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DIGGING OUT OF A HOLE TO BUILD A STRONGER

AMERICA
Back in 2000, Stacy Sass found herself facing a potential disaster that
threatened her and her family. How did she did out of this hole, and what
can your business learn from her experience?

Stacy’s parents had made bad decisions in their family business that resulted in it
being two million dollars in debt. Stacy was forced to make a choice: She could let
Cody Builders crumble and her parents suffer in the financial ruin (and Stacy lose
her inheritance), or, she could dive in and at least try to help save the crippled
company. Walking away might have been easiest, but Stacy wasn’t wired that way.

She took a bold breath and opted for the latter. There would be risk. Long hours.
Hard work… And unknown to Stacy, other pitfalls and disasters that lay ahead.

Nevertheless, Stacy went for it. And did it ever pay off.

Today that family business, Cody Builders in Austin, Texas, is the top metal
fabricator in North America. Last year they reached their highest-ever revenues,
topping at 14 million dollars.

Stacy’s “rags to riches” story is one that any business person can benefit from
knowing. Her rise toward prosperity wasn’t accidental or a matter of wand-waving.
Rather, Stacy’s ascent from the depths of near-bankruptcy came about, in the
main, by the application of specific administrative tools—tools that are available to
your business as well.

Cody Builders Supply Steel Group builds metal structures by the process of cutting,
bending and assembling metal, as well as attaching other component parts. It’s a
process that takes painstaking patience and precision. A centimeter error in
measurement could throw an entire project off, resulting in enormous waste of time
and money.

So, how exactly does one climb out of a two-million-dollar hole? Never
underestimate the value of a “bright idea.” And it was Stacy’s mother who had
come up with it. Her bright idea was to go after government contracts, as a
woman-owned business.
As Stacy puts it, “My mom thought that the government jobs would be recession
proof and would be available (in areas of the country) where economies were
blossoming. So, I immediately got to work on the “Woman-Owned Business”
requirements/submission packet.”

It worked. Soon, Cody Builders was bidding on government jobs and getting them.
But that was only a start. The company had to be reinvented from the ground up,
not only to get out of debt, but to deliver the quality products expected of them
with their new contracts.

BRIGHT IDEA PLUS ADMINSTRATIVE SYSTEM = SUCCESS

Before working Cody Builders full-time, Stacy had worked in an organization that
utilized L. Ron Hubbard administrative system, which familiarized her with business
expansion tools that would help her parents company. One of the techniques she
had learned with that organization was the utilization of games & rewards based on
statistics.

Just as the game of baseball wouldn’t exist without a means of measuring


production (keeping stats) Cody Builders was faltering for lack of keeping accurate
statistics.

Mr. Hubbard defines statistics in his article entitled “The Conditions—States of


Operation” as, “…numbers of things, measurement of volume, all relative to
time. A statistic not compared to the same type of statistic earlier will not
predict any future statistic.”

Simple. If a company produced 10 widgets in week one and 12 widgets in week


two, their statistic would be UP for week two. If they produced 8 widgets in week
two their statistic would be DOWN for that week. A statistic measures production.

Mr. Hubbard also stated in an article entitled “Rewards and Penalties—How to


Handle Personnel and Ethics Matters,”

“WHEN YOU REWARD DOWN STATISTICS AND PENALIZE UP STATISTICS


YOU GET DOWN STATISTICS.

“If you reward nonproduction you get nonproduction.

“When you penalize production you get nonproduction.”


So, Stacy got busy assigning statistics to various individuals and areas of the
company to measure production. “Home runs,” “hits” as well as “errors” were kept
track of and graphed. Once this foundation was in place, Stacy and her staff started
playing games toward the end of reaching production goals and rewarding “up
statistics.”

Stacy didn’t assume she knew the kind of rewards to offer her staff, so she
surveyed to find what would motivate them to reach company goals. After all, they
were the ones that did the work. Their input was important. It paid off. Her staff
reacted positively, and the stats went up.

BEATING CONFUSION BOOSTS PRODUCTION AND PROFITS

By its very nature, confusion scatters our attention, making it difficult (even
painful) to confront and handle a disordered area. Such an area in the workplace
can cripple a business.

Yet for a business to prosper, confusions must be fully confronted and handled. If
not, the result can be no production, disagreements among personnel, wasted time
and money, exhaustion and unhappy workers.

To handle the confusions that plagued Cody Builders, Stacy implemented “routing
forms and checklists,” which they now have for every process and project.

A routing form is a formal “to-do list” used to execute and document each
production step necessary to complete a project. With car manufacturing, for
example, one step on the production line routing form might say, “fit engine into
chassis.” Once that is checked off as done, the next item on the routing form might
say, “attach drive shaft to transmission,” etc.

Implementing routing forms and checklists greased the line for Cody, providing a
path for soaring production as shown by their statistics.

By the time 2013 arrived, Stacy and her parents had pulled the company out of
debt and reversed their down-trending business. The future looked bright.

A DISASTER OF A DIFFERENT NATURE STRUCK

Stacy lost both her parents.


As Stacy tells it, “After both of my parent’s untimely deaths in 2013, I carried on
running the company. But I’m not going to lie—the first year afterward was
rough. How could a company survive the death of both owners?”
According to Stacy, research shows only 30% of second generation family-owned
businesses survive into the second generation. If the pain of losing both parents
hadn’t been enough, the sudden absence of the two owners made it almost
impossible.

Again, Stacy turned to Mr. Hubbard’s administrative system to help her get through
this rough patch. “Another successful action that I implemented was the creation of
“hat packs” for every job,” says Stacy.

‘Hat is the “special duties someone does as part of his job, position or role.
The term comes from that fact that people such as firemen, policemen or
train conductors often wear special hats to indicate their jobs. A hat also
refers to the specific pack or material that a person needs to know to do
his job, also known as “wearing his hat.”’

Stacy explains, “Hat packs was one of the things that saved Cody after the untimely
passing of my parents. Had my mother not written up her excellent “Estimator
Hat,” while still alive, we’d be in a different position today.”

Most business owners have felt the pain of a productive staff member departing
and the organization faltering as a result. As Stacy advises, the solution is to have
staff members write up all their duties and successful actions in a hat pack as a
normal function of their jobs—before they leave.

Hat writeups are blueprints that form the bedrock foundation of a company, which
ultimately preserves that company’s stability.

One could argue that one reason 70% of second generation businesses fail is
because the first generation didn’t write up every aspect of their individual jobs in
the form of a hat pack.

By Stacy’s mother having written up all the know-how and duties of her hat as an
estimator, Stacy was able to keep that function of her business running smoothly
after her mother was gone.

PURPOSE DETERMINES OUTCOME


Another reason second generation businesses may fail is because the children who
take over the business may not have the same purpose as their parents, or a
strong enough purpose to make the businesses expand, or even survive. This is not
the case with Stacy.

“We are proud of the role our company plays in this nation, creating the
infrastructure for now and the future. We are also mindful that our own expansion
and longevity depends upon the mutual success of our customers,
providers, employees and community. As such, our goals extend beyond the scope
of just what we do, but also how we do it.
“Our purposes are:
“To help build a stronger America.
“To establish and develop partnerships that create prosperity for all.
“To inspire initiative, creativity and growth.”

Games and rewards, bright ideas, hat packs and strong purposes all contribute to
Cody Builders leading the metal fabrication pack today. But there is yet another
piece of the puzzle that had everything to do with Cody’s expansion.

IMPRECISION CAN COST LIVES

For most of us, if we make an error on the job we can easily fix it with minimal
damage. For Cody Builders, the slightest error can result in a tragedy. “If we don’t
do our job right,” says Stacy, “cities and communities don’t run right which, in turn,
would cause massive problems. Case in point: if the water treatment plant doesn’t
produce clean water, if a bridge were to collapse under its load, if a subway tunnel
were to collapse under its load…”

In other words, safety requires great precision.

“GOD IS IN THE DETAILS”

A vital element of Cody’s success lies in the precision of their work

The quote “God is in the details” implies that great works require “god-like”
attention to the details—those minute executions that, in themselves, are
practically invisible yet elevate the entire work to a near “spiritual experience” when
viewed as a whole.
The statement originated with famous German/American architect, Mies van der
Rohe and it certainly applies to great works of metal fabrication.

The need for precise details in metal fabrication is so great that it necessitated that
Stacy place heavy emphasis in building a Quality Control division. “We have
invested in a 3-man Quality control team which is unusual for our size company.
Our duplication of customer plans must be exact, our margin of error is so, so
slight! Steel fabrications can’t bend or stretch, so we must be 100% ‘on’—we can’t
be “off” a few inches, an inch, or a ½ inch!”

Incidentally, the other quote Mies van der Rohe made famous is “less is more.” This
too relates to the success of Cody Builders, a strong Quality Control division,
routing forms and the implementation of statistics has created a “less is more” work
environment.

EXTENDING THE SCOPE OF RESPONSIBILITY

Cody does not only assure all their work is correct from within the company, but
they also take responsibility for people on the outside. Stacy has noted that, in
general, skilled labor may not be what it once was in terms of precision and quality
of work. “The skilled labor force has definitely been declining in its skill sets over
the years. We oftentimes get blueprint drawings from clients that are wrong and we
have to re-do them so that they are correct and up to standard.”

Bottom line: when you are responsible for the bridges people drive on, the stairs
they walk, the structures over their heads and hundreds of other infrastructure
applications you go the extra mile to be precise in all your work and deliver the
highest quality products possible. It’s what Stacy and her now 80-man team do at
Cody Builders. Achieving that level of quality does not only involve drawing
blueprints or pounding metal, it includes dozens of precise administrative actions
behind the scenes, actions that include managing staff with statistics, keeping them
motivated with games and rewards, having all staff members write up and maintain
a hat pack, being dedicated to a lofty and strong purpose and other administrative
actions. In the end, these admin actions have not only helped pay off Cody’s
staggering debt but has benefited all their customers around the country who are
enjoying a higher quality of life because of the fine work that Cody Builders
produces.

BUILDING A STRONG AMERICA SIDE BAR


• In New York City, the beautiful new entrance for the Metropolitan Transit
Authority train station at Buhre Ave. (picture) was fabricated by Cody
Builders.
• In San Francisco, Cody supplied over 150 Truckloads of fabricated steel --
permanent struts and wales for support of excavation for the Union Square
Market Street subway station. (picture)

• Additionally, in San Francisco Cody built $3 million worth of stainless steel


structural tube braces and framing for the Sunset Reservoir North Basin, and
Seismic Retrofit for the SFPUC. Each seismic strut brace had to be tailor-made
to specific locations within the reservoir and carefully coordinated
with existing field conditions. (picture).

• In Oakland, the new California trail exhibit is slated to open in 2018 at the
Oakland Zoo. Cody fabricated the beautiful canopy above the Bison exhibit.
(picture).

Pursuing Purpose Over Success Pays Off

It's true that none of us live in a bubble. What we do with our lives and businesses
can have long-ranging effects—effects that we often don’t even see.

Stacy’s determination to keep the family business going has had a long-ranging
effect, not only on her family, but on all the people she employees, all the
companies that Cody does projects for and the millions of people across America
who benefit from Cody’s projects, from California, to Texas to New York.

Stacy’s decision to dig out of a hole of staggering debt and apply workable
administrative actions to her business has truly resulted in a stronger America.

__________________

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