DEVELON customers and business owners share their stories and pieces of advice.
Whether you’re starting a new business or stepping up to continue a family legacy, innovation and grit are musts in today’s ever-changing landscape. Meet five business owners sharing their victories and hard-won advice.
Lessons From 5 Standout DEVELON Customers
Michael Harmon, Harmon Ag, LLC, Alleman, Iowa
How long have you been in agriculture?
Our family settled in Iowa in the late 1860s. Recently, the farm achieved Heritage Farm status, marking 150 years.
What makes your farm unique in central Iowa?
We provide custom seed work and farm 6,000 acres, and we partner with our neighbor for a custom harvest crew, harvesting between 5,000 and 8,000 acres of seed corn annually.
What’s a piece of advice that guides the way you farm?
Do the best job you possibly can and take care of the ground.
What’s the biggest challenge right now in your line of agriculture, and how are you overcoming it?
A lot of people don’t want to work. Others want to be paid more than they're willing to work for. We are fortunate to have some of the best guys we’ve ever had, and we treat them well.
How do you carry on the legacy of your family’s business while leaving your own mark?
I use two drones for field work: one for scouting and a RedEdge camera drone for NDVI and near-infrared imagery to assess plant health.
I wouldnʼt trade anything for this.”
Melissa Britt, Britt Demolition & Recycling, Hanceville, Alabama
Your father founded Britt Demolition 47 years ago. Did you always plan to join the family business?
I have a master’s degree in elementary education, so I could either teach or work with my dad, Tommy Britt. I’ve loved working with my dad since I was 18 and wanted to pursue it full-time. As superintendent, I get to lead a crew and see a project start to finish.
What innovation have you brought to Britt Demolition’s operations?
Our company salvages nonferrous metal — copper, brass, aluminum, stainless steel. I came up with different ways of getting materials out faster and more efficiently.
What makes your demolition business unique in your community?
As a demolition business, we’re constantly working in different states. We hire people from those communities to help us get the job done. And their families hear about it and want to work for us.
What’s your biggest challenge to overcome in this season for Britt Demolition?
Organization. As our family business takes on more jobs and adds more equipment, I'm trying to make it more structured.
What’s a piece of advice that’s guided the way you work?
As a female in a male-dominated industry, I’ve learned to not let emotions get in the way and to find something new to learn every day. I’ve worked hard over the years to not just fit in, but to stand out. The guys respect me.
I’ve worked hard over the years to not just fit in, but to stand out.”
Jack Henderson-Adams, Western Earthworks, Florence, Massachusetts
Tell us about how you started your construction firm.
Western Earthworks was built from nothing: I had no inheritance or nest egg. I financed two trucks the same day, borrowed money for my first piece of equipment and had $200 to my name. Our success has come from learning every aspect of site work the hard way.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Be open to questioning everything. Then trust yourself and your decisions. Otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What’s it mean to run a forward-thinking construction business in 2023?
We’ve been in business now for over eight years, and we’ve put a lot of effort into being forward-facing. This includes getting younger individuals involved in the construction industry and showing them how big of a world it is. If someone has integrity, is accountable and has a positive attitude, I can turn any role I have into an opportunity. Many of our employees came to us at age 18 knowing nothing about the industry. We pride ourselves in giving them the tools and training to become a vital part of our organization.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your line of work, and how are you overcoming it?
We’re a smaller business, so keeping work in the pipeline and gauging our growth can be a challenge. We keep tabs on our size but always want to be available to take on new projects and seek out new relationships. Every project that comes in via phone, text, email or website is an opportunity that we try to pursue.
What made you decide to enter this line of business, and what experience from your past career carried over?
I grew up in an educator household, but I’ve always gravitated toward things that make noise: If it’s got wheels or tracks and a motor, I’m all over it. I was a competitive downhill skier when I was 18. But, I’ve always come back to the construction industry. I have a love for running equipment and seeing what has been accomplished at the end of the day. I don’t know what else I’d want to be doing.
How did you go about establishing your business in the community?
We’ve built customer relationships from our reputation and integrity. We work in different states, so we go out of our way to seek vendors and relationships with those in the local community.
Shane Hiett, Hiett Logging, Alger, Washington
How long has your family been logging in Washington state?
My grandfather founded the company in 1953, and I’m the third generation of our family to work in the industry. It’s rewarding but also stressful. It’s what our family’s known for, and it’s how I’ve grown up and how my dad grew up.
What makes your forestry business stand out in the community?
Although we specialize mostly in clearcut-type logging, we do a little bit of everything — from road maintenance and land claiming for property to site prep and taking down hazardous trees.
Any tips for entering a family business?
My parents encouraged me to pursue an education after high school, and I attended a technical school and earned welding certifications. If it didn’t work out in the logging industry, I had something to fall back on.
What are the adversities in your industry? And what pushes you to overcome them?
A lot of it has to do with the log markets. We try to make the best of what we’re handed, get our day in and go back home to our families. Logging is in my blood. I really enjoy coming out every day, working and seeing the different scenery, like the animals and sunrises. It’s rewarding. I enjoy running equipment and watching a job from start to finish.
Gabriel Shemper, Homestead Services, LLC, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
You specialize in transforming properties. What do you take the most pride in?
I enjoy transforming a customer’s property from pine trees into a beautiful driveway and a house lot.
What sets Homestead Services apart in south Mississippi?
We’re not a big company. Most of what we do is residential and commercial work. I work with residents who have 10 or 15 acres and want to build a road, install a pond or create a new house site.
What’s the biggest day-to-day challenge for your small business?
One of the biggest challenges is maintaining equipment and finding help. We partner with our local dealer to help us maintain our construction equipment.
How did you catch the bug for this line of work?
Growing up, my family had a scrapyard. I’ve always been around heavy equipment. I worked on pipeline projects for about seven years before I decided to go into business for myself. This is all I know how to do.
Share a piece of wisdom you’ve picked up on the job.
The main thing in business is to be honest. Don’t beat anybody out of anything. Be fair.
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I’ve worked hard over the years to not just fit in, but to stand out.”