. so therefore
you can have two sales so we
we we just pushed those types
also the the ones we’re best at we
estimate faster
it makes sense that makes sense you know
yeah did you adopt
new technology at that point like crms
or project management software like
how much money and time and effort did
you put into building that
to support that strategy none
we just took our existing our existing
infrastructure our existing training
materials our existing processes
okay yeah the big strategic change was
let’s focus on what makes us the most
we bid faster we do better work we make
more money
everything’s just streamlined because we
rarely lose
we rarely lose right i think you know
it’s it’s so good that you’re bringing
this up i think that
you know you could do a lot of marketing
and treat
create a lot of opportunity but if it’s
really not the right fit for your brand
or your team or your processes it
doesn’t matter how much business you
bring in
if it’s the wrong thing or the wrong
public or audience where do you
um in since covet hit in
march was there any adjustment that you
had to make was there any pivots
that you had to deploy to kind of
survive or take advantage or somehow
move with the times well sort of
it it it’s interesting because sort of
the original
hypothesis of this line of work
of you know the money’s always there
there’s always going to be a need
it’s always going to be a growing need
really came into play
on covid because we are are you ready
for this ladies and gentlemen
critical infrastructure
so not only did we not stop we got
letters from our customers who are
working which are general contractors
working on job sites from new york to
saying they’re ordered to work
so if you i don’t recommend it but if
you ever read a covet order
if you get down to the bottom it’ll
almost say something like
and none of this applies to critical
infrastructure because you’re required
to work because people need
people need water the the projects that
we’re on
don’t necessarily provide transportation
water because there are expansions or
or renovations or something along that
but it’s part of
civic planning it’s part of the planning
that’s been done to keep the population
alive and moving
right so we’ve been able to do well
we’ve did make adjustments
work from home some uh overtime
curtailment to uh prevent overcrowding
you know minor adjustments but it’s it’s
the sort of recession uh
proof business it was meant to be at the
you know or tides
okay good and it’s funny you say that
because when you said recession-proof
in march that was my epiphany
as a chief marketing officer was i’m
going to go after
recession-proof businesses because if
i’m servicing
clients that are not essential
then my services become non-essential
but if i serve the essential
then i by default become essential
or critical infrastructure don’t leave
out critical infrastructure
absolutely absolutely and that’s part of
the pivots like we got
into going after bookkeepers and
and home services plumbers
auto mechanics you know things that have
to operate
regardless of you know if your pipe
you need a plumber now regardless of
social justice
without a mask with or without a map
your house is flooding someone needs to
come over
and we were looking for that type of
business that would always be
in business and interestingly enough
those industries
grew dramatically because
they were needed more than ever
so going forward now what is kind of
grand vision for your company how how do
you see yourself
growing uh your
your business even more so in the coming
well thank you um so
with that basis which was just re
firming the base like building the base
of our little ecosystem there our little
our our micro economic um
system we’ve been able to
create such a strong basis both
personnel wise you know with our systems
that we can take on a lot more exciting
opportunities you know
um i like to tell um entrepreneurs a lot
and this is a you’ve been hearing this
you hear this a little bit
in the political world you know you’ll
hear the perfect
is the enemy of the good and when i talk
to entrepreneurs i don’t like to use the
get quick rich scheme but there’s
always this you know desire for
a sudden surge or a you know um
a windfall they’re always looking for a
windfall their next windfall
well while a lot of my friends have been
chasing windfalls
don’t go chasing windfalls no sorry um
been chasing windfalls for the last
seven years i’m where they
always hoped they would be seven years
later my
approach to it has been more steady
but um it has always been progress
you know what i mean totally knows it’s
a disrespected concept
and as we’ve gone i’ve made sure
to build the foundation underneath like
with systems and personnel
documented systems
that put us in a better place that
were we to accidentally
bring in a windfall we might could
actually handle it because we have
people who know how to do their jobs and
if they were to leave i i know enough
about their job and have the ability to
get someone else to do that job
um so that and and so we’re now a little
bit more open to these bigger
opportunities that
if we hadn’t made this steady climb up
the mountain
we would have looked at that opportunity
as ah you know
but now we can look at that hmm maybe we
can do that
yeah there was i forget the name of the
ted talk you br
that steady he talked about he calls
that momentum
the steady grow the erratic
opportunities of booms and depressions
right we built a momentum through good
written processes stable and i agree
with you i think
the entrepreneur out there and this is
the question i’ve been asking everybody
of recent over the last maybe a year or
two when they come to me and they go i
you know how can you salvage my business
i need that surge as you call it
i gotta have a i gotta have a bunch of
new patients right away i’ve gotta have
a bunch of new clients
it’s almost like they’ve waited to the
last moment at stage four cancer
and now they wanna start taking care of
their health
i asked him it’s also a measure of a
success at that because i’d like to say
when i so when i entered the business
which i mentioned earlier
one of the reasons why i came into the
i didn’t you know i didn’t want to work
with my family was they were two million
dollars in debt and were about
to go out of business again and
it wasn’t the business it was what they
did with money and the
and the chasing the dream type items
and it took six
years to dig out of that hole it
couldn’t be done overnight i mean public
works is still
low low bidder wins
um you know so you all it also takes a
a ton of patience but it’s very
when you you know finally get there like
you’re talking about these people who
say they have stage four cancer well in
this case we can take a bite out of your
cancer every single week
you know but i can’t you know you’re not
going to be climbing mount everest
tomorrow sorry
absolutely and back to my point that you
brought up
how long does it take to build a brand
like what is the actual estimation of
to build a brand that’s the question i
ask people now because they want the
and i go look i’m not the surge guy i’m
build the brand
build the momentum you know five years
from now
you could have a multi-million dollar
business if we put in the systems the
the branding the consistency over time
and and and like you said there may be
those sudden surges here and there
but we’re not building our business on
the hopes that that is the
only growth strategy we have exactly
yeah yeah it takes a long time it does
i don’t let’s not use the word long but
it takes time
and the longer you spend at the momentum
like i said the harder you are right now
i’m honestly doing
uh my own exit strategy it’s not
right but it’s you know how is this
going to go
even beyond this you know how’s it going
to keep going why should it end it’s
it’s good good honest work yeah but ccc
you’re thinking legacy
so you’re you’ve got a legacy mindset
you’re thinking long term i’m the same
way which is
i’m not just building growth driven
or any of my businesses for next week
but to attract enough attention
to bring on enough partnerships so that
when i make the money
i can invest in other projects and now
my money
is making money and the the systems and
the businesses are making the money
versus me having to grunt it out
every single day i’ve got that 10 years
look down the road which seems that
you’ve really got that legacy mindset
yeah great let me ask you something
before we end off
um if you were to
be in a room as the keynote speaker or
you were co
you had an hour or two days or whatever
amount of time you felt was necessary
to coach people that are looking to
start a business
maybe not exactly like yours but similar
maybe they’re
they’re going to get into hvac or
or whatever it is what would you say
is the most critical
um point to always keep in mind
when you’re going through that daily
grind that daily pain of building a
um wow that’s a tough one
um i would say my experience
especially in the construction world
is that you have a person who is a great
plumber i have a great plumber i know
someone who’s a a great plumber i mean i
call him the pipe whisperer
okay he’s amazing like he
it’s it’s it’s bizarre yeah he answers
his own phone
yeah i mean he’s never gonna you know
get anywhere
he’s gonna work you know 12 hour days
delivering incredible service
um creating a bevy of uh
custom loyal customers
and then he’s going to burn out at you
know 58 62
and you know whatever um is that
even though the product that you’re
delivering in the craftsmanship and the
that is so important it really is the
i had no background in welding
which is you know where my stepfather
had come from he was a welder you know
that wasn’t my background
but i know how to make people who are
able to do their jobs i know how to
things i know how to handle money flows
um so i would say that you know
especially in the construction industry
um you need an administrator and
you need to yield at times to that
administrator of a really good friend
who worked with her
dad who is electrician and he was a
great electrician and they
she decided to come into the business
and generated them so much business
you know and and he resisted it
you know didn’t like the way she did
this that or the other and like ah
but you could have been a contender you
know what i mean right
right yeah it takes that yeah yeah
you not only have to have great
delivering great service you’ve got to
be backed up by great systems
processes educated people
so that it’s replicatable it’s it
you can grow and scale um
yeah i i am fully a believer in
documenting and
training people and having everything i
think that’s a great lesson
it’s a lesson more people need to hear
well stacy it has been a complete joy
to have you on growth driven thank you
for being here and um
just congratulations on all your success
and i know that uh
your your parents wherever they are
looking looking down at you
looking back uh looking forward they’re
they’re really proud of what you’ve done
and uh just continue on with the great
work that you’re doing
thank you so much for having me okay
great well this has been an
another edition of growth driven with
edwin dearborn uh if you’re looking to
have a virtual
chief marketing officer help you grow
attract new business build your brand
let me know and uh we’ll head out here
and we’ll talk to you guys again soon