As our 40th anniversary comes to a close, we are taking a look back at ProcessBarron’s 1st 4 decades. We sat down with Ashley Doyal to talk about his experience growing up around ProcessBarron and his more than 27 years as part of the team. Ashley’s father, Jerry Doyal, was 1 of the 5 founders back in 1981.
The following was taken from our interview.
ProcessBarron’s First Forty Years
Building a new company requires a lot of sacrifices. Founders often put in long hours and miss paychecks as they try to get their business off the ground. For ProcessBarron, there were other sacrifices that often went unnoticed.
I can’t remember a family vacation when we didn’t have customers with us. Or my dad would be gone 3 days out of the vacation making calls to paper mills down on the coast.
We are blessed by the foundation they laid and the sacrifices they made. They did whatever they had to do to survive and to make sure the company was going to survive.
Dad helped start a company in the mid-70s called Barron Industries. They did emergency repairs and rebuilds. After building it up, the founders sold Barron Industries to a publicly-traded company. Unfortunately, under the new leadership, their service quality dropped and their delivery times increased. Then the company that bought Barron Industries went bankrupt, and the stock wasn’t worth anything. Several of the original Barron Industries owners realized their retirement had gone to zero, so they decided to start a new company as soon as their non-competes allowed. That company was created in 1981 and called Process Equipment. (Note: Eventually, Process Equipment would acquire Barron Industries and change the name to ProcessBarron.)
But getting started was tough. By the time 1985 arrived, my father was sending out resumes. They were worried they wouldn’t make it over the hump. Back then, more than 85% of their business came through pulp and paper, and when you are focused on one industry, you ride with them through the peaks and the valleys. But the founders stuck with it and found ways to keep it afloat.
The Original Cast
Our original owners all had their niche.
Our original CEO, Jim Woods, was an accountant. He was the finance guy.
Bob Perry ran the engineering group.
My father, Jerry Doyal, was a sales guy. He could sell to anybody. He was also an engineer, but he had a way with people.
A.T. Scott was on the production side.
M.C. Davis was the shop manager.
And all five guys were also out there looking for opportunities and selling.
They all coexisted and had their strengths, and very few of their strengths overlapped. The main thing was they just wouldn’t give up. They had 2nd mortgages on their houses, but they stuck with it until things finally started to take off in the late 80s.
I started here in 1994 in the estimating group. The sales guys would drop a request on the file cabinet, and I would grab it. Now we have a team of product managers with specific expertise to help with quoting.. They understand their products, and they know how to quote it.
But our sales guys also know a lot about our products. They can answer most of the questions, but the product managers are always available to answer questions while the sales guys are out in the field.
Our sales guys grew up in the product groups. Joe Waite was the director of materials handling. Brian Buchanon was also the director of materials handling. They can actually walk into a plant and spot opportunities to improve uptime and efficiency. We hear over and over again that our salespeople have expertise that none of our competitors can match. That’s a big advantage to bringing salespeople up through the product groups.
Our salespeople build real relationships with our customers. A lot of times they don’t even get a hotel room, because our customer will say, “Stay with me!” Our customers trust us because they know that we will be there for them when they need something at 2 am. I remember a few years ago when I had a wrecked fan wheel arriving on a truck from Atlanta at 2 am. Dale Aldridge ran one of our engineering groups, and he met the truck at the shop to get the drawings ready. There wasn’t much I could do to help, so I worked in my office for a while and then went back down to the shop around 5 am. Dale said, “I’m about to finish these drawings up. Go on home.” So I went home and got a few hours of sleep. I came back in around 9 am thinking, “I only got 3 hours of sleep”, and there was Dale, wearing the exact same clothes he had been wearing when I left him. He’d worked the whole night through because he didn’t have anyone in his group who could come in, so he did it himself. My father and our original owners instilled that in all of us. We do what it takes. When our customer has an emergency, we spring into action.
Being here for 27 years means quite a bit to me. I’ve been here for 70% of the life of the company. One of our salespeople has been here since day one, and several people out in the shop have as well. Being with a company for this long creates a unique understanding of not only the business, but of the industry and the people involved. That means quite a bit to me and the rest of the employees around here. We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years.
A.T. Scott retired in the mid-nineties. Then M.C. Davis retired, and my father retired in 1999.
Ken Nolen, who had been my boss for years, took over as President. He’s seen us through all kinds of changes as we took on a private equity partner to buy out the original partners so we could concentrate ownership on people who are actively working in the business today. We’ve continued to develop leaders, but we’ve also brought in some new leadership from outside the company. All of this has helped us grow to serve our customers better.
We don’t know what the future holds, but we know that the things that got us through in the past will prepare us for the future. I mean two years ago, we would have said, ‘what in the hell is COVID’. It’s been tough, but we made it work.
To this day, everything goes out of our shop with a “Made In America” sticker. Competing against overseas competitors is challenging, and if purchasing makes a decision just based on the sticker price, it’s tough to compete. But the engineers out on the floor can see the difference in what we deliver. And getting something from Thailand can take 18 months. Our commitment is to deliver as fast as possible and to provide better long-term ROI even if we aren’t the cheapest up front.
The 40th Anniversary
We’ve had very little turnover in my 27 years, and that makes for a remarkable team. You can’t sell anything unless it’s built properly. You can’t build something unless it’s engineered properly. It takes everybody. We all work together. It’s like a family, and that makes it easy to come to work. Everybody makes their contribution, and it’s always been that way.
I’m hoping that a lot of folks who have retired or moved on will come back for the 40th anniversary so we can celebrate all the people who’ve contributed to our success over the decades.
Contact us to learn more about working with ProcessBarron.