Barry Schlouch. I’d heard his name hundreds of times from dozens of people, seen his posts on Facebook and LinkedIn countless more times. I wondered how someone had time to run a successful company and post that much on social media. I wanted to meet him.
I went to the Fishpond for a political fundraiser and shook hands and exchanged business cards with lots of nice people. Then, I saw him. Barry Schlouch. He was busy talking with people, so I waited. And waited. He was talking with everyone. By the end of the night, I still hadn’t talked to him, so as I saw him leaving, I raced out after him, like a groupie chasing a rockstar.
He turned and flashed me a big grin and stuck out his hand so I could shake it.
He gave me his card and asked that I reach out to him.
The man, his family, and his team built an incredible 270-person construction operation. He’s known in the area for construction, but his passion isn’t building roads - it’s building people. Barry shared with me three concepts of success that help his business continue to grow, and in sharing his thoughts on business, I learned about what he believes about life.
My Morning at Schlouch
When I walked into the Schlouch Inc. headquarters, my retinas were struck instantly with color. Paintings were surrounded by awards and certificates, the walls were bright, the sunlight shone in from the windows magnificently, the tiles of the floor looked like an elementary school more than a construction company. Even the bowl of Lifesavers on the table screamed forth with myriad colors.
“Ed, how are ya?!” Barry’s voice boomed as he burst into the waiting area.
Barry exudes energy in a way that lets you know that the world comes his way.
“Let me show you around!”
“The windows, they let in sunlight. Sunlight brings energy - innovation! The art helps us to innovate. Why don’t we have pictures of bulldozers everywhere, like any other construction company? Because that doesn’t inspire anything!”
“People think they need to read books about business…” Barry shook his head, “People should be writing their book instead.”
The training room is huge, with seating for 70 people, three projectors and a whiteboard that spans the length of a whole wall. Color is everywhere, shining forth from the paintings on every wall, signed by the artist, Deb Schlouch.
Barry grabbed a marker and bounded to the whiteboard wall.
Energy is contagious; it comes from purposeful, passionate living. It overflows from a person. I’ve met few people with more energy than Barry Schlouch. His voice booms. He doesn’t walk - he bounces and bounds from place to place with an enthusiasm from a different world. His energy fuels his constant search for the next level of greatness. He uses social media more effectively than a millenial, he talks about business concepts as would Peter Drucker or Steve Covey, then switches to art and philosophy as only a wise man could.
He shared his ideas about business freely and happily. Those concepts were threefold. They are, I believe, intimately linked. They focus on individuals, value, and culture, respectively.
Barry is a pure-hearted free market enthusiast. He never said this, but his philosophy on business, as well as his success, proves it. He believes in paying people fairly, just as he believes in charging fairly. Fairness to Barry means to be paid based on the value (skills) that you bring to the table.
He trains and retains. The individuals at Barry’s company are paid for their skills. The three skill levels are Entry, Intermediate and Advanced.
For Barry, as skills increase, so does pay.
Barry’s proudest statement of the day came when he told me that his very first employee still works for him. That employee is happy and has a thriving family 3 decades in the making, including a medical doctor daughter and business executive son.
“When the families are doing well, it means we have something special here.”
Barry charges his customers the same way he pays his employees. His formula is simple:
Skills + Service = Value.
His company value is based on the summation of his 270 employees. The skills of those people must continually increase for his service to improve. Barry is confident in his team’s ability to finish projects ahead of schedule, and he will charge for that service because he knows his team has the skills to come through. Customers, in turn, are willing to pay for that value.
Some companies try to increase their prices, but they can’t just start with that, if they expect success. Value cannot surpass skills and service. If you want to charge more, Barry says, increase your skills!
Barry lifted his red marker to the whiteboard one last time and said, “Company culture, Ed. It’s what makes uswho are we are.”
Anyone can be successful in the short term by savvy business and smooth talking, but those people won’t be around in 100 years.
Company culture is based on the most simple of human relationships - it’s based on helping one another. We can’t help or be helped when we don’t have trust, and trust is built on caring.
Care is never stagnant, it’s always either growing or diminishing. If we grow how much we care, then trust, we reach new levels of helping one another. Company culture starts with caring.
Barry doesn’t talk about it so much as live it. Barry knows I’m not a potential customer. Barry cares about caring. And Barry proved that he cares about me enough to spend an hour sharing.
Constant caring and learning are the building blocks of success at Schlouch Inc. As employees care about each other and are cared for by management and ownership, they begin to buy in to the company culture. The Schlouch team trusts and therefore helps one another.
They help each other to increase their skills, which increases their service and equates to a better collective company value. On a personal level as they grow and add skills, they see their pay increase.
“Al Boscov would say, ‘Success is never one person’ and he was right.”
A great entrepreneur is an artist, a thinker, a philosopher. An entrepreneur is in the business of building people up to all they can be. Of maximizing and realizing the potential of the human beings around them and training and enabling them to get there. Entrepreneurs grow themselves and others. Do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to Barry Schlouch or his team.