From a young age, Barry Schlouch wanted to be the best at the task at hand. “I grew up on a farm and wanted to be the best farmer I could be. Now, I’m not farming today, but I got a lot out of it,” he says.
Barry started Schlouch Incorporated in 1983 in the basement of his home, with his wife, Deb, and $2,000. “I was 25 years old when we started and I was blessed to start very young,” says Barry. Starting as an excavation and pipe contractor and moving into concrete in 2000, Schlouch Incorporated now does commercial flatwork and footers in addition to slipform curb and sidewalk work.
So how did Barry decide that Power Curbers equipment was a good fit? “You put good people with a good product and it made for a pretty easy decision. We ran that first machine 14 years ago and installed tens of thousands of lineal feet of quality curb. With a very strong workload, it was an easy decision again because we knew we could get the quality and reliability with the machine.”
The private company of 220 employees has seen their share of tough times through the economic downturn. “Back in 2006, we were a 375-employee company and then the recession hit and I’m just happy for what we have,” Barry says. “We’ve come through it so much better, stronger, and more efficient. We had to come to the realization very quick that the demand was way down. Back then, we were approaching 2,000,000 new homes built per year in the US. That dropped within 2 years to under 500,000 new homes – a million and a half homes sucked out of the economy in a 2-year period. All those jobs, all that need was gone, and we realized we had to look at what we were really good at to be able to compete in that completely different economy.”
What Schlouch’s team excelled in was more than just producing a quality product. They got good at budget management, and at delivering on tight deadlines with a reduced workforce. “You had to be very, very good at everything, plus work at a low price,” says Barry. “We sold some equipment off and worked at prices that were much lower than what we were accustomed to. We were able to turn the company around into a profitable company again, and here we are today.”
Barry acknowledges that surviving the tough times wouldn’t have been possible without his entire team. “I think we are all in more of a state of gratitude for what we have because we’ve seen times like that. We’re all blessed that we’re here and that we have a company.”
Building morale at Schlouch Inc. is key to maintaining a positive workplace. “I think what motivates our team is recognition and thanking them for the things they do well. We track promotions and and we go out to the jobsite and present certificates for anniversaries. It’s the little details, the relationships that matter most.” Barry says.
In 2000, the state of Pennsylvania recognized Schlouch Incorporated as the best place to work in Pennsylvania (in the over 250 employee category). “75% of the ranking came from employee feedback sent directly to the state. It was a good affirmation that we were doing some of the right things,” says Barry.
He also recognizes how having to adapt to the tough times has strengthened the company for the long haul. “We have become a lot better to compete in a better market. We are much better with our service because clients are looking for people that can deliver. We can leverage all these efficiencies from the tough times to help our clients and help our company today.”
Barry also teaches workshops on business development, employee retention, and other best practices to business owners around the country. “The nice thing about doing it is that I have to review our practices every time I do it. So it keeps me current and makes me rethink things – gives me new ideas for ways to advance what we’re already doing,” says Barry.
Barry’s team took delivery of their new 5700-C in March and the curb crew celebrated the occasion with strawberry pie and a visit from Power Curbers’ Regional Service Manager Terry Duncan. “Terry was at our facility the day the machine showed up. He was on site training us until we got it right – he was with us all the way.” Barry says, “That’s the kind of people Power Curbers has – which makes for longevity in the relationship. We’ve been at it for 14 years now with consistency along the way. You know you’re going to get taken care of which gives us peace of mind.”
Whether he’s singing “Happy Birthday” to his crew members or inspiring them to meet a client’s demands, Barry Schlouch knows what it takes to be successful in business. “Do what you have to do, with the tools that you have. I’m constantly on a mission of curiosity and perfection,” he says. “I wanted to be the best farmer, the best laborer, the best surveyor, the best construction foreman, and then the best business person. And I’m still working at that one.”
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