Knowledge of how to sustain a lucrative business that stands the test of time is something most owners are continually interested in. In today’s climate, meeting the challenge of finding young talent to bring in is just as popular a topic. Landgren Well Drilling, based in Bartlett, Neb., has both of those matters covered.
James Landgren founded the water well drilling business in 1962. Now that he has retired, his son Mark Landgren, who’s worked alongside him for the past 40 years, has purchased the business from him and oversees operations. About three years ago, Mark’s son, Matt Landgren, graduated from college and he has been a part of the team ever since. Mark handles the business end of things and is beginning to introduce Matt to it. They both serve as the drilling crew as well, with the help of James, who is still very active in the business.
In light of the fact that the small family operation has managed to weather more than 50 years and three generations, National Driller recently interviewed Mark Landgren about how they’ve endured.
Q. When passing down a business from one generation to the next, or one owner to another, what key steps need to be taken to make sure the transition is a smooth one?
A. Communication. You’ve got to work through a lot of things. You want to make sure that everybody’s on the same page so it goes smoothly.
Q. At a time when the children of drillers seem much less interested in following in their parents’ footsteps, do you have any suggestions for recruiting new drillers?
A. It’s hard to find help in our area because there aren’t a lot of young families around or young people that want to pursue the business. It is very hard to find help.
Q. What about equipment? How do you stay on top of the latest options and decide when to make a new purchase?
A. We just bought a new drilling rig because we’d been using the other one since 1976, which is one we had built ourselves. We just thought it was time to upgrade. It’s hard to decide when. I guess it’s whether or not you can afford to do it at the time.
Q. With regard to continuing education, what do you do to keep up with new methods and best practices?
A. Tradeshows is a big one and we also have classes we go to every year. [We attend] our state show.
Q. What key safety practices does your crew make a habit of?
A. The hard hats and the safety harnesses. We just try to be really cautious that we don’t get in a big hurry when we’re trying to get something done. Just be watching everything.
Q. Are there any mistakes or bad calls that have been made on the business management end that would be nice to be able to go back and undo?
A. The biggest thing is just communication with your customers. Just knowing what they want and trying to please them. That’s the biggest key to having a good business.
Q. How has your business changed over the years? What are some of the most notable changes that have been made?
A. One of the big ones right now is the solar wells. We went from a lot of windmills to more solar wells. That’s probably one of the biggest changes we’ve done.
Q. How has the industry changed over the years? How do circumstances now compare to when the business was founded?
A. There are a lot more regulations to protect our groundwater, which is a good thing. That’s probably one of the biggest changes.
Q. How have you managed to keep the business going for this long? What does it take to last through multiple generations and economic cycles?
A. Honesty. Just [to] put out a good product and service is big in our area. If you have a really good service, that’s going to help you keep your business.
Q. What advice would you give to new drilling business owners hoping to build something that stands the test of time like you have?
A. Be honest with your customers. Don’t try to take advantage of them. It’s just a good practice so they know where you’re coming from and they don’t feel like they got taken by the well business.
Q. How does it feel to have kept the business in the family for three generations and what are your hopes for the future?
A. It feels really good to be able to have a three-generation business. There are a lot of businesses that have not held on that long, so we’re really proud of that.
Q. What do you enjoy most about this business as a whole?
A. Working with people. When you get a nice letter from somebody that’s very happy with the job you’ve done, that’s always kind of nice.