web analytics
Home | HOUSTON | Spotlight | Spotlight - Guy Felton, A.G. Welding

Spotlight - Guy Felton, A.G. Welding

image Guy Felton, President, A.G. Welding, Houston, TX

HOUSTON - Owning a welding business wasn’t on Guy Felton’s radar until he realized he needed a change from his environmental consulting career. Once he made the switch, though, he found the perfect place for his entrepreneurial spirit.

 

 

 

 

How did you become interested in this industry?
    I am from a family of construction workers. My family is from the New Orleans, LA area. My grandfather owned a successful sheetrock and painting company from the 1920s to the 1950s, and my dad and many of my uncles worked in the business. Two of my uncles became custom homebuilders in New Orleans, and two uncles managed facilities for two large California school districts. Another uncle on my mom’s side of the family was a custom homebuilder and his son (my cousin) has since taken over the business.
    This is actually my second career. My first career was in environmental services industry and I did some project management work with various environmental cleanup firms. I was somewhat in the construction industry but also involved in a lot of other aspects of the environmental work. I did that for about 14 years in Houston.
    I always had a passion to be a business owner and I wanted to do something different than what I had been doing, which was the environmental consulting. So I thought the best way to do that would be to purchase a business. I started out with an Internet search and then I worked with some business brokers. I looked at a few businesses prior to this one, and I ended up purchasing this business, A.G. Welding, in December 2002.

You didn’t have any welding experience before this?

    No, I had never had experience in this kind of industry. When we started out, the company had seven employees and the company had a good reputation for quality, custom ornamental ironwork.
    One of the first things I did by my second year was to start doing commercial work. I think one mistake I made early on was, the first couple of commercial jobs we did went well. I perhaps had a little bit of hubris where I took on a larger project than I think we were ready for at that time. I ended up losing some money on that one, but we finished the work and we did a good job. It was my first hard-knocks lesson, but since then, commercial work has been our primary business offering.

How has the company evolved since you bought it?

    We’ve tripled our employees to 22 employees now. Initially we were 100% residential and now we’re 75% commercial and maybe 25% residential. Initially, when we were doing residential work, we were mostly doing ornamental stair railings. We were doing fences and gates; those were our primary offerings. We still offer those services, but our primary offering now is structural steel fabrication and erection. We go to Louisiana, Oklahoma and North Texas, San Antonio and Austin area. We’ve even gone as south as Corpus Christi. We are a certified fabricator with the city of Houston and there are no license requirements for the state of Texas, but we recently were licensed for the state of Louisiana.
    Our commercial work includes ground-up steel erection, tenant build-outs and renovation work. Renovation work is sometimes the most challenging because we frequently do not have any blueprints or we have non-accurate blueprints. Also, this work often has to be done at night if the business is open during regular business hours.

What has been the most important lesson you have learned in the past 15 years?
    The most important thing I’ve learned is patience with my employees. I think I’ve kind of allowed people to make mistakes and learn from them. I think I’ve realized that in this industry, mistakes are going to be made. We have to fix them, and sometimes that is going to take time and money, but whatever happens, we just want to provide good customer service.
    I think early on, I would get a little more upset when things wouldn’t go well, but now I think I’m more understanding and patient that that is part of the industry that we’re in – equipment is going to break and things are going to happen that are not going to go according to plan! We just have to factor that into our cost as much as we can within reason and provide good customer service.

Have you had any family members join you in this venture?

    Both of my daughters, a brother and several nieces and nephews have worked here. Currently, my sister Leslie works here, and my nephew Angel has worked here for 10 years. In the very early years, my mom would help with answering the phones and my wife would prepare the company tax returns. Through the years I’ve had many family members work with me, mostly younger family members that try and get some work experience. I’ve probably had seven or eight family members come through here, but one long-time family member has been here about 10 years. Most of the other people who have come through mostly are getting some work experience and moving on, which is great.

How do you bond with your employees?
    We have a Christmas dinner each year. We have also gone to Astros baseball games. We used to play soccer or football since we have an extra space over here, but we haven’t done that in a while. We did that for several years, but the big soccer players have kind of moved on. Plus, it got to be a little competitive at times; we had our second fight on the soccer field and I had to say that if we couldn’t play nicely we had to stop playing!

Wow! How do you take a break from that kind of excitement?
    A lot of my relaxation time is spent watching Houston sports – I’m a big Houston sports fan and watch the Rockets, the Texans and the Astros. I don’t do much tailgating, but I do go to games for all three teams and I watch them on TV.
    I also spend time with family and friends; that’s always enjoyable. I have two college-age daughters. We try to take at least one nice vacation each year. I usually take off a week of work and sandwich it between two weekends. We’ve had an opportunity to travel quite a bit, and that’s something I enjoy.
    I’ve also been trying to exercise. That’s my other relief time.

Do you collect anything?
    When I was younger, I had a very nice comic collection. I’ve managed to keep some of them, but Mom threw away a lot of them - you kind of hit a sore spot there! I was a big comic book fan. I used to go to the Star Trek/comic book convention each year.
    I also have collected sports cards and have a nice rock, mineral and fossil collection. I am also a “pack rat” when it comes to cards and letters from friends and family. I have letters as far back as high school that I have stored in the attic.

What plans do you have for the company?
    We just want to continue growing, not so much in services offered but in growing in sales revenue. We don’t really want to expand our geographic area at this time but I’ll probably say we want to continue to grow and we do want to expand our facilities and office and shop.

Do you think you will retire from the welding business, or will you pursue another interest?

    I think I will work here until I retire. If I have a third career and it might be done simultaneously with this one, it would be teaching. I would probably teach at the high school or community college level and I would probably want to teach a business or entrepreneurship course.
    Subcontractor A.G. Welding is located in Houston. –mjm


Need a Reprint?

Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net