Family values

30 April 2008

Throughout the Depression, PSC fiourished by focusing primarily on demolition work and dismantling factories. Then, business boomed during and immediately after World War II. Earl F Sever, Jr. kept the company going, largely through his diligence and determination, even though there were some rough periods in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Earl F “Lynn”Sever III started working for the company in the 1960s and began purchasing lift trucks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, along with cranes in the mid-1970s.

Lynn helped PSC remain solvent by selling a money-draining steel fabrication division to focus on the crane and rigging business. His wife Nancy joined in the early 1980s to help manage the business through a transition period. She is the treasurer of PSC.

By the mid-1990s, the company had begun to grow a little rusty. Through its dedication to quality, PSC continued to enjoy a loyal clientele, but the company grew complacent about pursuing growth opportunities. It also failed to incorporate modern technologies and business practices, clinging instead to systems little changed since the company began.

New generation

Enter James R “Jim” and Earl F “Randy”Sever IV. In 1996 Jim came on board first, having just earned a business management degree from Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. “I decided even before high school that I definitely wanted to get a college degree, then come back and use what I'd learned to help the family business,”he says.

Having quickly absorbed the company's business management philosophy he began exploring opportunities to use computer technology to strengthen fiscal reporting, estimating, scheduling, marketing and more. He also brought in new concepts, for example, ways to empower middle management and field employees. “We needed to let those individuals grow and create an environment where everybody's pulling together for the same cause,”he says. “We had to do more to give them confidence so they could use their own ideas to make better decisions. We're still working to make that happen more and more.”

At the same time, he was careful not to discard important principles about the business learned from his father, Lynn, and from his grandfather, Earl, Jr. “Dad always said,‘If we don't take care of our customers, someone else will,’ ”he notes. “That's still our motto.”

Randy Sever took a less direct route to PSC Crane & Rigging. Although he is four years older than Jim, he joined the company a year later, in 1997. A civil engineering major, he attended Tri-State University, Angola, Indiana, before transferring to Ohio State University in Columbus. His education ended after his junior year when a summer internship for M/I Homes in Columbus, one of the nation's leading home builders, turned into a well paid full time job. After three years, his grandfather approached him and asked, “So, when are you getting back into the family business?”

Although Randy Sever had not given much thought about returning to the company, he suddenly recalled the good times he had spent at the plant. “As a kid, I was always intrigued by the business,”he says. “On summers and weekends, I was down here working every chance I could get. Coming back seemed like the right thing to do.”

Randy passed up the opportunity to enter the company at a mid-level management position, however, and instead entered the Ironworkers apprenticeship program. He tested into a third year apprenticeship and graduated in two years. “I just felt I needed to work in the field first to gain a practical, hands-on knowledge of the business, as well as to gain the respect of fellow ironworkers and operators,”he recalls.

Generation four

Although Lynn Sever (58) remains president of the company and Earl Sever, Jr. (84) continues to serve as CEO, the fourth generation team of Randy (35), vice president operations, and Jim (31), vice president controller, increasingly manage day-to-day operations. They all work together and live within a few blocks of one another.

“Our business has tripled since my brother and I joined the company, but that never would have happened without our father's guidance and our employees' dedication,”Randy points out. To handle the additional workload, PSC has updated and expanded its equipment inventory since 1998. Largest in the fleet are a new 500 ton capacity J&R Engineering gantry system, a 120 ton hydraulic truck crane and a 30 ton forklift with rigging boom and cable winch. As the company continues to grow, it is in the market for more, larger pieces of equipment.

Regardless of the equipment, the company continues to build on its original foundation of “hard work, dependable service, quality craftsmanship and honesty,”Randy says.

“We're in it for the long haul and never look at a job as a one-time opportunity,”he says. “We understand our customers' needs and have a knack for taking the personalized approach that gives them exactly the right solution.”

Field employees have, on average, more than 250 hours of classroom safety training. An outside safety firm conducts surprise safety audits. All crane and forklift operators are certified. Ironworkers undergo fire watch, man lift, fall protection, lead abatement, confined space, hazmat, and various other types of job-specific training. Employees are subject to a random drug testing program that also includes pre-employment and post-accident testing. Employees involved in near misses or accidents fill out a detailed accident report with suggestions for a procedure to avoid similar incidents. These reports are then reviewed with PSC's safety consulting firms and, later, with employees during monthly meetings.

Although PSC exclusively employs Ironworkers from Local 290 and Operators from Local 18, the company frequently works in non-union manufacturing environments. “They do not feel intimidated or threatened by us as a union contractor because we go in, get our job done, don't stir things up and prove our professionalism,”says Randy.

PSC employees have been with the company for an average of more than nine years. Randy and Jim look to strengthen the company by adding more young, highly educated employees with fresh ideas to its workforce of about 50.

Employee development

A prime example is a mechanical engineering major being groomed by Lynn Sever to maintain some of the excellent relationships he has built over 47 years in the business. “On several occasions we've teamed him up with a senior estimator who has 25 years in the trenches,”says Randy. “It turned out to be a win-win situation with both of them keeping very open-minded and learning from each other.”

The brothers say that they also have fortified their business by becoming increasingly involved with SC&RA and other organizations serving the industry. Jim serves on the SC&RA Crane & Rigging Group's Labor and Governing Committees; Randy is serving his second term as chairman of the Ironworkers Journeyman Apprenticeship Training Committee. “Through SC&RA, we have been afforded the luxury of joining forces with excellent, qualified rigging contractors throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada,”points out Randy. “Had we not been able to form these alliances, the costs would be astronomical for our customers. We're calling on more SC&RA member companies and vice versa than ever before.”

He stresses that PSC does not aspire to be among the industry's giants. “We want to manage our growth without losing the ability to provide the best possible service, safety and relationships with both our customers and our employees,” he says. “We've really accomplished a lot in the last seven or eight years, and we're looking forward to the next 20 years.”

By that time, the company should be about ready to welcome the fifth generation of Severs-Randy's sons, Earl (Brandyn) V and Hayden, and Jim's twin sons, Devon and Dylon.


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