1.) Tell us what the precast industry was like when you got started.
Everybody was afraid of precast and didn’t want to experiment with it like you have to do.
There were two companies in my area that made septic tanks, which was the big thing then. They were really rough at it and they had forms that were super expensive – it took so much labor to pour them and it made such an inferior product. I kept watching to see how they were doing it and I thought, “Boy, if those guys can sell those things …” I said if I couldn’t make something decent, I wasn’t going to make anything, so I started making septic tanks. Tom Lendrum’s dad helped me get started. He sold me a mold and I bought a used truck from another septic tank company. My wife, Linda, has always been an important part of our business and has greatly contributed to our success!
2.) How has precast as a product changed over the years?
There was no company like Spillman that built forms back then. They were just getting started. Buying fork trucks and molds that met the codes helped me a lot. We were able to produce bigger and different products.
3.) Why did you get involved with NPCA and decide to become chairman?
I had a cement salesman come in one day and he said, “Did you hear about this meeting they’re having?” I said, “No.” He told me the precasters were going to organize. I asked him if he had a phone number I could call to get some information. He gave me Bob Yoakum’s phone number. I called him and he invited me to the meeting. It sounded good. Linda and I went to the meeting and talked to a lot of people. We had a good meeting, although Mr. Yoakum died.
I learned a lot about mixing concrete because I had done a lot of experimenting, but these guys were experts. There were quite a few engineers and they were generous with their knowledge. I got to know Tom Lendrum at the first or second meeting and we’ve been friends for years. I got involved because I thought I could learn more from members than I could any other way with no cost involved. They were all good people and very generous with their experiences.
4.) How did the friendships you formed via NPCA impact your life?
I don’t know if I learned more from them or they learned more from me. I enjoyed getting to know a lot of people. It is great to think I might have helped people. I think I’ve been to every Convention except for last year. I went mostly to see people I knew and to see what was new. There were a lot of good people and I miss them. Where I gained the most in this business was from NPCA.
5.) What’s your favorite NPCA memory?
Years later, after we had met at a show and were getting along pretty well, Joe Wieser and I talked about having our own plant tour. So, one year I called him and said, “I got a new Cadillac, let’s go on a plant tour,” and he said, “When do you want to leave?” I told him I had some things to put together so I said two weeks and he said, “Alright, I’ll come there and we’ll go east.” And so we did! We went to Pennsylvania and there were a couple big precast plants out there. We’d go in and I’d introduce Joe and tell them who I was. Nobody had heard of me, but boy, they had heard of Joe.
We went out to a plant that was on a farm and there were some slats for cattle and hogs. We could see they were made on a machine, so we stopped and Joe said, “I know this guy.” We went in and started talking to him and asked him what kind of machine he had to make those slats. Joe was always into that. He told us he bought one used and finally he said, “Do you want to see it?” Joe said, “Yeah.” The farmer took us out in his building and we walked in there and Joe said, “I wondered what happened to this machine, I used to own it.” Joe has a great personality and can strike up a conversation with anyone. He’s the ideal person to travel with. We went to 20-some plants and we learned a lot.
Linda and I have enjoyed being involved with the association since the very first meeting. We’re thankful for the friendships we’ve made over the years. We have benefitted personally and professionally in many ways.
6.) How did it feel to be selected for the Yoakum Award?
It was great. It was quite an honor. I was very pleased and still am. I didn’t know anything about it. I wondered why my wife had made arrangements for the grandkids to come. I don’t know if I did that much for the association, but I tried.
7.) When you first got involved with NPCA, did you envision it becoming what it is today?
I never had any idea there would be so many things made out of precast and so many companies involved to help us manufacture these products. Vendors spend a lot of money at those shows bringing their hardware and I’ve always tried to make a point to thank them.