Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Ritch Massey speaking) We do interior construction, steel studs, drywall, acoustical ceilings and fiberglass panels installation. We've been doing this for 25 years.
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? My brother and I grew up here and both went to Rogue River High School.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? I followed in my dad's footsteps and my dad, Cliff Massey, had a large company back in the 1970s, C.R. Massey Drywall. I went to work for him young over in Hawaii and came back here in 1994, and we started a residential drywall company in 1997. Then I went into the union to learn about steel studs and the acoustical ceiling part of the business, and then opened up this business in 2001. My brother had Eric Massey Drywall, and we combined in 2005. In 2006, we started receiving help and advice from our stepfather, Ed Kessler. He retired a few year ago as the vice president and general manager of Ray's Food Place. Ed has extensive knowledge of business in general and has been a mentor to both of us since coming aboard in 2006. He has made a huge difference in helping us with keeping our books organized so we can understand where we are profitable and where we need to cut the fat. Without the knowledge he brought to the company, we may not have made it through the construction downturn in this most recent recession.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I would have gone into commercial construction much earlier. The residential world is so competitive. There are fewer commercial construction companies, because you have to wait longer for your money and have to have patience because a lot of people are in your way, but it's a little more rewarding in the end.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? One of the toughest was whether to go into business with family again. With family, sometimes it's hard to separate business from personal. We were in business in Tacoma, Wash., from 1993 to 1994, and it didn't end well. We decided to combine companies again. We knew it could be profitable and could work out again, but we were worried what it might do to the family. But it has worked out well. When you have a partner in business you have to recognize what each others' strengths are. Eric is very good with his tool bags on and enjoys being on-site more than being in an office. I have been the lead estimator for the business from the start and have become more comfortable in the office, so over time we have fallen into our own roles in the company. I am in the office full time these days, and Eric now runs the on-site operations.
Who are your competitors? We bid against Ceiling Specialities, Superior Wall and Acoustical Tile, and Harrington Construction — all local companies.
What are your goals? 2009 and 2010 were a little bit of a challenge because of the recession, but before that, from 2005 to 2009, gross receipts had gone up every year, and you want to grow gross receipts. Our goal is $2 million of work each year, a pretty good goal for here in the valley. We're actually going to Portland to do a Dutch Bros. project for Ausland Construction, but 90 percent of our work is from Ashland to Grants Pass. We did the Super Walmart job in Medford; it's one of the largest we've done. There aren't projects much larger in the valley than that, and usually three or four like that in the valley per year, and landing one of those is a big deal — we had 40 men on that job for five months. Our goal was to be the largest drywall company in the valley, and that is still our goal. By doing a good job at a fair price, we think we can get there.
What training or education did you need? I spent two years at College of the Redwoods, but my biggest education came working in the carpenters union here in the valley. I used the carpenters union like my own personal college. ... When I was younger I did drywall, hanging sheetrock mostly. In the union I got a chance to hang acoustical ceilings. I had done a little, but didn't know much. They realized I was pretty green, but they kept me on for a year, and it was huge training. My father taught my brother and I the trade and the value of hard work and hustle. He always preached doing things the right way. He said if you hustle and do things right, you will be the person who stays busy when times get slow. That advice has paid off in spades through the years.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? I would have the gumption to just jump and give it a try. You have to have some sort of plan but not be afraid to fail. If you are afraid to fail, it's not going to work for you. A person in business for themselves has to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Getting help from people who have knowledge in the business is a huge advantage. Don't be afraid to surround yourself with people who may be better than you at the things you don't do as well. Some people are intimidated to work with others who may be better than them at particular parts of their trade, and that can only stunt your growth as a professional.
To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org