Dutchland’s CEO and President was featured in the Business Section of the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. Highlights from the interview are listed below as well as a link to access the entire article.
What are some new ways you’re looking to grow the company?
Intellectual property. We’ve been doing what we do now for 30-some years, so we can take what we know about how to build a tank intelligently, that’s durable, with a long service length, and we can train other companies how to do that.
I would love to see us continue to take our intellectual property and continue to develop patents and to also be a technology provider.
That concept takes away the big limiting factor of hauling all of the precast to a long-distance job site.
What’s working well for Dutchland is to identify the right customers, the right projects. Knowing when to say no, which we never did before. The goal is not to “sell, sell, sell” more; the goal is to do “better, better, better” with what we have.
What are some things you’ve stopped doing?
Building commodity precast concrete, like manholes and the kind of things you see for stormwater in streets. We built a lot of those little boxes back in the day, but they’re very commodity driven, and it’s hard to make a profit.
We shed all of our trucks for shipping because today logistics companies are better at that than we’ve ever been.
We also used to do a lot of our own site work. We would have cranes and big excavators and things like that, but we got rid of all of that stuff. There are excavation companies who can do it for half of the price that we can.
What worries you about the future?
Last year in the political cycle that we were in, a lot of projects were slowing down. They were taking a pause, and it created a disruption in our business. That kind of thing worries me some. But diversification is a great answer to some forms of worry.
(Industrial) customers tend to be a lot more awake and active when municipal customers are slow and sleepy. (Industrial customers) have their own money. They’re doing their own thing for their own reasons, so they don’t think the same way a municipal customer may (think).
How do you find employees?
We mostly look inside, because we can train and teach anybody who has the ability to learn how to do their job.
I can tell you that we don’t have a problem finding good people. I’m mystified by that — I really am — because everybody else I know says exactly the opposite.
You do a lot of work for customers trying to meet requirements related to the Chesapeake Bay Initiative. How could you be impacted if changes are made to that federal program?
We think the regulatory side is going to relax, and I think that’s actually a good thing.
Today in wastewater, people are spending — because they have to — another 30 to 50 percent on their project to tweak it the last 2 or 3 percent in terms of what it will discharge. So it’s a big cost for that last tiny little adjustment.
If they do relax on some of those limits, more likely they’ll build more treatment plants in places where they otherwise couldn’t afford them, while having slightly less costly projects.
So where one door closes, maybe another one or two open. That’s how we think it’s going to play out.
Did you always expect to run the company one day?
Working for my dad growing up is how I experienced life. My brother was there, my sister was there, my father was there. We grew up working as a family unit.
My dad required us to get up at 4 o’clock every morning before school. We would put in about 2.5 hours of work. We would prepare the forms for concrete; the concrete trucks would roll in by about the time it was time for us to go get ready for school.
I have a great deal of respect for my dad. I still do. He simply said, “You can do better and make more money, if you do what I’m doing and grow it and go from there, than you can doing anything else.” And I believed it. And that’s what we did.