Spotlight – Jeff Schuessler and Ben Wallace, Owners, Site Barricades
DALLAS/FT WORTH – Friendship, a solid business partnership and their valued team of employees are the keys to success for Jeff Schuessler and Ben Wallace, the owners of Site Barricades. Their approach seems to be working; their company is rapidly growing and is even being recognized in their community.
How did you team up and start your company, Site Barricades?
Jeff: Ben and I have both worked in the industry in different aspects – although not in barricades – for a while, and actually had worked together for a couple of years prior to starting Site Barricades. Ben owned a cabinet manufacturing facility, so he was on the residential side. I pursued other ventures in the construction industry for several years, and decided that the barricade business was the next venture I wanted to become involved with.
Ben and I had kept in touch after I left his business and we decided to go into business together. I pitched the idea to Ben, since he had previous small business experience as a company owner. We planned for about a year and a half and formed Site Barricades in 2014.
Even though you had each other to help you through any challenges, was starting this new venture what you expected it to be?
Jeff: In certain aspects, absolutely, and in other aspects, no. There is a joke that Ben and I often make, that we both are a CEO and a project manager and a janitor, wearing all of the hats – that part we expected when we started.
Something that surprised me, and I’m sure Ben as well, is that just answering your phone, being where you say you’re going to be when you’re going to be there, and doing the basic things has proved to be the most valuable business practice we’ve had.
Ben: Yes, it was what I expected, although the day-to-day administrative tasks soon became overwhelming, so we learned early that we had to get help with that. In my previous experience in the cabinet business, I had already gone through a lot that Jeff hadn’t experienced, so that part to me wasn’t quite as much as a surprise as it was to Jeff.
One of the things I didn’t expect was the growth rate. We were in a bit of a “hurry-up” mode when it came to hiring just to keep up with the business that we were getting. We were getting that rapid business growth because we were doing what we were saying we were going to do and getting a great response from all of the people we were talking to. We were making sure the opportunities we were getting weren’t just opportunities but the beginning of relationships. With every customer, we do our very best to treat each customer like they were our first. Three and a half years later, we still have personal relationships with a large majority of our customers.
What do you feel the other partner brings to the table in this business?
Ben: Jeff and I have commented multiple times, “Can you imagine us doing this without a partner?” We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the partnership side of it. It requires so much trust, so much time and so much energy where we can divide and conquer. What Jeff brought to the table was the experience side of this specific industry and simplifying it not only for me but simplifying it for everyone that works for us.
Jeff: Ben leans on me for different aspects of business, and I lean heavily on Ben for his business acumen. He’s had the experience in running a small business. It doesn’t matter if he’s selling widgets or barricades; he applies his previous experience with it and brings a lot to the table in knowing what to expect starting out.
I echo Ben on what he said about the partnership: There is no way we would be where we are today if I had started this by myself, or if Ben started this by himself. It’s been a true partnership.
Ben: One thing is that we both brought good relationships to the table. Everything that we do and everything that we touch, we rely on our relationships that we either currently have or that we can go get. We want our customers and clients to know that we value our relationship with them more than we do the business.
Ben: We also value our employees, especially our management staff. We would not be here without them. We were really fortunate to find the right group and we’re still going to build on that.
Jeff: It’s clear we wouldn’t be here without our employees. We have the best employees in the barricade industry. Without them, it doesn’t matter how smart Ben and I are, what kind of contacts we have or what kind of relationships we have. We wouldn’t be here without them and their loyalty.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to start a business in the construction industry?
Ben: The difference between a small business owner’s success and failure is too broad to say. But I would say, with apologies to Nike, if you’re not going to do it, quit talking about it.
Jeff: Bring your work gloves and lunchbox to work every day. Also, be prepared to do whatever it takes to get your business off of the ground. Whether it is picking up a hammer or punching a calculator, be prepared to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Ben: And know every aspect of your business.
What do you enjoy about your work?
Jeff: Every day is truly different. We don’t have a typical day, a typical job or a typical customer. Every customer needs something different and every job requires something different. I guess that’s what I like most.
Ben: What I like most is the uniqueness of each day and the relationships that we build, not only with our customers but also with our employees.
Jeff: We really don’t see our employees as employees as much as we see them as co-workers.
With the company growing at such a fast rate, do you have time to have fun and bond with your employees?
Jeff: All of the time! In fact, we probably do it to a fault. Whether it’s cookouts, going to the rodeo, hunting trips, concerts, parties at the office, or the soccer game we had last weekend in the yard, we do our best to build and maintain the morale within the different facets of the operations side.
With so much work to do, and so much fun to be had in the office, what do you do when you have time outside of the office?
Jeff: I have a wife and three kids, and Ben has a wife and two kids, so most of our time outside of work is spent with our families, whether it is baseball or basketball or coaching. That’s what the bulk of our time is spent on. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing anyway. As far as clear-the-mind-get-away kind of stuff, Ben and I both like to hunt, and Ben spends a lot of time in the outdoors.
Ben: My family is the same as Jeff’s; when we get off of work, I don’t have many things to do that don’t include my family. It revolves around whatever they are involved in. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors with my two kids and teaching them that aspect of it as well as being involved in their sports activities.
What is your goal for Site Barricades?
Jeff: The goal is to build something sustainable that is going to be around for a long time and for generations, for our kids and for our employees’ kids. We want to create a family-type environment where we treat this as a true family business, outside of just Ben and me, as something that is going to be around for a long time.
Ben: We want to create an environment and a place to employ families. We have 25-30 employees; that is 30 families that we care about, and with the average family being three people, that is 90-100 people that we are trying to feed through this. We want to be able to do it more and continue to get better. It keeps us feeling like we need to do the work, and it elimin-ates the complacency.
Do you have exciting news to share about Site Barricades?
Jeff: On Feb. 20, we are one of three finalists for “Small Business of the Year” for the city of Fort Worth. After only three-and-a-half years in business, we weren’t anticipating that. It’s a big deal, and we’re really excited about it!
Site Barricades in Fort Worth is a full-service traffic control and barricade company. –mjm