Her dad wants her to succeed, too. "Her biggest challenge is to learn to drive
the big trucks," he laughs. "She's getting the driving down quite
Lacy has some goals for her dad, too. She wants him to spend less time as a hands-on
crew member and less time on administrative detail,
and thus have more time for customer interaction, and more time for community service.
Part of Lacy's role in management is to sort through job applications. "I'm
searching for those with a strong work ethic who display a potential willingness
to take on more responsibility in a leadership role," she explains.
She observes that those attributes are difficult to find among the traditional employee
pool for the onsite industry, which consists largely of younger men. One person
who fit the bill is Bridgett Woods Thomas, age 38. "She brings dependability
and a strong work ethic to the job," Lacy notes. "She really wants to
work in this industry."
Ledbetter adds, "We are willing to provide the training, support systems, uniforms
and equipment for them to excel.
RILLCO fields a four-member crew. Long-time employee Willie Alston is the equipment
operator. Cory Muller, a laborer and electrician-in-training, is being groomed to
handle the complex installation and management of advanced treatment units. Woods
Thomas, while learning the field aspects of the work, is also an equipment driver.
Lacy is business manager, and Costellar Ledbetter handles payroll.
"We listen to our customers because they can tell us a lot about what is
going on with their system. That helps us diagnose the problems. Customers need
to be listened to." - Ronnie
Supporting the field employees is an equipment fleet that includes a 1986 Ford 655a
backhoe-loader, a 1986 Ford 550 backhoe-loader, 1994 Ford tractor (for land clearing
and final grading), a 1986 single-axle GMC dump truck, a 1987 4-ton equipment trailer,
a 1989 10-ton equipment trailer, 2007 Ford Econoline 16-ton equipment trailer, a
1998 Dodge 1-ton pickup, a 1999 International vacuum truck with a 2,600-gallon tank
and a 2000 Ford Taurus sedan.
In a typical year the company installs more than 30 systems and repairs 30 more.
More than half the company's revenue comes from repairs and maintenance. While
still learning the intricacies of the field work, Lacy and Ledbetter both recognize
the need to delegate leadership, accountability and responsibility.
"We delegate based on an employee's knowledge," Lacy says. This keeps
the crews busy when Lacy and her dad are not onsite. It also builds employee confidence.
A confident and well-trained crew helps the company attract government business.
The office is about 30 miles from the U.S. Navy's Norfolk and Newport News installations,
and military contracts provide opportunities that cannot be overlooked.
Military contract work is put out for bid every year. RILLCO has worked for the
military in the past and hopes to continue doing so. In addition, local government
officials call on the company for occasional service and for the knowledge Ledbetter
can provide based on more than 30 years in the business. Being only 12 miles
from the North Carolina state line, the company also has provided onsite system
service in that state.
In the future, Ledbetter and Lacy envision linking their company with the local
vocational-technical school. Part of their legacy to the community will be instilling
in future generations the desire to be business leaders.
A clean business record, respect for customer knowledge, employees at all levels
who deliver work infused with professionalism, and the desire to make their business
an asset for the community all converge in the two generations at RILLCO.
As Lacy takes on more of the workload and her dad transitions to a new role as in-house
consultant, they will keep up their ties with employees and customers, and connect
with and nurture new customers and new employees. Lacy's approach to fine-tuning
the business is just fine with her dad, as together they move to the next level.
Being located near several military installations, notably the U.S. Navy Norfolk
and Newport News installations, RILLCO Inc. / Ledbetters Septic Tank has numerous
opportunities to bid on government contracts.
Businesses in area communities compete fiercely for this work, not because
it is easy or because it yields a fast profit, but because it is steady and reliable,
and the government pays its bills.
Federal and state governments build incentives for small businesses into the bidding
process. Some incentives relate directly to the prime contractor, and others relate
to the subcontractors serving the prime. Ledbetter Septic Tank, as a certified minority-owned
business in Virginia, has access to those incentives.
Co-owner Ronnie Ledbetter observes, "Smart business owners should take advantage
of every opportunity available to them. It is not a question of whether we agree
with the way government contracting works. It is a matter of using this tool to
help us compete for and win these contracts."