Russ: This is the Businessmakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at thebusinessmakers.com. My guest now is Brian Adams, the CEO of Rumber Materials. Brian, welcome to the Businessmakers Show.
Brian: Russ, thank you very much for having me.
Russ: You bet. Well, let's start here at the top. Tell us about Rumber Materials.
Brian: Well, Rumber's a pretty unique company. It gets its name from rubber lumber, and so what it does is that it takes recycled plastic, recycled, tires, extrudes them together to come up with a wood alternative. That wood alternative is used in the oil and gas industry, the livestock industry, the trailer industry, a lot in the military, and it basically is an alternative green that is in place of wood, and that's where you get the name, a rubber lumber.
Russ: Okay. Now I know of other wood alternatives that are siding on homes, some of them that are used as decks. I didn't hear you say either one of those in the description of rumber.
Brian: No. It's really not used in those types of materials. The reason is that since it's made from rubber, rubber's kind of heavy it couldn't be used on the side of a deck. I mean, it could be used for a deck for a boating deck, but it's going to require a different bracing and - it will last forever. It doesn't have the same tension strength as wood, tension strength meaning how strong it is, so it's got more of a give since it is made out of rubber and plastic.
Russ: How does it compare to wood when it comes to weathering and being in tough conditions?
Brian: So, rumber is going to outlast wood forever, so it won't crack, it won't rot, and it's not going to splinter. You can get down to 40 below zero and rumber's going to hold up, so I mean you're dealing with something that's going to last forever.
Russ: Okay. And we're talking about your business, though, is the manufacturer of this material, is that correct?
Brian: We are the manufacturer of this material. It's manufactured in a small town north of Dallas. It's been manufactured there for thirty years. We've recently purchased the patent to be able to do this.
Russ: Well, is it a thriving business or are you still out there, I mean thirty years. So the company's been in business for thirty years?
Brian: The company's been in business, manufacturing really for about twenty-five years, the technology's been around for about thirty years. So someone developed it about thirty years. The company's constantly grown. It's been under the helm of one family for the past twenty-two years probably, and so I recently purchased it from them.
Russ: Okay, cool. Recently, how recently?
Brian: Recently like as in July 9th, recently.
Russ: Wow, that is recent. So, do you have any manufacturing experience in your background?
Brian: I have no manufacturing experience in my background.
Russ: All right, cool. You just wanted to get stuff, eh?
Brian: Well, I like the challenge.
Russ: All right. Well, I want to talk a little bit about that acquisition too but a little bit more about the product. So you mentioned kind of Defense Department. You mentioned kind of the oil field, oil patch. I know from research that it had a very successful run, still does, in the bed of harsh trailers. Are you continuously looking for other market sector or are those, have you so much saturated in your volume that you don't even need additional ones?
Brian: So, those are pretty three large industries, so let me kind of tell you about some of the products that would be in those.
Brian: So in the military for example, the company makes something called a COP, that means a Combat Offloading Pallet. So when the government drops off the supplies out of an airplane to some remote country, it's not made out of wood. It's made out of this material. There is a lot of stuff being dropped out of the airplanes. Within the military we make something called dunnage boards, so dunnage boards. So currently now they're taking out all of the rolling equipment, say, from Afghanistan, so they have got to have it all up on dunnage boards. So the estimations that I've been told, over 30 months if they move around the clock, just to get the materials we have. So we can assist in there In the oil and gas business, we provide decking for the rigs, the set-back areas, sound abatement, pipe stripping, rig mats. For the livestock we do horse trailers. That was really the reason that the product even started is because it was better on the horses' hooves, and that where the benefit of the product even came from, that's where the idea came from, is that they wanted a product that was easier on the horses.
Russ: Okay. Well, I'm curious. Do you have people that come to you all the time that are familiar with the product and have another idea for a construction product using rumber?
Brian: All day long, someone comes in with, "Can you do it for this? Can you do it for this?" I mean, it's an all-day, you know.
Russ: Okay. What percentage of those actually turn into products?
Brian: You could sit around chasing new applications all day with people sending you stuff, but you have to know what the product's limitations are and what the product's ability is. But someone asks for it to do all sorts of different things, you'd be amazed, everything from scaffolding to the bottom of containers to building a house to shingles.
Russ: Okay. All right, so you've already let the secret out that you bought this company only on July 9th of this year, and I know a little bit about your background. You have a startup success story and an acquisition of another company that turned into another company that turned into a success story, and so this is like your third trip to the rodeo, is that accurate?
Brian: I would say third to the rodeo in Houston.
Brian: I had one in college as well. First I went to school at the University of Alabama. I'm from Tyler, Texas. The first business that we got into, we were in the commercial and restoration business, and so we would do cleaning for when you had a fire, and when they would come in, we would do all the garments and electronics at your house.
Russ: Wow, and that's kind of specialized, isn't it?
Brian: It's very, very specialized. And then also we did about a hundred hotels in town for their valet cleaning, valet and uniform cleaning. Oh, got also probably seven years, five years ago into the distribution business, into the plant and tree farm business.
Russ: Wow, okay. Distribution business meaning were you farming and growing plants or were you distributing other people's sales?
Brian: Both. So we did farm our own trees and then also we bought from various growers around the country and brought them here. We had four locations - actually three locations and the fourth being the farm - three locations, and it was a distribution facility for commercial contractors in and around the state.
Russ: Okay. Now both of those two companies, sort of the commercial, serious cleaning and then the distribution of plants, you've sold both of those, right?
Brian: Yes. I'm currently out of both of those businesses.
Russ: Okay, and that motivated you to find something else that would get you excited, and that's what led to Rumber?
Brian: Yes. It's been on the radars for a while so I've seen it for a while. The family that's run it for the past is just a phenomenal group of individuals.
Russ: And that's who you bought it from?
Brian: That's who I bought it from.
Russ: Are any of them still involved?
Brian: They are not involved but just wonderful people.
Russ: Okay. But I also know that you didn't just say, "Okay, I don't have anything to do, I'm going to go buy rumber," that you really sort of did a landscape search for companies that would get your juices flowing and that you would get excited about and that you thought you had talents and skills, is that right?
Brian: I set out a criteria of something I was look for. I reached out and mined through a lot of contacts. I started this process about two years ago, maybe two-and-a-half years ago, looking for the next piece of excitement, and I thought I was going to do one thing and I thought I was going to go start up a new business, but I went and did some extensive research. I went to out California and did some stuff, and I just realized that there's a reason that it's taken all these years to put a man on the moon. It's hard to do some of those things. I wanted to find a challenge of a business that had a strong culture that I could build off of and that I could dive right into and really help and use my experiences and really foster that culture and really grow on that, and I really believed that was real important to me.
Russ: Okay. Really cool. Now some of us small business entrepreneurs don't have the option to go out and buy a company but you did, so compare the two - startup versus buying an operating company. It might be hard to compare because I know it kind of depends on what company you buy but startup is hard yet acquisition can be expensive and not necessarily smooth either. Give us your perspective.
Brian: Well, you know, they're both difficult. They're both driven by the will of whosever driving the ship, so both can have challenges. Most people believe that when they buy a business that it's just going to go on like that forever. Well, it doesn't occur that way. Someone gets up every morning and they're driving that ship, and that was the reason that business was successful from the past. So the reason that a startup is hard is because it requires someone to create that future and create that vision and get that thing going. My perspective is that some people believe that - that's why franchises work. So franchises is that, "Listen, if you just do these steps, it works," and if people really step back and look at franchises, they're pretty amazing. You know, they provide the opportunity for people to be business owners and they really don't have to have foresight and gumption. Someone else is already doing that. All they have to do is step in and do the specific steps and plans. They're pretty much the same. You know, in the experiences I've had, they've been pretty similar. The only difference was in a startup, you had to go find the phone number, and in buying an existing business, they already had the phone number.
Russ: Right, right. Really cool. All right, so give us the long-term picture of Rumber. What does it look like five, ten yeas from now, ideally, from your perspective?
Brian: So people ask me what's my business plan. My business plan is to put my head down and have a process and work at it every day; and I'm going to stick my head up at the end of a couple of years and make sure I've been going in the right direction., but I'm a big process guy. I believe if you do the little things right every single day, you'll know what the end goal is.
Russ: Okay. That's really cool. In fact you might have already answered this last question but I'm going to ask it again anyway. Let's imagine we have a young, aspiring business person watching your interview right now saying, "Whew, that's all pretty cool." What kind of general advice would you give him or her?
Brian: Simplify it. No matter what kind of business, what kind of industry you're in, it all really comes down to really three important things and that's cash flow - cash flow's like blood to a business, and the only thing that someone really needs to pay attention to is how much they have, how much they owe, and how much they're owed. If they pay attention to those things every single day and really work on how the mechanics of those things work, they'll be able to do anything.
Russ: All right. Brian, I really appreciate you coming in and sharing your story with us.
Brian: Thank you very much, Russ.
Russ: You bet. That's Brian Adams, the CEO of Rumber Materials. This the Businessmakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at thebusinessmakers.com.