March 10, 2017
Lorre Moore-Parrish is the co-owner of Sheridan White Rock, Inc. located near Sheridan, Arkansas. Sheridan White Rock, Inc. is a second-generation family business that Parrish runs with her sister, Tera Harper. The sisters have been co-owners for the past 14 years.
Sheridan White Rock, Inc. mines a rare, milky white quartz sold for landscaping, epoxy decking and pool plastering. The business has around 40 employees- they mine, size, process and bag specialty aggregates that are shipped nationally.
Parrish grew up in Sheridan, Arkansas learning about her family’s business. She has a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law. Parrish practiced law for about 10 years before going into the quarry business with her sister. Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:03.2] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:18.3] KC: Thank you Tim, and thank you listeners for tuning in. You're listening to KABF in Little Rock Arkansas. I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get up in your business. By that I mean to say, share my business knowledge and wisdom with you, our listeners. For the next hour, my guest and fellow entrepreneur will be discussing how we maneuvered the path of entrepreneurship in pursuit of our dreams.
The hope is that if you own or want to own a small business, you will gain some insights today of the risks and the rewards. We’ll also be answering questions and giving advice via phone, email or you can Tweet us. Now, you may be asking, what qualifies this lady to do this?
The answer is easy. Experience.
I started my company Arkansas Flag and Banner over 40 years ago with a meager $400. During the last four decades, Arkansas Flag and Banner, has grown from door to door sales to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales and now, we rely heavily on the internet.
Each change in sales strategy required a change in company thinking and procedures. My wisdom, confidence, and my company grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly four million in annual sales.
In this next hour, here is what not to expect. Don’t expect text book answers or pie in the sky theories but what you will hear is a candid conversation about real world experiences on topics I hope you’ll find interesting.
Be prepared for the truth, it’s not always easy to hear. For example in business, there are very few overnight successes. I worked part time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag and Banner grew enough to support just me. It’s now grown and expanded so much that to operate efficiently, we require, are you ready for this? A purchasing, manufacturing, graphic, shipping, technology, accounting, marketing, sales and customer service department. Plus, we have a retail store.
25 people, or really, maybe more now, make their living from working at Arkansas Flag and Banner. But that didn’t happen overnight. Starting and owning a business takes persistence, perseverance and patience. I hope you’ll take advantage of this unique opportunity today by calling or emailing me on today’s show but before we get started, I want to introduce you to the people at the table, we have Tim Bowen, our technician who will be taking your calls and pushing the buttons. Say hello Tim.
[0:02:55.0] TB: Hello Tim.
[0:02:57.7] KM: My guest today is so interesting. It’s Lorre Perish, co-owner of Sheridan White Rock Inc. It’s a rock quarry in New Sheridan Arkansas known for its rare deposit of milky white silica quartz. Lorre, having grown up in the mining industry decided to try something else when she graduated high school and got a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law.
14 years ago, after practicing law for 10 years, Lorre and her sister Tara Harper went back into the family business of mining at the white rock quarry in Sheridan Arkansas. Welcome to the table Lorre.
[0:03:40.3] LP: Thank you.
[0:03:41.0] KM: You’re welcome. Alright, tell me about this decision to leave your law practice and go back into the family business?
[0:03:49.7] LP: Well, in 2002, my dad came to me and said that he thought, maybe he would like to retire and suggested that my sister and I consider buying them out. So, you know, it was a lot to think about and to get your head around or whatever, after having not lived in this area for 10 years and you know, owning my own business in a different way, to come back home and take over the family business.
You know, it’s just the right thing to do and it felt really exciting at the time and it’s been a great decision for us I think. To be able to continue on something that my dad worked so hard to begin.
[0:04:29.1] KM: Did your dad started or did he buy it from somebody?
[0:04:31.9] LP: Well, it was a little mom and pop quarry when my dad and his business partner purchased it in 1973. The young Smith man that owned it initially just basically sold in bulk and so it was an ongoing quarry that my parents purchased but they expanded it well beyond what it was doing initially.
[0:04:52.7] KM: You grew up working in the mine?
[0:04:54.6] LP: Yes, I grew up with my mom and dad running the business my whole life and so you know, on Saturdays when you know, go to work with my dad and around the dinner table every night, that’s what my parents talked about. Or the decisions that they were making and the things that they were doing.
I got a good bit of that growing up for sure.
[0:05:12.3] KM: It made you decide you want to go to law school?
[0:05:13.8] LP: Yeah, you know, it’s hard when you hear that all the time to then think about doing that your whole life. I don’t know, I think that everybody wants to try something different but it’s surprising how you always kind of come back home I guess.
[0:05:24.5] KM: And you’re glad you did?
[0:05:25.7] LP: Absolutely.
[0:05:26.7] KM: Was your sister hard to convince?
[0:05:29.1] LP: No, my sister’s a nurse by education and so, you know, I think that she thought the same as me is that our educational backgrounds didn’t really equip us very well to run a business like this. But I think she’s been very delighted that she took the bite to…
[0:05:44.5] KM: Did you both work there every day?
[0:05:45.8] LP: No, it’s usually one or the other of us. Sometimes both but, most the time you’ll get her or you’ll get me.
[0:05:52.5] KM: I can’t wait to learn about this business. I want to take a break though. When we come back, we’re going to find out what makes the Sheridan’s white rock so special and how we might possibly use it for our own personal use, like maybe landscaping.
At the break, I’m asking Lorre about these three kinds of rocks and she was pretty smart about it, one’s sediment, one’s volcanic.
[0:06:34.2] LP: The other was metamorphic.
[0:06:35.4] KM: I think so, yeah. There’s not really only three kinds of rock, is that true?
[0:06:40.5] LP: I’m not a geologist.
[0:06:41.4] KM: I know, I was going to ask if you had to be a geologist to be in your business?
[0:06:44.4] LP: I was sure that it would be helpful but no person who owns a quarry that I know is truly a geologist.
[0:06:53.0] KM: Tell me what makes rock so special?
[0:06:56.3] LP: Predominantly, it’s color, there’s very few naturally occurring white river rocks, it’s just really rare and unique. Its chemical composition also makes it rare, it’s 98 or so percent silica quarts which makes it super hard and white and those things in combination are just really rare. Most of the things that you think of when you think of a white rock, are things like marble chips for example, and that’s kind of a really soft rock and not really a suitable for things like – one of the major things that we do with our material as we crush it into something very fine.
We sell it to be plastered on the inside of granite swimming pools and because of its hardness and its white color, it’s super desirable for that application and it’s just you know, it just doesn’t exist in very many places like this.
[0:07:50.1] KM: I don’t know why anybody would ever use anything else.
[0:07:53.8] LP: Well, some people don’t like it because it’s white, right? They want something kind of natural colored and so for a landscaping application, sometimes it sort of goes in and out with the seasons. But for sure, the inside of commercial swimming pools have to be white and because our rock is so hard it’s just super desirable to be plastered in that way. We have orders from all over the nation really of people demanding our material to be used like that.
[0:08:20.2] KM: Is it hard to keep up with the demand?
[0:08:22.4] LP: Yeah.
[0:08:25.6] KM: Are you pacing yourselves so you don’t run out of rock?
[0:08:29.4] LP: Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest things about owning your family’s business is that you know, you think of yourself as kind of a stewards, like it’s not really about just making many today but about trying to find a way to be able to maintain the business and its money making capabilities maybe for generations yet to come. So that really has led my sister and I to really consider our rates of depletion and we have set them and we, you know, so that we can hopefully maintain the business for a really long period of time, for her kids and…
[0:09:06.4] KM: Your kids?
[0:09:07.5] LP: My kids if they –
[0:09:09.3] KM: You're thinking 40 more years?
[0:09:12.1] LP: Yes.
[0:09:13.5] KM: You set a pace that you’re going to go at, when it’s all gone, what do you do with the quarry, after it’s all been depleted? I mean, I know when I was a kid, we used to go swimming in, I don’t know what it is? Rock side quarries though.
[0:09:32.1] LP: Early in our company’s history, we did reclaim some of our land into ponds and so on some of our acreage, we do have some ponds down there, my nephew fishes down there all the time. In later years, now, we reclaimed back into timber land and so after we’ve depleted or dug out all the rock, we actually reclaimed the land back in such a way that we can plant pine trees or something on top.
[0:09:55.9] KM: Is pine tree the only one that will probably grow in a rock quarry?
[0:09:58.8] LP: You know, once the rock’s gone, it’s just land.
[0:10:01.2] KM: It’s just land.
[0:10:02.6] LP: For us, it is. That’s the way that we reclaim.
[0:10:04.7] KM: The fact that it’s dug out and deep doesn’t create a water issue for the trees or –
[0:10:10.8] LP: Well, there’s a huge water issue down there, the water tables, it’s in this river bottoms and so there’s a lot of water to contend with once you get down into the pit to dig the water away. Then, as you reclaim and fill those holes back in and level off the surface really, it’s no wetter than the land around it was initially.
Pine trees grow there, it would reforest itself naturally if you just let it and just from the vegetation that’s you know, growing around on the land that’s adjacent to it.
[0:10:44.3] KM: You think you got the white rock because you live in Arkansas and Arkansas is the diamond state? Do you think that we have quarts crystals already?
[0:10:52.1] LP: There’s a good bit of similarity in the chemical composition between the quarts crystals and this milky white silica quarts. It has a little bit of a difference in it and the look like it doesn’t crystal up, like it doesn’t really form the same shapes. This looks more like a river rock but there is a good bit of similarity. Geologist think of it a little bit as an anomaly.
They can’t find an upstream source for this material so they’re not really sure exactly where it came from.
[0:11:23.7] KM: Once it’s gone, it’s gone?
[0:11:25.1] LP: Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
[0:11:26.6] KM: Is there any environmental ramifications of it being gone off of our planet, does it matter?
[0:11:30.9] LP: Well, you know, I’ve heard lots of reports lately that maybe even as early as 2050, there’s going to be a shortage worldwide of construction components, kind of in general. Things like sand and gravel and those sorts of things were depleting at a huge rate and things like concrete and asphalt and building supplies.
You know, there is a ramification, the absence of those materials is going to put us all in a more costly situation for construction. But environmentally, I guess when you go in and remove the trees off some parcel of land and dig down in there and no, it’s not exactly the same as it was before but we don’t treat the rock with anything, we just wash it with water.
We have a pond. We use the pond water to wash the rocks, we recapture the water, we let the dirt settle out, we use the clean water to wash the rock again. So, you know, as far as the impact in that regard…
[0:12:37.9] KM: When I’m at the grocery store and I’m in a parking lot and I see all this white rock used as landscaping, is that your rock?
[0:12:44.0] LP: It is. Unless it’s marble chips. My deposited material is predominantly white but it has an occasional Greystone in it which is the vermiculite which is kind of the stuff that they use to make like whetstones and stuff and then it has an occasional pink quarts-y color material in it as well.
That’s just the way it looks when you dig it out of the ground.
[0:13:04.8] KM: I see that rock everywhere and it looks like it’s about an inch.
[0:13:09.7] LP: When you size it, naturally existing in the deposit, the vast majority of the rocks are two inches or smaller in our deposit. There’s a very few things that come out of there really bigger in size than about two inches. We screen out a size that we call landscape, it’s about three quarters of an inch to inch in a quarter and we sell that rock to be used in the application size that way.
[0:13:32.4] KM: You have to have a big sifter that gravels sift through and gravels out different sizes and –
[0:13:37.8] LP: Yeah, it’s like a multi deck screen, yeah.
[0:13:42.9] KM: The little ones get through and then the next ones are on the next level.
[0:13:45.3] LP: Exactly like that.
[0:13:48.0] KM: You said something and I quote. You said, one of your goals was “To continue our long standing tradition of providing quality materials and superior service to our customers.” I was thinking, how does a rock quarry give superior services?
[0:14:10.6] LP: Our business really is unique, right? We do three things sort of exclusively or – we sell the landscape rock that we really talked about but that’s really sort of a small percentage of what we really do. We take material that’s smaller than half an inch and we size it and dry it in a rotary kiln dryer and sell it to be mixed with a resin and epoxy decked on top of concrete surfaces.
In addition to the white rock that we mine locally, we bring in 27 other colors from other quarries all over the nation and specially process it to be used in this application. Getting the sizing and the color and the processing right is super important to our customers and it’s really the thing that we do really well.
[0:15:11.2] KM: And you process it there in Sheridan Arkansas?
[0:15:13.3] LP: Yes, our quarry size actually located about 13 miles southwest of town but in the actual town of Sheridan, we have warehouse facilities and some 20 employees who wash, screen, sometimes crush, size, bag, ship material all over the nation.
That epoxy decking material, we dry in a rotary kiln dryer, all the internal moisture has to be gone from the rock or the minute that it’s mixed together and encapsulate it in that epoxy and trial down over a concrete surface and the sun hits it, that water’s going to come out of the rock and it will cloud up the inside of the epoxy.
It’s super important to our customers that we have to get it just right. You know, that’s the thing that really, like my dad’s – he setup a system and really has sort of laid the foundation for us to be able to do that in a way that’s really good for our customers. We really do excel and get not just right for them.
[0:16:14.0] KM: I don’t think of that as a mom and pop operation. I bet the people that your father brought it from weren’t doing that.
[0:16:18.8] LP: No.
[0:16:19.2] KM: Your father honed that, created that, did he create that process? Is he an engineer?
[0:16:24.0] LP: No, well, he should be, he has the ability to make or build or do anything which is the quality I wish I had gotten from him, right? More than anything. In 1976 there was sort of the beginning of that market was kind of coming upon us and he just saw the opportunity and went to junk sale and bought the pieces to build his first dryer for some $600 at a junk sale. Shop built it himself and installed it and set about drawing some rock and figuring it out and he did and we’ve continued to do that since 1976.
[0:16:57.5] KM: So quality control is your customer service that you're talking about? You even take rocks in which seems like that would be really expensive to ship rocks to you? To do this process?
[0:17:05.9] LP: Yes.
[0:17:09.8] KM: Even probably the shipping is more expensive than the product?
[0:17:12.1] LP: Often times.
[0:17:13.4] KM: it’s crazy isn’t it?
[0:17:15.5] LP: You ship it in and you process it and then you ship it back out because there’s such a large demand and it’s being used for mostly lining, already existing concrete pools or concrete driveways.
[0:17:30.2] KM: We really do two things. We do epoxy decking rock which are the rocks that we bring in from other places in our rocks sized somewhere from just smaller than half an inch to about three 30 seconds of an inch. We bag that and ship it out and it’s basically used decoratively on top of existing concrete surfaces.
Then, in a different sort of application, we take our rock and crush it into a smaller size and sell that bag sort of and process the same way to pool plastering companies all over the united states who plaster it on the inside of granite swimming pools.
Really, they’re kind of two separate, I’m going to say lines. They sound like it.
[0:18:10.6] LP: Right.
[0:18:10.9] KM: One’s been bagged and sent to Home Depot?
[0:18:13.6] LP: None of that is being bagged and sent to Home Depot?
[0:18:16.0] KM: What is being bagged and sent to Home Depot?
[0:18:17.6] LP: Landscape sized material is being bagged to plastic bags and sent to places like Home Depots, Sutherland’s, you know, all sorts of home – Ace Hardware, those sorts of places. But these smaller aggregates are being shipped to installers mostly to people who are actually going out on the job, tradesmen, craftsmen and who are doing the actual plastering work, you know, not to mom and pop.
You know, not for you to do your own swimming pool.
[0:18:42.6] KM: I noticed when I was doing the research that everybody calls rock aggregate in your business. I was like, why don’t we call it just rock?
[0:18:48.6] LP: I don’t know. It sounds nicer.
[0:18:50.6] KM: I was like, what’s aggregate? Then I looked it up and I was like, “Oh, rock.” I love that, could people come out to your store and just buy from you if they wanted to – could they just drive up to your quarry and buy from you or do you just wholesale and sell to people that distribute? Do you ever sell it to the end user I guess is what I’m trying to ask?
[0:19:10.6] LP: We at least landscape sized material. That sort of stuff, either in bulk or bagged in poly bags and you can buy that from us directly. These other sort of specialty aggregates, we distribute to distributors mostly.
[0:19:26.7] KM: To plasters.
[0:19:27.6] LP: Exactly. I can’t imagine what an end user would do with that?
[0:19:31.4] KM: Yeah, they wouldn’t but the landscape, if I’m landscaping a really large – if I’m landscaping Arkansas Flag and Banner let’s say. And, which I’ve got a big piece of property downtown. I could come out there with my own truck and load it up do you think?
[0:19:44.8] LP: Yes, you could come to my quarry site if you wanted it loose loaded in the back of your pickup truck or in a truck and trailer and my guys would you know –
[0:19:52.5] KM: And you could get it loose or you could get it in bags or either way?
[0:19:55.5] LP: If you get it in bags, you have to get it out of our warehouse facilities in town if you want it loose loaded, you actually have to go to our quarries.
[0:20:00.5] KM: How do people call you? Just look you up? Just look up Sheridan White Rock online and pick up the phone and call you and ask your hours and yeah.
[0:20:08.9] LP: You know, I mean, really, the bulk of our business is not that, right? Most of the material that weigh manufacture and distribute goes outside of the state of Arkansas.
[0:20:18.6] KM: It does?
[0:20:19.0] LP: Almost exclusively.
[0:20:20.8] KM: Really? Why is that? Because we can all go in our backyard and get our own white rock? No, I’m just kidding.
[0:20:29.4] LP: You know, kind of swimming pools are not very common here for starters I think just because of the soil composition, most people don’t find a lot on pools and so that sort of application is just not as common here as it is in places like California and Florida and south Texas. Where every pool that exist under the sun must be granite swimming pools.
You know, epoxy decking is just not as popular here as it is in other areas of the nation and so there’s just not as much demand here.
[0:20:53.5] KM: Well, if I do it, I’m definitely doing it that way. I’m going to use my local products if I ever make a pool.
[0:20:58.5] LP: I think that would be great.
[0:20:59.7] KM: I know. I’m surprised we don’t’ use it more. You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Lorre Perish, co-owner of Sheridan White Rock quarry that mine’s a rare deposit of milky white silica quarts.
You’re a miner’s daughter but it’s not coal Lorre. But you said, when that came on, you said that your quarry though is subject to the same regulations. You’re a lawyer. I bet that comes in handy.
[0:21:41.1] LP: Well, regulatory compliances, it really is probably the most cumbersome portion of owning a quarry and it’s true, the events in gravel quarries are subject to the same mine, health, safety administrations as coal mines are. Even though exclusively in Arkansas almost every quarry that I can think off is an open pit mine as apposed to something underground. Really, you know, it’s not the same sort of considerations but yet you’re saddled with the same regulatory issues.
[0:22:09.9] KM: Do you have safety issues or problems much? You have really large equipment it sounds like.
[0:22:14.3] LP: Yes, but I also have a very experienced workforce. Especially in key positions, most of the people that work for us have worked for us since I was a kid. You know, a good many of them and so they’re super conscientious and really experienced and heavy equipment of course always comes with some risk and machinery and all of those sorts of things but we’ve never really had any sort of – I hate that I’ve said that out loud because probably I’m going to jinx myself.
[0:22:41.3] KM: No, you’re not. You have a great record and you’ve never had any problems. I can’t believe people work for you for so long. People love that business.
[0:22:50.5] LP: Yeah.
[0:22:50.9] KM: Or they love working for you or your dad?
[0:22:53.4] LP: Maybe my dad before more so than me I’m sure. My sister.
[0:22:57.0] KM: A lot of times when a small business changes hands, the employees are loyal to the first, to the parents and they don’t stay on.
[0:23:06.1] LP: You know I am sure second generation, many business owners have the same problem. I’m sure everywhere it’s hard. It’s hard to fill the shoes of the person that comes before you. It’s hard to make new decisions and to make changes while maintaining the culture and the feeling of the things that came before you. It’s something that I think we struggle with a lot just because you know, everybody has such respect for my parents and they’re amazing and you know –
[0:23:35.0] KM: Are they still around?
[0:23:35.6] LP: Yeah.
[0:23:36.2] KM: Do they come down there?
[0:23:37.2] LP: Yes and my dad even last year maybe the year before we expanded our production facilities in town and my dad came and helped us, shop build some of the equipment that we installed and offered some suggestions and it’s great. He’s great to help us with things like that and really that is my deficiency. He’s so great about being able to see how the equipment should all come together and what’s the repairs and how it should all be laid out and you know, that’s just not my experience. It’s not my strong suit and so I appreciate the fact that he is still willing and able to come in.
[0:24:10.5] KM: So how many employees do you have?
[0:24:11.8] LP: Right now maybe 26 or 27, we’re gearing up just a little bit. Things will get a little busier for us going into April and May and so maybe 30 or 31 or two by the time –
[0:24:21.7] KM: Because everybody is landscaping? Making pools?
[0:24:24.4] LP: Yes because people are and epoxy decking really is quite seasonal. The weather has to be above 40 degrees in the area where the insulations are happening and so that really is the most seasonal of our bagging portion of our operation and so it kicks off sometimes between March 15th and April 15th and goes through the summer typically.
[0:24:45.8] KM: I want to talk about the size of your land and how people could know if they have good land but before we move off that. Talking about your rock, you say it’s silica rock? Which makes it really hard and you said, I read somewhere that you make silica – computer chips with it.
[0:25:03.5] LP: So we have that and since the beginning, our rocks have done a lot of different things and there are times where they are actually used to make computer chips. I mean it really is hard like maybe a nine on the hardness scale which is pretty rare.
[0:25:21.9] KM: That’s really fascinating to me.
[0:25:24.7] LP: The deposit is really unique just because it doesn’t exists like that anywhere else.
[0:25:31.0] KM: So how big is your land? I looked at it online because you have a picture of it on your website. You all should go to Sheridan Rock’s website, White Rock website and see your land. I love looking at the quarry from the aerial view. It was fabulous.
[0:25:47.3] LP: I’m not sure I know the exact acreage, I’m going to say somewhere between six and 800 acres. We typically though permit, you know, in order to be able to mine at your facility, you have to have a permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
We typically permit in about 40 acre swatches and so you know, we’re actively mining on about 40, right now, 60 acres but so that’s typically what we do. We mine it, reclaim it and then move on to the next parcel.
[0:26:19.8] KM: Let’s say I have a big, I say I do, I don’t. Let’s say I have a big piece of land and maybe a rocky area, how would I go about finding out if I had any good rock, can you just see it on top of the surface or do you call out a geologist to dig down like you're looking for a whale and a water source and see if you can find some levels of rock?
[0:26:42.4] LP: Well, most of the rock in Arkansas is like the rock you would see on a mountain, you know what I mean?
[0:26:49.6] KM: Yeah, brown.
[0:26:50.6] LP: Like you would see the rock maybe in outcroppings and that rock really – there’s no real commercial application for that.
[0:26:56.7] KM: Would you be able to see your beautiful white rock if you hadn’t or was it originally the first person who could see it?
[0:27:03.3] LP: The story is that the gentleman who purchased the land initially was hunting there in this rural are in south grant county in the 1950’s. As he approached a stream bed, that some of the rock had sort of washed, you know, the depth of the rock kind of varies over the acreage. There are some places that it’s quite close to the surface and then some areas where it’s maybe under 15 or 18 feet of dirt.
Especially around washes or creeks or whatever, you could see the rock in the bed of the creek and he saw it there and supposedly, the story is he was from some mid-western state and had had some experience selling or mining rock and recognized its potential especially for application and landscaping. Straight away bought the property and made arrangements to buy the property and set in to start digging there.
[0:27:58.6] KM: So there wasn’t a big white mountain? Look at that white mountain that you went, “Oh look at that white fluff.” It was through a stream that he saw it washed down and he was like, “Look at this pretty white rocks in the stream. I wonder where they are coming from?”
[0:28:08.8] LP: Yeah and he started doing some investigation and found it and realized that he can sell it and he thought he can make some money and so.
[0:28:16.7] KM: That’s pretty cool.
[0:28:17.3] LP: It is cool.
[0:28:18.2] KM: So how do you excavate? Do you just take out your big – what’s the process you got there with your track hoe I guess?
[0:28:24.8] LP: Track hoe dig. We track hoe dig it. Think about like digging a pond I’m going to say. So he goes out there and he’s going to set his track hoe down and in a swath around him, he’s going to remove the top soil and preserve that and then he is going to take the overburden, the dirt that’s on top of the deposit of gravel and he’s going to then stockpile that as well for reclamation.
[0:28:45.2] KM: Stock pile, just make a big pile?
[0:28:47.6] LP: Yep and so when he’s dug all the rock out, he’s going to put that back in the hole, right? And so then he just digs out the gravel and loads it into this huge 75 ton articulated dump trucks that take it to the plant to be washed and sized.
[0:29:06.8] KM: And that plant is offsite, it’s in downtown?
[0:29:09.0] LP: Well so we have a plant at our quarry side that washed and sizes initially and then the material comes to town. The smaller aggregates come to town and are washed again and sized again and dried in the dryer and bagged and shipped all over the nation.
[0:29:27.3] KM: That is just a fabulous business. So what is it that you like the very best about it, besides the money?
[0:29:33.4] LP: I guess well, I really do like the fact that is something that my dad was so passionate about. It’s something that he worked really hard to establish and I like the fact that I feel a little bit like a steward you know? Over something that was super important to him.
[0:29:51.2] KM: What’s the part you don’t like?
[0:29:52.8] LP: I hate the regulatory compliance. It’s so cumbersome and daunting and those agencies have such power and authority over your business that it’s a lot of responsibility.
[0:30:04.8] KM: Do they come out every year?
[0:30:06.2] LP: They come more often than annually. Mine inspectors come out at least twice a year and typically twice a year plus they come to check your facilities for noise and dust level.
[0:30:16.3] KM: So it’s for safety issues like OSHA I guess?
[0:30:19.0] LP: Exactly. It’s the same sort of inspection that you might get only the rules are different.
[0:30:23.8] KM: So if I wanted to get in that business, is it too late for somebody to go “I think I will go look to buy a rock quarry.” Does anyone ever want to sell a rock quarry?
[0:30:34.4] LP: Yeah, I think so.
[0:30:36.9] KM: And your dad bought it but I can’t imagine somebody that’s got a rock quarry saying, “You know I think I’m tired of doing this.”
[0:30:43.7] LP: Really you’d be surprised like a lot of the people who are quarrying gravel are really experienced miners who are really older and more established and really there might be more of an opportunity for that than you think.
[0:30:56.7] KM: They are getting ready to retire and their children have moved to the city like you did?
[0:31:01.5] LP: Yeah because most of them are existing in rural areas.
[0:31:05.6] KM: So you put things in 56 pound bags?
[0:31:09.2] LP: 56, 50 pound bags per pound.
[0:31:12.3] KM: Oh yeah, there you go. 56, 50 pound bags.
[0:31:17.4] LP: Per pallet so that’s how we ship that materials. Bagged and stacked up on a pallet.
[0:31:23.7] KM: Would you think that equipment would be your main expense? It seems like it would be. I mean you’ve got 25, 26, 30 employees.
[0:31:33.9] LP: Really health care is my biggest expense.
[0:31:38.3] KM: Oh really yeah. People don’t realize that small businesses have become burdened with doing what I think our government should do. Not everybody is probably going to agree with that, but because our government or for whatever reason small businesses are burdened with health insurance. I don’t know how that ever happened, that we are in charge of the health of the nation. I am not sure about that.
[0:32:07.9] LP: Well you know, I don’t know. I think that –
[0:32:12.3] KM: I hear that from a lot of small business people.
[0:32:14.5] LP: I am grateful we can is the real truth, right. So I don’t know, payroll might be my single biggest but second to that really might be health care costs. Then of course, there’s lots of costs related to equipment and machinery and truck hoe is a huge amount of money. If you have to buy new equipment like that, those pieces of heavy equipment. They are extremely expensive and –
[0:32:40.8] KM: I don’t think you could repair them to infinity though.
[0:32:43.2] LP: You cannot repair them to infinity. We do try at our place and we do a lot of the maintenance. You just have to, you have to be able to do it yourself in order to ever be successful. I am very lucky that the guys that we have that worked there are really capable and the vast majority of those sorts of things we take care of in house. But they do not last forever.
[0:33:04.2] KM: You know it seems like there would just be nuts and bolts and tarps and engines and you just keep replacing them, replacing the parts. It doesn’t seem like they’d be real complex, are they computer generator?
[0:33:16.9] LP: So the newer models are and I think they are doing it to small business owners on purpose. You know what I mean? Especially the EPA, the admissions regulations on new equipment, to your tier four sort of things. Just putting you in a position where you can’t do the maintenance yourself and that it just adds a huge financial obligation. To have to have people from Little Rock for example, come down and plug your piece of equipment into your computer to be able to tell you what’s wrong with it and then come back the next day with the part to fix it.
[0:33:46.6] KM: So they’re falling into the same pattern that all of our cars are, you’ve got to have a computer, to do the diagnostics on your large equipment.
[0:33:54.9] LP: Yes which makes it increasingly more –
[0:33:58.8] KM: Someone asked me the other day, I had to fill out the survey, and they asked me the other day what were some of my larger expenses? You know, I used to would have said payroll or employees but we’re moving away from hiring and having a lot of employees more towards – it seems like we are moving more towards technology and supporting all of these equipment and computers and keeping the technology running. It seems like it’s starting to takeover.
[0:34:30.4] LP: And –
[0:34:31.8] KM: I guess they call that robo sourcing in a weird sort of way.
[0:34:33.1] LP: Yes but it’s hard for us because it’s hard to find technically proficient employees. So if I had 10 people at the end of the line who are bagging rocks, some fairly reasonably inexpensive employee and I then automate that. Then I have to replace those 10 people with a person who is capable of fixing that line when it goes down and that person doesn’t exist for me. Like finding welders and heavy equipment operators and people with CDL’s – those things are much harder to do than you realize.
The vast majority of the people who are working with those sorts of skills are aging and there are very few people coming up who have replacement skills available who are going to be able to take their place. I think we are doing a huge disservice to our self not encouraging younger people to consider occupations like that. Heavy equipment operator, they make a decent living.
[0:35:36.8] KM: I thought they make a good living, right?
[0:35:38.8] LP: A wonderful living. But you never hear somebody say, “Oh when I grow up I want to drive a truck hoe.”
[0:35:45.8] KM: You know we had a guy the other day who said that he was in the trucking industry and he can’t find truck drivers because they don’t want to be truck drivers.
[0:35:53.8] LP: No and the regulatory has just become so prohibitive that people can’t drive. I mean it’s the same across this industry like –
[0:36:01.3] KM: Well mine is a sewing industry so you can imagine how hard that is to find people that can sew. Can you sew Lorre?
[0:36:08.7] LP: Well enough to make a costume but –
[0:36:13.3] KM: For your daughter, you’ve got some great news we are going to share when we come back from the break.
[0:36:31.6] KM: We will, we will rock you. You laughed at that one.
[0:36:37.6] LP: It was the best.
[0:36:38.5] KM: It was the best one, everybody loves Queen. You are listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. I am speaking today with Lorre Perish, co-owner of the Sheridan White Rock Quarry Mines especially milky opaque silica white rock that is rare and found really in Arkansas. Anywhere else?
[0:37:01.5] LP: There are some similar materials that are found in a couple of other places but the colour is not as true and bright white as ours.
[0:37:08.6] KM: So we got an email from Susan in Conwin and she wants to know, you are a woman running a business in a male dominated field. Have there been any challenges?
[0:37:23.1] LP: No, of course I’ve gotten the whole as you call to buy a new truck hoe and the salesmen say “Why don’t you go talk about that with the guy who’s in charge and get back with me.” Like of course, we all get that but really it’s not been – I don’t feel like it’s been a liability at all. Maybe it’s a novelty for people, for me and my sister to be women quarrying gravel. But I don’t feel like I have been denied something or been less successful as a result of it really.
[0:38:00.2] KM: I think you’re a novelty. I think that’s probably true.
[0:38:02.8] LP: I think that a little.
[0:38:04.5] KM: In my business there are several women. In my business, there’s lots of veterans in the flag business but there is women in the flag business also because we sew. We sew flags and we used to sew flags. Today, we digitally print everything. It has changed so much. How has rock business changed? You said that it is dramatically expanded to meet the increasing demand.
[0:38:33.2] LP: I think that probably – you know it’s funny when I think about the question because it feels like it’s changed in a lot of ways but really it’s stayed the same, you know what I mean? I think that the procedures we used to extract the gravel and to wash them probably have pre-dominantly stayed the same. Of course, equipment’s become more efficient and they have a new generation of things. Crushers in particular and screens that they are using today are far more efficient than the ones that my dad would have been installed some 20 or 30 years ago.
But the concepts are kind of the same, really the changes have come with things like how it is that you get a customer, how you get the sales? All of that – a good bit of that now comes the same as I’m sure for you. It comes through the internet and customer finds us in ways that they never were able to before because we have a higher profile online and we are shipping to more exotic locations and we are shipping in ways that we’ve never shipped before. Like by container, rail containers and –
[0:39:37.7] KM: Back to railroad?
[0:39:39.8] LP: They bring out a big van, they put it on the back of a truck and they bring it to your facility and that you load it and they go back to the rail yard and they put that container on a rail train and it goes to California. Or wherever it is that your –
[0:39:53.0] KM: That doesn’t seem new, that seems old fashion.
[0:39:55.3] LP: Yeah but it is hugely efficient. So those sorts of things I think are the changes, really more than the changes on the ground with what the guys are actually doing.
[0:40:05.8] KM: Well how would have they shipped that before? It seems like the only way to ship rock.
[0:40:08.8] LP: Well no, probably it is but you know what I mean like you just would have shipped that far, you know what I mean?
[0:40:13.7] KM: Oh I see what you are saying.
[0:40:15.5] LP: The thought of shipping a rock from Little Rock, Arkansas to California to be used in some application is something that probably nobody would have ever considered. Just because the phrase so prohibited expensive that they would have locally sourced it. They would have just settled for whatever it was that they could find.
[0:40:32.5] KM: The sky is the limit. When people say America is in a recession, it doesn’t feel like it to me. I think there is a big separation between working classes and the disparity of money and how it’s dispersed. But it does seem like people have this money like you said, to ship it all. There is somebody out there in California that can afford to have your rock shipped all the way out there.
[0:40:55.1] LP: And to be used like in commercial swimming pools, right? The demand for it continually surprises me. It just does, like I am amazed at people.
[0:41:09.0] KM: For commercial swimming pools.
[0:41:10.4] LP: Predominantly.
[0:41:11.7] KM: For like hotels I guess.
[0:41:13.1] LP: Exactly because they want the inside of it to be white so if the kids are floating in the deep end, well you know what I mean right? And so all over and in huge quantities and so there have to be a good bit of –
[0:41:27.7] KM: So people are vacationing, people are landscaping, when I grew up nobody had a landscaped yard. The most landscape you ever had was someone had a row of azalea bushes. Today, we got landscaping rocks which is great for your business. Then lots of pools to go with hotels for the people that vacation.
[0:41:45.4] LP: Yeah and you know we haven’t even talked about the fact that we sell some sand and sand trucks on PGA Golf Courses and so there’s all sorts. They are mostly high end kind of applications where they really are maybe more impacted by a down turn in the economy than maybe something else might be.
[0:42:08.1] KM: And since you said that, I looked back and you are doing aggregates for vinyl roofing systems.
[0:42:14.0] LP: Yes, there’s a lot. Our customers are innovative, right? Just think about that white rock on the top of the rooftop. It has such a reflective quality that it helps with the energy efficiency of the building by a tremendous amount. So especially in green construction they are looking for materials like that. They will help reflect the sun’s rays and keep the building itself cooler and so there has been a huge increase, uptick in the application of our materials in that application as well. People are smart, thinking all sorts of things.
[0:42:49.9] KM: That’s good. So what are the challenges that have come from the increase? Just production? But you don’t want to use your whole quarry up so you’ve got to really pace yourself. Do you want more business? Do you try to solicit more business? Do you advertise?
[0:43:06.5] LP: No, well epoxy decking material wherever, we’re ever sort of expanding and we’re taking on new customers. But in the pool plastering market my sister and I haven’t taken on a new customer since we bought the business from my parents 14 years ago.
[0:43:19.1] KM: You haven’t had a new customer in that area?
[0:43:21.7] LP: In the pool plastering market, right, in the 14 years. Now our customers are continuing to grow their market share which causes problems for us of course. But we haven’t taken on a new customer just because we can’t meet the demand.
[0:43:37.8] KM: And continue to keep the quarry functioning for 40 more years.
[0:43:41.5] LP: You know nobody wants to right? It’s finding that balance between work and you don’t want to be down there working 60 hours a week and running two shifts pulling out rock constantly. Even despite the depletion concerns –
[0:43:55.2] KM: Years of life work balance you’re trying to play.
[0:43:56.8] LP: Exactly.
[0:43:57.4] KM: Okay so let’s share your news.
[0:43:59.2] LP: Oh.
[0:44:00.4] KM: Speaking of life-work balance that was a perfect segway into your next news because you have two very talented daughters.
[0:44:07.6] LP: Oh my sweet 13 year old just got an email today while I’ve been here saying that she was accepted to a summer junior theatre. A Broadway theatre camp or something this summer and so she’s blowing my phone up with emails so –
[0:44:21.8] KM: And I’m impressed with your daughter because she did her own application.
[0:44:26.6] LP: She did and her audition video, she had to upload to YouTube and attach the link to her application and submit it to the people in New York and yeah, it was quite the feat.
[0:44:40.7] KM: You have to be very ambitious and very dedicated to want to fight the battle of moving to New York City. Where is this camp? Is it in New York City?
[0:44:49.8] LP: It’s on Broadway.
[0:44:51.1] KM: It’s on Broadway. To fight that battle and to go where everybody wants to go. So she’s very ambitious for a 13 year old.
[0:44:58.0] LP: They’re both peachy, my sister’s got two peachy ones too and so it’s a good thing to want to.
[0:45:03.3] KM: You may not need to keep the rock quarry for them.
[0:45:06.4] LP: Well you always want to have a fall back.
[0:45:09.1] KM: They’re going to be living in New York, they’ll be like, “Well we are not going back down there to Sheridan Arkansas.”
[0:45:14.5] LP: Don’t tell that to papa, he has a small back positions are always good.
[0:45:17.6] KM: Oh yeah papa might be listening, yeah and then you’ve got an 11 year old.
[0:45:21.2] LP: She a dancer. She’s peachy too.
[0:45:23.4] KM: And she wants to be a prima ballerina I believe. That’s a pretty ambitious thing to want to be.
[0:45:28.9] LP: She’s peachy.
[0:45:29.9] KM: I’m sure she’s seen the New York Ballet, the first African-American.
[0:45:37.6] LP: Misty Conklin.
[0:45:39.1] KM: Yes, thank you.
[0:45:40.5] LP: Her dream for her birthday this year is to see her in her production of The Golden Cockerel in Lincoln Centre on Friday night, June the 2nd or whatever that is. That’s all that she wants is to see Misty Conklin.
[0:45:54.4] KM: Have you got the ticket?
[0:45:55.6] LP: They don’t go on sale yet. Sure I can but I hope to be able to make that happen for her.
[0:46:02.2] KM: Oh my gosh, I’m with her. That’s my wish for everything to be.
[0:46:06.9] LP: She wants to be her replacement that’s what she –
[0:46:10.4] KM: She wants to be a replacement. See? What’s the key to having your kids be so ambitious?
[0:46:15.4] LP: It’s luck, I can promise you. It’s despite me I can promise you, it just happened in spite of me.
[0:46:27.0] KM: Oh I don’t know about that. So I think that you would have to buy – I know that right now Arkansas Flag and Banner needs to buy another expensive piece of equipment. You have to buy equipment all the time. We talked about repairing it but do you have to put it in your budget every year that you’ve got to buy new equipment to keep up with your business?
[0:46:41.2] LP: Yes and the gravel is real abrasive and so equipment doesn’t like screen – it’s just because the rock is so hard especially when it gets down to those really fine particles. It’s super abrasive and so things have a tendency just to wear out because it just eats it up. Like you know, in our bucket elevators where we size things and screens on hopper.
[0:47:10.1] KM: I bet it eats those screens up.
[0:47:11.5] LP: My gosh. It’s a constant file.
[0:47:14.7] KM: What have you learned since you’ve gone back to work with your family business?
[0:47:19.4] LP: That despite my law degree and my thinking that I’m a negotiator, that I’m really bad at that. That I am the worst person on the planet at hiring people.
[0:47:33.0] KM: But you don’t need to, you got employees that last forever.
[0:47:35.8] LP: Well, we have some, ones who mostly bag at the warehouse or whatever, that’s our highest turnover but –
[0:47:42.1] KM: Your entry level positions.
[0:47:43.3] LP: I’m the worst at that advice where –
[0:47:45.3] KM: Why do you say the –
[0:47:46.6] LP: I cannot hire one that sticks. My sister’s so much better at that than me.
[0:47:50.8] KM: You don’t do it?
[0:47:51.1] LP: She does. I fire, she hires, that’s our deal.
[0:47:56.3] KM: I think she got the good deal out of that one. A lot of people can’t fire. What do you think you’re really good at besides firing?
[0:48:08.4] LP: Not much.
[0:48:09.3] KM: I don’t believe that.
[0:48:11.8] LP: I don’t know.
[0:48:13.1] KM: Humility, she’s good at humility.
[0:48:15.0] LP: I’m so – like, we have an office manager that’s worked for my parents before us and now the whole time we’ve been there, so we’ve been working there since 1985 and you know what I mean, I don’t’ know. I hope that the thing that I do well is appreciate the people who make it easy for us to continue working there.
That’s what I want to do well, is to appreciate them because you know, none of us could deal without them, they’re all so – Susan in our offices and the guy who writes my production. Like all of them, they’re just wonderful and where would we be without them?
[0:48:46.3] KM: Is there mostly men working at your facility because it’s all rocks and hard to –
[0:48:54.3] LP: In our offices, the administrative software are women but most of the other people who work there are all men.
[0:49:00.8] KM: Yeah. I have something at the end of the show that I give to everybody that I cannot wait to give to you because you and your sister are going to love it since you’re in a man’s world. As a gift for your business, even though you didn’t birth it, your parents birthed it and you’re keeping it going, you get a cigar for you.
[0:49:20.2] LP: Thank you.
[0:49:21.0] KM: And for your sister, you go out there in the rock quarry or you can just give it to one of your great guys as a gift from the show.
[0:49:27.3] LP: Well, thank you for having me on.
[0:49:28.0] KM: You’re welcome, you are very interesting. That’s from the Humidor Room at Colonial wine and spirits on Malcolm Street in Little Rock Arkansas. I love your business.
[0:49:38.6] LP: Thank you so much for having me.
[0:49:40.6] KM: You are so welcome, I’d love to be in that business. Tim, who’s – I’d love to come down.
[0:49:46.1] LP: I’ll let you drive the truck hoes.
[0:49:47.7] KM: I’d love to do that. Okay, I’m going to take you up on it Lorre. Who’s the guest next week?
[0:49:52.2] TB: Next week, we’re going to be visiting with AETN, local PBS channel, discussing a documentary that they’re doing about a certain Dreamland Ballroom.
[0:50:04.0] KM: Boy, is that next week?
[0:50:05.1] TB: That is next week.
[0:50:06.6] KM: They’re going to have the premier at Ron Robinson on March the 31st so it’s open to the public. It’s the premier at the Ron Robinson theater and then on April the 6th, it’s on AETN at 7:00, it’s going to be aired on TV for the first time on April the 6th.
They’re going to come on and talk about it. I love that.
[0:50:27.0] TB: Absolutely.
[0:50:28.7] KM: I love that.
[0:50:30.6] TB: I bet you, we’re going to play some songs from performers that used to play at Dreamland.
[0:50:35.6] KM: Aren’t you smart? If you have a great entrepreneurial story you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you, send a brief bio and your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will be in touch. Finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me.
If you think this program’s been about you, you’re right, but it’s also about me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next Friday at 2 PM on KABF radio in Little Rock Arkansas.
Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:51:18.5] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Next week the podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.