September 11, 2015

Stepping on the Gas

America is in the midst of a fossil-fuel revolution. Oil companies can't seem to put up derricks fast enough to extract huge shale gas and oil deposits, from the Bakken Fields in North Dakota and Montana to the Eagle Ford formation in South Texas and many places in between. Seems like every time you pick up the paper, another large formation has been discovered somewhere in the country.

Burning the Midnight Oil
The oil and gas bonanza has been a boon for companies like Tri-State Industrial Group (TSIG) in Oklahoma City. Founded in 1983, TSIG has grown from two employees and a backhoe to over 200 employees and a large fleet of John Deere equipment. If you had to narrow down the key to their success to a single word, it would probably be "gumption."

"When we started out, I told my original partner, 'You have your Rolodex and I have my tool belt — let's get to work,'" says founder and CEO Gary Allison. "Our business plan at the time was simple: The kids need to eat so we need to work [laughs]. We started with nothing — no clients, no equipment, and no money. Just a tool belt and a lot of ambition. We worked our tails off.

"That's the way it works in America. If you study your trade, work hard, apply yourself, and manage your money, then you can be a success. I'm very proud to be an American and a part of this company."

The company initially focused on electrical work, but it would frequently hire excavation contractors. At the time one of his close friends, TSIG General manager Brannon Ward, owned a backhoe and was working on his own. A light bulb went off — why shouldn't the company also do site work? So in 1987, the two joined together and added a construction department to TSIG. Since then, the company has added turnkey solutions in concrete, manufacturing, and automation to its resume.

Howdy, Partner
In the early days Ward would run a piece of equipment until it generated enough revenue for another machine and operator, and so on. As the years went by and the company began to grow, it continued to add more employees, clientele, and equipment. "We started out with a service truck, then added a backhoe, which we soon replaced with a Deere backhoe, then added a Deere dozer," he says.

Today, the company's fleet includes John Deere backhoes, crawlers, front-end wheel loaders, and compact machines. "When we started we weren't looking for a dealer. We were seeking a true partner — someone who is really invested in our relationship and understands what we are trying to do. And we found that with John Deere. They take our goals and make them their own. We have a high degree of trust in them."

Master Craftsmen
Today TSIG has 40 to 50 active projects at any given time in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico. The company's main customers are energy giants, including Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy, and Sandridge Energy. All three are headquartered in Oklahoma City. In the last 12 months, TSIG has doubled in size in terms of number of employees, revenues, and services offered.

TSIG takes great pride in the craftsmanship that sets it apart. "You can really tell our people take great pride in the work they produce," says President Larry Winters. "It shows in the neatness of the jobsite down to the ditches they dig. You'll find that attention to detail and caring reflected everywhere in the high quality of their work, and our customers know that. Our partners, including John Deere, are committed to the same high level of craftsmanship."

The John Deere brand is an important part of building TSIG's image. "We're proud to have the John Deere logo on our machines. It builds confidence among our customers and operators to know we are using the best equipment we can buy."

Well-Oiled Machine
The company still owns the first piece of equipment it ever bought from John Deere — a backhoe. "We still use it every day," says Ward. "As long as we keep up with maintenance, we've never had any problems with any of our Deere equipment. It doesn't matter what the conditions, they perform well in all kinds of weather and never leave us stranded."

The first time TSIG used Deere equipment, they were on a tight time frame to finish a job, and the dealer responded ASAP, getting them the machine they needed immediately. "We have demanding customers," says Winters. "It's a death sentence in this industry if you hold up a critical part of the job, so dealer responsiveness is critical. We went with John Deere equipment because their service and support mitigates this risk because their equipment is so reliable. And our operators rave about these machines. And if that's what they want, we're going to give it to them."

"What's not to like about these machines?" adds Ward. "They're comfortable, visibility is great, controls are exceptionally smooth, and they're easy to maintain. Deere equipment never lets us down."

By keeping operators happy, TSIG is better able to retain them. "Keeping experienced operators around is very important to us, which is why we try to put them in the best possible situation that will make them successful," says Allison. "Our operators are very talented — they are artists. If we put them in a nice piece of equipment, they will want to be a part of our team. And that means putting them in John Deere equipment."