Agg Man of the Year 2011
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
In an industry faced with uncertain funding streams, declining production, and constant regulatory challenges, the most successful businesses are those with entrepreneurial-style leaders at the helm. After all, there have been few times in the last century when identifying opportunities and managing risks were more important.
Paul Mellott, Jr., chairman and CEO of Mellott Co. is just such a leader. Throughout his 37 years in the aggregate industry, he has amassed experience from such diverse perspectives as the seat of a front-end loader and a seat before Congressional committees. He has served in leadership positions in state associations, as well as the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA). And, he is the force behind ROCKPAC’s rapidly growing political clout.
According to his close friend of 25 years, Kim Snyder, president of Eastern Industries, Inc. and chairman of NAPA, the first two qualities that come to mind about Paul are his passion and his integrity. “His passion — for the industry, NSSGA, his company, and his employees — is and has been unwavering,” Snyder says. “While most of us dedicate years of service, Paul has dedicated decades and will continue to serve as long as he is able. And, he will not compromise his integrity, not for anyone, for any reason, at any time. Period!”
For his many outstanding personal qualities and professional contributions, Aggregates Manager is proud to recognize Paul Mellott, Jr. as the 2011 AggMan of the Year.
Building the family brand
Mellott says he began his career on the frontlines — working in roles such as quality control, running loaders and trucks, and setting up portable plant crews and sites — because his father wanted him to have hands-on experience in operations before beginning any managerial role. For his first eight years in the family business, he worked in nearly every capacity of the operation, and then moved into a management training role. “I had a desk in my dad and uncle’s office: one big room with three desks,” he says. “I listened to what they did and started to develop the way we were going to run the contract crushing business.” Working with his superintendents and many hard-working employees, he grew the business, particularly in the South.
By the early ’90s, Mellott’s father retired, so he took over the contract crushing part of the company while his uncle assumed duties for the quarry business. “We began to grow after the recession of 1990-91 and started to build our own equipment,” Mellott explains. The company even constructed a building where it could fabricate its own conveyors, frames, and hoppers.
They quickly realized that the business couldn’t consume enough equipment to cover the costs of a standalone fabrication shop, so Mellott Enterprises, Inc. was born, and the manufacturing group resides in the building today. As internal manufacturing provided for many of the company’s equipment needs, H.B. Mellott Estate, Inc. grew quickly. “We could build what we wanted, when we wanted it, much more quickly and much more cheaply,” he says.
In 1997, Mellott was named president of H.B. Mellott Estate, Inc and Mellott Enterprises, Inc. “We started aggressively pursuing and hiring top quality people,” he says. A manager was hired for the company’s southern region with a goal of doubling its production, and that goal was met in three years. The company also hired Terry Randall, a Hagerstown accounting executive, who brought significant accounting and business experience to the team. “He helped us recruit really good people and brought strategic planning to our company,” Mellott says. “It became a major part of our thought process.”
Six weeks after Randall joined the company, Mellott’s father passed away. “It became crystal clear to my family that we had to be prepared to take the business to the next generation, whether we had members of the fourth generation working here or not,” he says. “The economy was good, so we continued to recruit from outside the area and invest in quality people.
“My family was committed to finding great people, getting them involved in the organization, and giving them a clear idea of our mission and our vision,” Mellott adds. “It became the most important success factor that has contributed to the development of our company.”
Shortly after beginning succession planning efforts, Mellott’s uncle died at 64 years of age, and the third generation members considered how — as part of the company’s long-term legacy — they could create value for their employees, customers, and business partners.
During a conversation with Charlie Luck IV, Mellott learned that Luck’s family business was participating in a value-based leadership program offered by a Texas-based Caterpillar distributor. Mellott was intrigued by the concept and joined the program. “We changed our company for the better,” he says of the initiative. “We adopted five values: safety, integrity, commitment, respect, and excellence.”
Safety became the company’s first priority and number one value. “We started amazing programs: incentive plans, daily toolbox meetings, team meetings, and also empowered every employee to make a difference at their work area,” he says. As a result, the manufacturing group went seven years without a lost-time accident. “Everyone wanted to beat their record,” Mellott recalls. Through staff lunches, company leaders sat down with employees and communicated their goals and vision for the company, and the employees embraced their philosophy. “We ended up with a million hours without a lost-time accident, and our company’s culture changed,” he says.
“We have developed our company over the years from a company without a human resources or safety director, and one that didn’t have computers and didn’t have fax machines, into a company that has developed a clear mission and vision for the company: We strive every day to add value to our customers, and we want to add value for our employees,” Mellott says. The company invests not only in training, but also in providing the tools and equipment employees believe they need to do the job safely and efficiently. “We want our employees to feel they have a company behind their best interests,” he adds.
In January 2008, H.B.Mellott Estate, Inc. and Mellott Enterprises, Inc. merged into Mellott Co. During these last three years — when many companies have downsized their staff and not hired new employees — Mellott Co. has committed to hiring and training new people. “We feel that the future of our industry is going to be stressed by not having enough people coming into the industry wanting to work on crushers, with crushers, with equipment that crushes rock,” he says.
Developing community partnerships
Finding quality employees is a challenge for many operators, and one Mellott has met head on. Nearly two decades ago, he recognized the need to improve educational quality and opportunities for local students, and the company adopted the local school. Mellott worked with an 8th grade teacher and visited the classrooms with guest speakers every two weeks. The theme of every speaker was to share his or her personal story about the importance of obtaining a quality education. “I spoke to the students at the beginning of the school year and talked to them about our industry, but also discussed how important education would be to improve the quality of their life,” he said. The students were sent on field trips at the end of the year and required to write papers about their experience.
“Paul has always had a genuine interest in the next generation of aggregate leaders,” says Ward Nye, president and chief executive officer of Martin Marietta Materials and 2006 AggMan of the Year. “He has been generous with his time, his thoughts, and his counsel — and it has made a tremendous difference in the lives of many.”
Mellott Co.’s school partnership has transitioned to the high school with the entire senior class visiting the campus for a mock job interview a month before graduation. During the half-day program, students tour the operation as well as meet with various managers to go through the interview process. Because it is now part of their curriculum, they receive a grade for their senior project based on their interviews. “It’s really cool; these young kids come in all dressed up and eager to learn about the interview process,” Mellott says. “They have a great time, and we really enjoy it.”
The partnership has been embraced by the staff. Every year, some of their family members are among the students visiting the company campus. “They see us give back, and they feel the company really cares about the community,” Mellott observes.
Last year, the partnership added another element to the job interview/campus visit with the seniors participating in value-based training. Mellott managers visited the school throughout the year and gave the entire senior class a presentation on each of the five values. The students then prepared their annual project, which had to be associated with a volunteer effort. A group of Mellott managers listened to each senior’s presentation and awarded five $2,000 scholarships for those who most exemplified each of the company’s core values. The five scholarship winners have committed to return to the school at this year’s Christmas break to participate in a values panel discussion with the current senior class.
“We’re actually teaching these kids what values are, what our values are, and how to relate to values,” he says. “This is one of the programs we’ve been developing over the years to build a successful team.”
Building political influence
Another area where Mellott has been particularly effective is in building the aggregate industry’s influence on Capitol Hill. As he worked with various state and national associations, he learned how important it was to educate the public about what the industry does and how its products are used. “A lot of people have no idea what we do,” Mellott explains.
He carried the industry’s message to the public while serving on the boards of the Pennsylvania Aggregate and Concrete Association and the North Carolina Aggregate Association, as well as when he served as chairman of the board of both the Maryland Aggregate Association and the NSSGA. During that time, his friend Tony Basolo encouraged him to dedicate his energy to building industry clout in Washington, D.C.
Through his early ventures, Mellott quickly realized that, although he knew elected officials in his home state such as Bud Shuster, neither he nor other industry executives had the personal relationships in Congress needed to see members of committees who were developing legislation on important industry issues outside of transportation. “It was humbling not to know anyone on a committee making decisions that greatly impacted our industry,” he says.
Working first with STONEPAC and now ROCKPAC, Mellott has helped to build a well-known and respected group of trustees, as well as a strong grassroots network. Earlier this year, the National Association of Business Political Action Committees released its latest rankings of the top 250 trade association PACs, based on fundraising during the first half of 2011. ROCKPAC landed in the top 20 for the first time, placing 19th. Its successful climb has been a swift one. During the last decade, the PAC has grown by 268 percent.
“When I think of my dear friend, the one word that really comes to mind is enthusiasm. Paul exudes enthusiasm,” says Dave Thomey, executive vice president of Maryland Materials, Inc., and NSSGA’s chairman of the board. “It is his enthusiastic vision that has helped make Mellott Co. the success it is today. It is his enthusiastic love of family that manifests itself whenever he is in your presence. It is his enthusiastic support of ROCKPAC that has made it the major PAC in the construction industry.”
Despite ROCKPAC’s success, Mellott points out there is much more work to do. “It has become my passion to see how we can continue to grow ROCKPAC and have a voice in Washington,” he says. “There has never been a more important time to be involved. If we could get all 120,000 people working in the industry to call their Congressmen when we need them to listen to us, then that’s real power.
“Employees should be educated and encouraged to contact their Congressmen on company time. We should make sure they are registered to vote and participate aggressively in the process,” Mellott adds. “We’ve got to get people to be engaged and fully understand what’s happening next fall.”
And if anyone doubts Mellott’s ability to bring his vision to reality, they need simply to listen to those who know him best. “It’s an understatement to say that Paul, particularly through his ROCKPAC efforts, changed our industry’s political strength and influence in Washington,” Nye says. “It has actually been quite amazing to watch: people just can’t say no to Paul — whether it’s for a ROCKPAC contribution or a vote on a critical issue to our industry.”
“His leadership, vision, inspiration, and energy have fueled NSSGA’s political action and the growth of ROCKPAC,” adds Pamela J. Whitted, NSSGA’s senior vice president, legislative and regulatory affairs. “He is passionate about the aggregates industry and understands the importance of building relationships with lawmakers to amplify the voice of the industry on Capitol Hill and achieve success in advancing industry policy positions. I can think of no more deserving individual for AggMan of the Year than Paul Mellott.”
A Personal Perspective on Paul Mellott
“Paul was my first chairman of the association’s board. He guided the association members and staff through the transition of my predecessor announcing his retirement, and through my selection and orientation. Paul’s team attitude was palpable. With his fellow officers “in the chairs,” Mark Towe and Tony Basolo, a rare synergy resulted in their being dubbed “The Three Amigos.”
Paul is a discerning visionary. He sees values ahead and steers the ship to those ports. From helping incubate Young Leaders as a way to bring new industry talent into leadership through the association’s networking and educational capabilities, to seeing ROCKPAC as a powerful tool demonstrating our industry’s commitment to democracy and engaging in the political process, Paul naturally motivates and stimulates different thinking. He is all about growth — of our country, our communities, and our industry. He is a fierce patriot and somehow he doesn’t let cynicism bog down his energy or his enthusiasm.
AggMan of the Year couldn’t be more appropriately awarded to Paul Mellott. Paul’s devotion to the incessant education of and advocacy before Congress is only matched by his determination — and that of our ROCKPAC Trustees, the generous donors, and our staff team — that ROCKPAC should demonstrate the caliber of our industry’s leaders. Paul Mellott deserves the lion’s share of the credit in leading NSSGA’s political participation program to greater heights.
Congratulations to Paul and his vivacious wife, Lotta, who have approached their experience of NSSGA as a team. Paul embodies the characteristic of so many in our industry who seek no accolades, but contribute heroically every day toward making the world, nation, and industry better by never taking his eye off the goal of being the “best.”
—by Joy Wilson, NSSGA CEO