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An added bonus

image Randall Hughes, owner of J Mil Sheet Metal Fabricators

DALLAS/FT WORTH - When Milt Krueger suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital in 1983, Randall Hughes knew exactly what to do. He gathered his co-workers at J Mil Sheet Metal Fabricators and instructed them that they must continue to work for their boss’ sake and to treat the situation as if Krueger was simply taking a vacation.



    Hughes’ levelheaded advice came from 15 years of previous experience at Brandt Engineering, where he had worked since he was 17 as a journeyman, a foreman and then a shop steward.
    When Krueger’s health improved and he returned to the office, he was amazed that company had actually performed better in his absence. Impressed and grateful, he told Hughes that he would be receiving a bonus.
    “I said, ‘Look, I’m just doing my job, that’s what you hired me for,’ but he gave me the bonus,” Hughes remembers with gratitude. “I was always saving money. He had often wanted to sell the business to me, but I had not ever had the money at the time. The bonus was enough to put a down payment on the business, though, so I gave it right back to him. He actually financed the company for me and that’s how I bought J Mil in 1993.”
    Humble – and not wanting to mess with a good thing when he saw one – Hughes kept the company name just as it was.
    “I didn’t change the name because J Mil had a good reputation,” Hughes says. “Also, I don’t like everybody to know that I own it; I just feel like I’m an employee.”
    It was also an expression of thanks to Krueger, who had hired Hughes in 1990 immediately after another position in Colorado fell through. Because Hughes had only worked in the shop at Brandt, Krueger trained Hughes in the office side of the operation for three years, which prepared him to take over the business. Hughes is grateful to both Krueger and his customers for helping him find his stride as company owner.
    “When I bought the company, it was doing really well and I had really good customers,” he says. “Still, it was really scary the first year because I knew if we didn’t get paid for a job, we would close. My customers understood that and helped me along and guided me by the hand. After five years, I bought the buildings from Milt so that I wouldn’t have to move and just keep leasing.”
    “My customers are really the best,” he continues. “I still have some of the same customers today, which is over 20 years of keeping the same customers. We get probably two or three new customers a year and try to keep those happy. That has to say a lot about them and my employees.”
    He has also maintained his sense of fairness to customers over the years.
    “Everything we do is custom, and if customers call me for something they can get at the supply house, I will tell them,” he says. “We’re not the cheapest; we’re probably in the middle of the road price-wise to stay competitive. Sometimes, though, we might be a little higher than another company because they might have the machinery.
    “We have different equipment now but what we try to sell is time,” he adds. “When we say we’re going to get something done, we get it done in their time frame or as close as we can.”
    According to Hughes, his time frame as owner of J Mil Sheet Metal Fabricators will close when he retires in eight years. In the meantime, he’s seeking the right person to take over the business.
    “When my kids get out of college, I think I’m done,” he says. “I would like to keep the family business going, but I don’t want to push my two sons or daughter into it to where they have to come run Daddy’s business when they graduate college. I hope that someone buys it.”
    With the right bonus, it just might happen.
    J Mil Sheet Metal Fabricators is located in Mesquite. –mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net