Launch Slideshow

Image

A Tale of Two Families

A Tale of Two Families

  • Image

    http://www.theconcreteproducer.com/Images/tmp222%2Etmp_tcm77-1294454.jpg?width=300

    true

    Image

    300

    Jenna Bodnar/Getty Images

    Bill and Debbie Harper say all 50 employees of Harper Concrete Inc. have the same opportunities as family members.

  • Image

    http://www.theconcreteproducer.com/Images/tmp223%2Etmp_tcm77-1294456.jpg?width=300

    true

    Image

    300

    Jenna Bodnar/Getty Images

    Dale Garrett bought an existing ready-mix plant and started Garrett Ready Mix in Sparwood, British Columbia. His wife, Judy, is company president and Dale is secretary.

  • Image

    http://www.theconcreteproducer.com/Images/tmp224%2Etmp_tcm77-1294459.jpg?width=300

    true

    Image

    300

    Garrett Ready Mix

    Once a mining community, Fernie Snow Valley has become a major ski and golf destination. Garrett Ready Mix pours footings for a restaurant at the Fernie Alpine Resort.

Recreation boom

Since Dale, Judy, and a couple of drivers started Garrett Ready Mix, they have grown their fleet to 20 ready-mix and pump trucks. The recreation boom in the area is expected to continue, with two major golf courses and new subdivisions planned, on top of Garrett's regular work on the ski hills and five remaining coal mines.

To meet the demand, the Garretts now have 10 full-time and several part-time employees. Among them are their son, Marty, 38, and daughter, Lauralea, 36, who have been involved since they were teenagers.

Marty, a full-time supervisor/foreman, has 20 years invested in the company and has diverse responsibilities, including public relations and running pump trucks. He believes that their secret to successfully working together is they simply get along. “The work is 24/7, but it keeps the machine running,” he says. “We have Sunday dinners where we'll recap things that happened during the week and make plans.”

The Garretts' small community in the southeastern corner of British Columbia also serves as an extension of the family business. “We are always working to promote the business and help customers, even if it's someone we run into at the grocery store,” says Marty. “That's how it works in a tightknit community. It helps our company expand. The local businesses support each other like a family.”

The accountant

Lauralea, the fourth Garrett family member, fills in part time for her mother. Although she works full time as an accountant for another construction company, she has been around the family business long enough to keep the operation running.

Marty would like to see the operation remain in the family. “I honestly can't imagine doing anything else,” he says. He wonders how the business will change when his parents retire. “Right now, we're a well-oiled machine. What happens when you take two of those parts away?” Marty asks.

Dale has a different concern. “As husband and wife, you have to discuss and work things out, but brothers and sisters can clash,” he explains

They all agree that experienced, qualified employees will be critical to the company's future. “We've had so much growth in the area, that one or two people can't run the business anymore,” says Judy. “I wouldn't want our children to run it by themselves without help.”

They also know it takes more than family dedication for a successful ready-mix business to survive. The Garretts have been careful to expand conservatively. At times, they could have grown with more equipment or even started a satellite plant, but they've decided to be more conservative.

“You have to cover your expenses first, and then see if you have enough money for your own wages,” says Dale. “A lot of small companies go broke because they don't leave enough money for expenses. We buy what we need but stay within our means.” Garrett Ready Mix owns its assets outright and has kept debt to a minimum.