By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff
There is an analogy in the business world of tearing down “silos” within an organization to improve communications and teamwork. Martin Irving of L.J. Irving and Sons, Inc. in Napoleon, Ohio uses communication and teamwork to tear down literal silos.
“People want to do business with people they know and trust,” Martin said. “I like to visit with people and listen to their needs and then explain how we can take a problem they have, and find a solution to fix it. Listening and working together is how we have built our reputation.”
Finding solutions and fixing problems is what L.J. Irving and Sons has been doing since the business was started by Martin’s parents, Larry and Nelda Irving in the mid-1980s.
“The company started as a small mix of residential and commercial concrete work and demolition,” Martin said. “When my brother Larry and I came on board, we enjoyed the demolition side of things, and expanded the company. I have been doing this for 22 years and every job is unique.”
The business is a true picture of teamwork, with each brother playing to their unique strengths. “We are 50/50 partners in every sense,” said older brother Larry Irving. “Our personalities work great together for the business because we are opposites. Martin is great with ideas and talking to the customers and engineers and others involved in the decision-making process. I enjoy being on site and working with our guys to figure out how we are going to satisfy the customer. At the end of the day, that’s what it is about — a satisfied customer,” Larry said.
Looking down the road, the next generation is showing signs of the same chemistry.
“Martin has a son who can run the numbers and tell us exactly why something can or can’t work,” Larry said. “My son Logan is already working in the company as one of our equipment operators and really understands that side of the business.”
Trust, teamwork and open communications are important factors for the Irvings’ day-to-day operations.
“Trust is such an important factor in every job we do,” Martin said. “That trust is established over time. It is really about building relationships with our employees and customers. We have a great team of competent employees that have been with us for several years, and they take great care and pride in their work, and it shows. Some of the jobs we undertake involve risks, and having employees that are focused and pay close attention to detail, and communicate well is a necessity. Our customers realize that and appreciate it. We give the same level of care and attention to a job we do for a farmer or homeowner as we do for a large commercial facility.”
“Working with local farmers is like working with family,” said Larry. “We are just like the farmers. At the end of the day, no matter what unforeseen challenges come up, we need to figure out a way to get the job done.”
The teamwork extends beyond the employees of L.J. Irving and Sons.
“We consider the relationships we have built with other businesses as equally valuable,” Martin said. “Early on we met with our insurance company so they could understand what we do, and develop coverage to fit our needs and the needs of our customers. We also work closely with other contractors, who we have established relationships with to get jobs done. The teamwork and communications extend to everyone from the individual property owners or company management team, to the engineers, all the way to the concrete recycler and trucking companies.”
Partnerships extend beyond customers and employees.
“Over the years, we have developed partnerships with industry friends that have worked to understand our needs, and contribute to our success. The jobs we do can be unique, and we have partnered with heavy fabricators and vendors to create the tools we need. We work directly with the OEM’s to ensure that everything meets the industry standards and is tested to meet the safety requirements,” Martin said. “We have also developed relationships within companies we need to coordinate with for specific projects, such as CSX, or even the United States Department of Defense.”
The largest scale project that L.J. Irving has tackled was the demolition of a 200-foot-tall grain dryer at the Andersons in Maumee.
“Several factors contributed to the complexity of this job,” Martin said. “The dryer sat about 15 feet away from another structure that needed protected. The dryer was also 85 feet taller than our modified excavators could reach. We needed to use a combination of ballistic nylon (similar to what is used on aircraft carriers) draped on a custom-made grid to protect the building. We then used a crane which suspended a demolition processor with a custom-made guide, and also a mobile generator with a hydraulic pack to power the processor. The power unit had to be placed on an adjacent building structure 15 feet away and 50 feet below the processor that was demolishing the dryer. It took three guys to communicate every step of the demolition because the crane operator could not see the demolition processor or the power unit. That is where trust, teamwork, and communications all come together.”
L.J. Irving and Sons has completed projects throughout northwest Ohio, and all across the region, from Chillicothe to Dayton and Marysville. They have completed projects for Proctor and Gamble, Marathon Oil, and General Dynamics.
“We have worked for some of the largest companies and organizations in the region, but we also will never forget our roots, and enjoy projects for area farmers and home owners,” Martin said. “We continue to do a large number of residential demolition projects as well as farm buildings and silos. Everyone’s demolition project is unique and important to them. Our job is to help them accomplish their goal.”
Considering all the projects they have done, a hallmark job in Holgate, Ohio, tearing down a co-op grain facility was one of Larry’s favorites.
“The Farmers Elevator facility in Holgate was a landmark in the community,” Larry said. “My mom tells stories about growing up in Holgate and walking by it on the way to church. Many referred to it as the Holgate Skyline. It was nice since it was so close to home, that other local people and friends could see what we actually do with our extended reach excavators.”
Since they began tackling larger projects, L.J. Irving and Sons have demolished around 20 commercial and cooperative grain facilities around the region.
“We really enjoy working with farmers and the agricultural community,” Martin said. “Farmers, Agricultural businesses and Co-ops all seem to have a similar code of ethics with a family centered focus that values relationships. That focus and their values align perfectly with our company.”
Anne Irving, (Martin’s wife) works for the company as the office manager and marketing specialist. Anne stresses to the importance of farmers and company owners being able to manage liability risks by carefully selecting a demolition contractor.
“It is important to choose a contractor you trust to complete your project on time, on budget, and with the greatest protection for you and your farm or company,” Anne said. “Interviewing contractors before agreeing to hire them for a job, and getting some basic questions answered is a great way to create peace of mind.”
There are 13 questions L.J. Irving and Sons recommends famers and company owners ask when interviewing contractors for a project.
- Is the contractor licensed?
- Doe the contractor carry General Liability Insurance for demolition and what is the coverage amount?
- What are the contractors bond limits?
- Does the contractor carry proper Workers’ Compensation Insurance for demolition?
- Are the contractor’s workers on payroll, or are they subcontractors?
- Are the contractor and employees OSHA certified?
- Does the contractor participate in the State of Ohio Drug and Alcohol Free Program?
- Where does the contractor dispose of the material from the job?
- Who will be at the site and how will it be supervised?
- Does the contractor belong to the Better Business Bureau?
- Ask about their level of experience, and similar projects to yours that the contractor has already completed.
- Ask for a list of references.
- How long has the contractor been in business?