Home Grown: R.B. Browns Trucking
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? I started the company hauling lumber out of Prospect. I didn't have enough to do, so I bought a couple of trucks and started hauling logs. I started a logging company and got up to 60 trucks at the logging company at one time. The spotted owl stuck it to us. I told my son-in-law (Harvey Woods) that we had to get out of logging. I decided then I had to do something else and looked at a motel. I found out I needed 100 rooms and a bar; that was over my head. I went north to my finance people, and my accountant at Northwest Acceptance Corp. told me what I needed to do and buy. We bought some trucks and leased some in the late 1960s. We went up to 18 trucks and grew to about 75. I got nervous when I got out of logging and tried to haul flatbeds. We've sprinkled in log trucks and chip trucks. Now we run flatbeds, curtain vans, roll tops and step decks in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. I started the company in 1951.
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I moved to Grants Pass in 1937 from Twin Falls, Idaho, and in 1952 I decided I needed to move over to Medford and White City. I moved to where my office location is now in 1960.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? I was in the Merchant Marine during World War II, and when I came back I got married. The guy who was my best man, Bob Thomas, moved up from California and bought a truck. Behind every tree there used to be a portable sawmill. We'd drive out to Merlin, Cave Junction or wherever and haul logs to town. (Thomas) said, "Why don't you buy my truck because I want to get a new one." It went from one to the other, hauling out of Galice. They shut that mill down and went to hauling out of Merlin. I started hauling out of Cave Junction to White City and then I got moved to Prospect until it was shutdown. That's when I decided I needed more trucks.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I never made a move without talking to a banker of some sort or an accountant. I had good faith in them. If they said this is the way you should go, I did, and I still believe that. I valued their input. My son (Jeff Browns) and I have a meeting almost every morning, and we discuss what direction we're going and what we need to do and what mistakes we've made. We've had certain jobs I think we'd better quit; I don't like to do that. If we can't rectify it, we move down the road. We don't want to beat a dead horse. It's like an argument, when you quit, you haven't solved anything.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? Having to let someone go. Most of the time we have to do it because they are not producing or not driving a truck correctly. Most are thinking they are giving 110 percent, but only giving 60. They're not helping our cause or our name, and we take pride in our name and service; that's held us up through the tougher times. If I had to start all over now, we probably wouldn't make it. Our longevity and having stuff paid for, such as the shop and house, and not having debt has allowed us to ride things out.
Who are your competitors? I'm in so many fields, so there are a lot. F.V. Martin is probably the biggest log-truck competitor. Flatbeds are all over the United States. Over the years, we were one of Georgia Pacific's prime truckers, and we've done a lot for Sierra Pine out of Medford and Northern California.
What are your goals? At my age, I want to see it survive and grow. I have too many family members here for it not to succeed. My son, son-in-law, two daughters, a daughter-in-law, three granddaughters and one grandson work in different aspects of the business. They can move into different roles when there is a need. My grandson is learning about painting, body and fender work. Hopefully, this will still be there for my grandchildren even when my son passes on.
What training or education did you need? I started out learning how to load a load myself and greasing the truck myself. I've got a ton of good people around me, and I ask them and they'll show you what to do.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Good luck, if you're trying to do it now. They better have a lot of money in back of them, and patience. But you better be really, really lucky; I wouldn't want to start right now. When we went to flatbed trailers, it took us 10 years to build a clientele to make it feasible.
To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email email@example.com.