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March 3-7, 2026

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Navigating the Entrepreneurial Abyss: Insights from 3rd Generation Business Owners with John Scepaniak



Director of Aggregate Operations at Wm. D. Scepaniak, Inc., and fellow third-generation entrepreneur, John Scepaniak joins Taylor White of Ken White Construction on the podcast today to explore the dynamic world of family-run businesses and a whole lot more. Sharing his firsthand experiences in managing the complexities of mining and road construction operations, John sheds light on the challenges of contract aggregate processing and adapting to various job sites. His conversation with Taylor here today delves into the significance of legacy, the pivotal role of social media in modern business strategies, and the critical importance of recruiting the right talent.  

Throughout the discussion, John recounts the history of his family business from its modest post-WWII beginnings to its expansive operations across the United States, and reviews the unique difficulties of third-gen business management, including navigating federal regulations and internal company decisions. He and Taylor reflect on the enduring importance of contributing to their family's legacy, the satisfaction derived from building a dedicated team, and the necessity of portraying work positively to children in order to provide a holistic view of entrepreneurial life that is both inspiring and practical. With a focus on balancing professional responsibilities and family life, John offers actionable insights and personal anecdotes that provide listeners with valuable takeaways. Don't miss this episode jam packed with entrepreneurial wisdom and practical advice for both seasoned business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. 


  • The history and expansion of John’s family business
  • John’s engaging online content 
  • The challenges of managing daily operational issues 
  • The complexities of contract aggregate processing and working in diverse locations 
  • Taylor and John’s reflections on the legacy of their family businesses and the importance of contributing to this heritage 
  • The value of integrating work and family life and portraying work positively to children 
  • The strategic importance of hiring the right people and the long-term benefits of building a dedicated team 
  • The unique challenges and opportunities of running a family-owned business 

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Episode transcript:

John Scepaniak: Days like this suck, but this is where some people quit. Days like this where you're dealing with the federal government, employee issues, internal issues, people making decisions internally that you wish they would have not made those decisions, we'll call it, you have problems from every direction. But that's when a lot of people quit. They say, “This is enough. I'm out.” So I said, “Let's just get through today and the sun's coming up tomorrow. Let's keep going.” And that is such an important perspective to keep. But then also in the same breath, have the gratitude that you have the capacity to handle this stress. Because I deal with employees and I see the things that get certain people frustrated, and you just got to take a step back and be like, “I am thankful that I'm able to step back, see the big picture, and manage these types of issues.”

Taylor White: Welcome back, everybody, to the CONEXPO/CON-AGG Podcast. I am your host, as always, Taylor White. Podcast brought to you by our good friends over at Komatsu. Shout out to them. With me today, I have a fellow third gen business owner, somebody who makes some dope content online that you definitely need to check out as well, too. John Scepaniak. 

John Scepaniak: Good enough. We'll roll with that.

Taylor White: John, thanks for being here today, man.

John Scepaniak: I appreciate it.

Taylor White: Listen, whenever I came across your page and everything, I was checking it all out, and you make some really cool stuff.

John Scepaniak: Oh, thank you. I guess I drew a lot of inspiration from growing up, watching slednecks movies and trusty demons, stuff like that. Always, always wanted to go in that direction, but I was always a little too big to put a snowball in the air. So I took that video and music conjunction inspiration from that and pushed it into construction. 

Taylor White: No, I love it. 

John Scepaniak: It's fun.

Taylor White: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about– Because people that are listening right now, we're talking about you make a video. What do you make a video for? You're. You're a third generation business owner of Scepaniak. You guys do mining, construction, and aggregate. Tell us a little bit kind of about that before we get deep into it.

John Scepaniak: Sure. Kind of a company overview. 

Taylor White: Yeah, more so.

John Scepaniak: Sure. So our business operations are split essentially 50-50 between mining and road construction. So when we explain our product offering, or service offering, rather, is we can do everything from taking a greenfield site, stripping the overburden and topsoil, to mining the aggregates, crushing, screening, washing it, getting it into a stockpile, loading it, transporting it, placing it, final grading and compaction. So we can offer the full suite to take the material from the ground and put it on the road. With that, we will do segments of that process, depending on the project. And we operate essentially from the Mississippi river to as far west as the Colorado Front Range throughout the United States of America. So it's grown a lot in the last decade. It's very fun for me to be a part of and make the decisions every day that steer the ship. It's a lot of fun.

Taylor White: If you're doing a road project or you're doing a project, you're saying you can bring, like, mobile crushers and stuff there and crush them on site, or do you guys own pits and quarries as well, too?

John Scepaniak: It's a mix. Primarily, we do contract aggregate processing. So I would say you look at our annual volumes, probably 90% of that is stuff that is done at somebody else's location to provide aggregates for them or for a project. We do some retail out of our own sites, and that's something we're further developing. But I always look at it like this way, we probably figured our business out in the hardest way possible. We solve the hardest problem, which is contract crushing. Every project we do from a mining aspect is we're playing without home field advantage you could say. We're going to somebody else's job site. It's a new site. We got to figure out the geology of it and process the aggregates to spec. It's not like a typical quarry operation where Grandpa bought the quarry. And we've been digging in the same quarry or this gravel pit for generations. In a year's time, we'll bounce realistically between 70, 80, 90 different gravel pits in a year's time. It's a lot. A lot of ground to cover, and it's a lot of just figuring stuff out on the fly. And we have historical records of some of these sites. Stuff we've been in year after year after year. But there's a handful of jobs where every time you're getting there, you're dropping the plant off and kind of figuring it out as you go.

Taylor White: So you guys obviously have been doing this for a while. Third generation. How did it start? You're third gen now, who kind of started this off? And I'd like to know the history of it.

John Scepaniak: Sure. So we'll backtrack to pre World War II. My grandfather, William D. Scepaniak, did some livestock trucking and gravel trucking just to kind of make ends meet. And then he got drafted in World War II and spent the better part of a decade across Africa and Europe fighting World War II. And then when he came back home, his parents had sold his assets because there was probably no certainty he was going to come back or when. And they had to make ends meet as well when he was gone. So he essentially came back in ‘46 and started from scratch. And from there, he did some miscellaneous stuff, did some waterway digging with the cable excavator, and just probably spent the better part of 10 or 15 years figuring out his niche. The early 1960s, he bought one of his first rock crushers and then bought a second one and ran those for the rest of his life. He passed away in 1979. At that point in time, my dad was 18, and he had two older brothers. Bob was in his mid 20s, and Bill’s in his late 20s at the time. 

And essentially they were faced with the decision, do we sell what we have? Which in retrospect was not a lot at the time. Or do we try and make this thing work? So they took the business and ran it pretty steadily into the early two thousands. There was a point in time where Bob, the middle brother, went a different direction, and he left the business. And then Bill and Joe, which Joe is my dad, Bill’s my uncle, pushed the business, and we eclipsed a few new verizon's spread out beyond Minnesota and took on some new projects. Fast forward throughout that timeline, my two cousins, Tony and Jake, and then myself, and then my younger brother Brian, came into the business. At about every five years, one of us would show up. That's just the age difference. And here we are today. So it's grown a lot, and it's just been a lot of fun. I look back, I just eclipsed 10 years being here full time after college. And it's crazy how fast it's gone.

Taylor White: That's wild. Yeah, it's cool to see that third generation. I share that kind of thing as well, too. My grandfather started in the ‘60s, and then my dad took over, and then now there's me. And I think each generation kind of adds on to something and tries to build onto something, and each generation has struggles, although I feel like we don't have the same struggles or nearly the same amount of struggles as someone such as your grandfather or even your dad might have had. I'm sure our time will come when something crazy happens. But what was your take on the business like? So, for instance, when I asked that question, growing up, I was always like– We didn't do well, but coming into high school years, you're just like, “Oh, dad has a successful business.” And your dad and your family have this and have that. And I kind of just sat down with myself. I was trying to figure out, is this something that I want to grow or am I just going to show up every day, go to work, clock in, clock out? Because I can do that as well, too. My dad, “Hey, do whatever you want. You want to just work, work. Do you want to build on something, build on something.” What was kind of your take on the family business and what's your push with it?

John Scepaniak: It's funny bringing up, because I thought about this. Like I said, I've been here 10 years full time. So I was reflecting recently on what that time in my life was like as I got to the tail end of college and really had to figure out what I wanted to do. Many 22 year olds, you really don't know what you want to do. I had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with my uncle Bill throughout my time when he was still involved, just didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things. And that made it challenging for me as a college senior to say, “Yep, I want to jump right into this. Because this is the only job I've ever had. I've worked here every summer in between school and just through those times, Bill and I butted heads a lot. And knowing that he was kind of at the sunset of his career, he had a couple years left, and I had a conversation with my dad. I said, “I think I maybe want to go work for Caterpillar or do something adjacent in the construction industry and come back after Bill retires.” And that was just something that he had said. “Well, I don't know if we really care to wait that long,” because he said, “I could quit any day now. I have enough stored away. I could just walk away from this. And if it's not something you're interested in, why the hell do I want to travel all over the country crushing rock? I've done it my whole life.” 

So it was a series of conversations like that, because at the time, my mom had cancer. So, long story short, she would do her chemo on Fridays. And Saturday, she'd feel okay, but then Sundays, she was just wiped out. So my dad actually would come pick me up from my dorm in college, and we would just go hang out for the day because she couldn't deal with the noise in the house. So he and I spent a lot of time just driving around, talking, just talking a lot about the business, and I wasn't involved at the time, so I was really just a sounding board for a lot of the problems that were going on, and just challenges, daily challenges. And that's kind of where I grew really interested in it. I had worked in it my whole life, and I kind of made that decision that it's not just about what John wants to do, it's maybe about the family legacy and trying to contribute to that. There's no doubt in my mind that Jake and Tony and my dad and Bill would have been able to take the business to the same level without me. But I'm glad that I decided to be a part of it and contribute in some positive way looking back 10 years or so. Oftentimes, I don't know if I answered your question directly or indirectly, or I'll get off on a side quest every once in a while. So I apologize.

Taylor White: No, that's all good. Hopefully, your mom, everything's good there.

John Scepaniak: Yeah, she's 4-0 against cancer, so she's pretty much invincible.

Taylor White: Wrong woman.

John Scepaniak: Yeah, she's tough. She works every day in our office and most Saturdays and Sundays, too. So she's tough. Tough lady. Really proud of her.

Taylor White: Awesome. You mentioned legacy, and that's something that when I was coming into it, that was kind of what I recognized as well, too. You have a family business, and it's kind of like, what do you want to keep going on? And I really resonate when you say legacy, because ultimately, for me, I feel like my grandfather left a legacy, my dad's leaving a legacy, I want to leave a legacy, and I want my kids to do the same thing. But overall, it's the same legacy. The White family, our buildings, our excavators, our trucks on the road, the charities that we do, the foundation fundraising, all that sort of stuff kind of plays into it. And I really appreciate that you mentioned legacy, because to me, when I talk to somebody who has a family business and they mention the word legacy or this is what it's about, it’s like, “Yeah, that person kind of understands it and gets it.” Because I always think about my grandfather and even my dad and a lot of the struggles that they went through, repo men coming up for their stuff and missing out on family events. Growing up, my dad was gone quite a bit working. And it's like you almost feel bad if you kind of just didn't carry that on because then in my mind it's like, “Well, then it was kind of all for nothing.” Because sure they might sell and they might have money, but what's even more powerful than money to me is like that legacy of your last name and your family being carried on.

John Scepaniak: No, absolutely. You see it with us being in the third generation. The statistics say that we're usually the ones that either crash it into the ground or sell it and walk away. And I think just in talking to you now, it's like you're very aware of that pressure, as am I, and it almost puts a chip on your shoulder where it's like, “Well, and show the world that we're going to dial this up to 11.” Because the worst case scenario in my mind is obviously I run the business on the ground. Ten years in, it doesn't seem like that's the course we're on. And second worst scenario would be we just coast. You just essentially ride the coattails of the old man and not push and not grow the business. Once again, don't think that’s the case. I really think where we are and what I've seen of your organization is you're on the right trajectory to make a statement and defy the statistics or the status quo for a third generation company. And that's very exciting for me just to see what you're doing. It’s good because then it lets me know I'm not nuts.

Taylor White: No, it's the same with you. And that's why I really respect and like talking to relatable people like this because it is kind of a niche. Not too often are we talking to somebody else who's third generation and their family owns a construction company as well too. And although from the outside looking in, you mentioned kind of having the chip on our shoulder, like, “Yeah. Well, watch me go.” Like you think so, it's true because it’s kind of what your whole life has been told. It's easy, it's this, it's that. And then you're going to run it into the ground and that's what really actually pushes and motivates the reasoning for me as far as, like, legacy. Even up to most recently, we've had employees leap and they say stuff at their exit interviews and stuff. Like two years ago, this guy left and I'm like, “Well, I guess it was just a bad in leaving.” And he mentioned, said stuff about, like, “I can't wait to see you sink this thing and it won't go anywhere,” and this and that. And here I am talking about it two years later, not because it bothers me, but because I won't ever forget that. That's the type of stuff that sticks in my head, that when I'm busting my [EXPLETIVE] and pushing and constantly pushing and reaching a milestone and not stopping, keeping going on from that, that's stuff I'm reminded of where it's like, “I love to see the look on your face right now, dude.” You know what I mean?

John Scepaniak: I haven't experienced that negativity from people. Either I'm just completely ignorant to it, which is a very likely scenario. But my dad, he'll share stories about how, when he was 18 and he was a below average student, he always said he had to do this because he was too dumb to get into college. And that was why it was a big push for me to go to school. But he had a lot of teachers that kind of talked down to him. And it's like if they could see really what we built now or be aware of it, he had a lot of people talk negatively about what he was trying to do or he'll never be anything. And it's fun to see what we've built now and to just know in the back of your mind that, for one, nobody's opinion really matters, but at the end of the day, you really built something and you should be proud of. And to speak on the legacy thing again, the fact that my grandfather passed away  essentially 12 years before I was born, this business is really the only tangible connection I have to him. And that for me, that's important, because it goes so much beyond just what I want to do or what you want to do. It's about the big picture, man.

Taylor White: I really appreciate hearing that because my grandfather died when I was six years old. And, yeah, I think often that I wish Grandpa could see what we have going on right now as a team, as a collective. Look at how many people that we're feeding and look at the work that we're completing and look at what we're doing for the community and look at the money we raised for the children's hospital. And I love that sort of stuff because  like you said, and I've actually never put it down like that, but I like that, it's kind of what I have remaining of him to kind of be able to speak to him and continue on with his name and legacy, which is super cool. Part of what you do is you actually showcase and we touched on it at the beginning and I want to talk more about it because I have a love for videography and filmmaking and, obviously we do YouTube and all this stuff. But you do some wicked marketing video and pictures and I want to talk about that not because that's where I share love with you on that as well, too. So, you mentioned growing up, sled heads and sled necks and all this stuff. How did you think, “Okay, I'm going to bring this part of what I like doing and mix it with business and these two will be combined,” because that's always not an easy thing to connect, right?

John Scepaniak: Yeah. Well that's fair. Gosh, I don't know if you just want to place one punt and call it a creative outlet for myself. I always enjoyed videography and photography in some capacity and music and kind of conjoining all those things and just going ah, putting it out in the world. And that's where I'm thankful that I have social media in this day and age to do that thing. Because honestly it's as simple as when I make it reel, I take videos of what I'm doing every day and then when I get home I show my oldest, he just loves it, anything I was doing a big loader, the big truck, whatever, and I'll just kind of watch the video and get a song pop in my head and I'll put a reel together usually. That's as simple as that. It's a pretty low production outfit, to be honest. And then we did have a pretty good push into YouTube last year doing a little bit longer form content and stepped away from that a little bit as it's a big commitment, time investment. And just with some stuff behind the scenes, I haven't had as much time to commit to doing that, but it's definitely something that I'd like to get rolling again. But it's just something that I enjoy, and it helps me showcase the industry outwardly. I saw a lot of people in the construction industry, like yourself, doing it, and I was like, “Why can't I do that for my niche of aggregate production and mining?” And really, not to kiss your [EXPLETIVE] or anything, but I looked at what you were doing as a trailblazer in what we're doing, and it's like, “I admire this. I can take a crack at this and do it in my own way.” So I appreciate you kind of laying the footwork and foundation for that.

Taylor White: Yeah. Hey, I took inspiration from lots of people as well, too and then even watching your stuff now. It's crazy how you can draw inspiration from different people when you're making content. Because I always explain it, I like having people on the Ken White team that– Obviously you need different brains that come up with ideas. And I'm not talking about just marketing. I'm talking even just in business or anything. I'm really good at building on ideas. If somebody shows us, “Okay, great. I think we should be doing it like this.” Then I go often in a hot. It's like, “Okay. Cool, great.” So when I see you upload something, I'm like, “It was kind of different how he went around this and kind of showed this and maybe had a bit of part of that at the end.” Then I like building on that, and I draw inspiration from that. So I think it's really important to– I don't consume a lot of other construction content, but it's important to draw inspiration, I think, from a lot of the people. I appreciate that you've looked at our stuff as well, too. That's awesome. 

You mentioned about social media, and it's an outlet and it's good, and you throw it down and they throw it out there, and it's kind of like this and like that. This was my day, this is what I did. Obviously, you look at social media as a good and wrote your business on it or whatever you're doing in your life as well, too. So, with kids, do you think social media is something for the good or bad? How do you kind of combat that? Do you find sometimes you're mindlessly scrolling and you're like, “What am I doing now?”

John Scepaniak: Yeah, I would say that probably in the last month and a half, I've been consuming less or just been trying to be on my phone less. Because you don't want to use it as a tool to unwind. I mean, I'm on my phone enough as it is, just working, taking phone calls, sending emails, and all that. It's like seeming to burn a hole through my eyes if I keep looking at it. I try and put it away, but speaking on social media as a distraction or a mindless tool,  it's probably a lot like anything. It probably hits the same dopamine receptors that drugs and alcohol do to a certain degree. I don't know what you'd call it. I'm not a psychologist, but there's probably some sort of emotional pathway to where picking up your phone and scrolling gives you a dopamine high and just helps you get to a different spot. But I don't know, I've been a little more conscious of it as of recent, because you see the screen time report every week and it's like, “Holy [EXPLETIVE].  I could've really got something else done.” So I try and backfill it. If I'm going to be on my phone, I try and use the Hallow app every day and pray. And then I also hammer on Duolingo. Those are like two things that I'm like–

Taylor White: My wife loves duolingo.

John Scepaniak: Yeah. It's like if you're going to be on your phone, do these two things first. And then too, I usually don't have it out when the kids are around because you're a parent, you've seen how fast it goes. My kids are still very young, but all of a sudden, my kid knows how to ride a bike this week, and he didn't know how to use the toilet a month ago. So all of a sudden time's flying, so you don't want to be passing that by on Instagram. So I think it can be a tool, but it can also be a prisoner. So, yeah, use it wisely.

Taylor White: Totally agree. Especially when you're around your kids. That's one thing that I'm trying to work on now, and it sounds crazy trying to work on, but trying to just be more present with family because I'd like to say I'm perfect. And, hey, when I go home, I turn the switch off and I'm just fully involved in my family's life. And that's just not the case. I'd be such a liar if I told you that that was the case and I was just the perfect image of a dad and all this. I'm not perfect. I'm trying to make myself better every day, especially owning a business. And I'm curious to get your take on it, but especially with business being home during the week, especially in the summertime, things are flying. How do you work on that work-life kind of balance and being present in the moment, not burning a hole in your eyes with emails and calls and shutting it down so that you can be there as a father?

John Scepaniak: The idea of work life balance is very hard for me to wrap my head around. And I don't know if it's necessarily something I even want. I kind of want to blend it all together.My kids love coming with me to the yard if I come in on a Saturday and do something or meet with a foreman, they love coming with me, love climbing on the equipment. They love just being here. And that for me is huge because that's what I remember doing. My dad would, if he was home on Saturdays, we usually come down to the shop yard with him and just hang out, just do nothing, just pick up rocks or whatever. And just trying to integrate my personal life with the businesses is important to me. I don't necessarily want to put them in two different buckets because I have to take a lot of phone calls. Our operations run 24 hours a day. So usually from 6:30 to 8:00 at night, you are getting shift change phone calls and guys are calling me, updating me with problems and issues. And that's the same time if I'm home, I'm with my kids and my kids understand that if daddy's on the phone, they'll be quiet because he's got to help somebody do their job. I never looked at it as like, “Oh, dad's got to go to work.” And it's like this negative thing. It's like dad has to go to the rock quarry because he's got to help people have a good day. It's kind of how I articulate the story in my kids and it's all this. It's rhetoric. If you have this negative outlook of work and it's like, I got to go [EXPLETIVE] punch in for the boss man or the corporate overlords, your kids are going to grow up with this naturally negative outlook on life, but then they're also going to think it's normal to hate what you do for a living. You know what I mean? And I don't think that's good. So I like to portray, even if I've had the most [EXPLETIVE] kicking dog [EXPLETIVE] day, I walk in with a smile and say,”Daddy had a tough day, but he had fun and he helped people and did the best that he could.” And try and put it into a positive frame for the kids because they subconsciously observe absolutely everything you say and do. And I don't want my kids to grow up having a negative outlook on work because work is tremendously rewarding no matter what you're doing. So I just articulate that storyline. 

It's actually kind of funny. So my son asked me one day, I told him, “Hey, I'm going to work tomorrow.” When I tucked him in he's like, “Are you going to your real job or your pretend job?” I'm like, “What do you mean?” He's like, “Your real job at the rock quarry?” And I'm like, “No, I got to go to the office.” And he's like, “Oh, so your pretend job?” I was just like, yeah, that was pretty hilarious. But anyways, I guess maybe to speak on that and recap my whole extensive thought there is, I don't necessarily look for a balance. I look to integrate everything and understand that I have the privilege to be a part of this organization. And I don't necessarily want to separate the buckets because I look at where my kids are right now. They're way more interested in this business than I was at that age. I was interested in dinosaurs and  aliens and stuff. But my son, he's all about trucks, dirt, rocks. So I think they're way better situated to take this on than I was. So we'll be in good shape for the fourth generation.

Taylor White: Yeah, I love that. I like that you took it because I was putting it in two categories, and that's probably exactly how I would have answered it if I was asked the same question. Because the one thing I do to keep family and business separate is just on social media, like on kind of like construction. I generally don't post like my daughter or son, but I have a personal instagram that I post on friends and family, whatever. And I had a post there two weeks ago, and I brought the kids to our new pit, and they were in the machines hanging around. It was Saturday, and I needed to be there to screen topsoil and sand, and I took them with me because, like you said, I grew up around machinery. And my memories weren't of fishing with dad. They were going to work with my dad on a Saturday, driving around, talking to customers, or just sitting in the truck for a whole day as we drove around from job site to job site. That's my memories, and I loved them. And my dad, although super old school and obviously not every day, is fantastic. I saw that he really loved his job, and I saw that he really cared for it. And I think it's important for me, with my kids, much like you, to kind of give them the mindset of, “Daddy doesn't have to go to work, I get to go to work.” And that simple kind of mindset is really important, I find, because I get to get up every day and do what I do, I don't have to. 

And, although, whatever, it gets finicky because you have to pay the bills, but I think it's really important to make sure that your kids really enjoy and see that you like your job and you're not like, “Oh, thank God. I can't wait till Friday.” “Oh, Monday. Oh, gosh.” Because your kids are going to grow up and be like, “Oh, I guess that's just life. You're supposed to hate 90% of your life and only enjoy 10% of it.” It's like, wow, that's not a light. That's not a light that you should be living. So I really appreciate that answer. And although I do think I still struggle with mixing family and business a lot, I really respect that answer. How old are your kids?

John Scepaniak: So, my oldest is four and a half, and then I have a three-year-old and an eight-month-old. So we're right in the trenches. Yeah, it's good.

Taylor White: Nice. Well, my daughter turns three in two weeks, and my son turns one years old in four weeks. So it's pretty busy.

John Scepaniak: Yeah, it's the best. So I think that it's probably– I had a very complicated work life, and then you add in the complexities of children, and I'm probably busier than ever, but I take it for what it is. And I understand that this section of life is so brief that I don't want it to go any faster. I could sleep later, man. This is the best right now. It's a blast. Being a parent is a blast.

Taylor White: I was talking with a business owner the other day, and he's a buddy of mine, and we were kind of just chatting about how construction is just wild. So many moving parts, just kind of like this cash eating business, cash flow, looking ahead. It's a crazy business. It's dangerous. There's so many things that could happen. And we were talking about if everything is going normal, that's when I'm tiptoeing around the office. Like, okay, nothing crazy has happened today yet. Somebody hasn't come in with the classic, “You got two minutes.” When I hear employees come up and say, “Yeah, you smile, because I know you understand that.” 

John Scepaniak: “Are you busy?”

Taylor White: Yeah, “Hey, are you busy?” You get the text, “Are you busy?” Or they see you first, “You have two minutes to talk for a sec?” It's like, “Here we go.” Last week for us was insane. Just stuff that I can't even speak about because it's like lawyer stuff. Just stuff that happened last week. My wife, I came home one night, she's like, “How are you even functioning? This is normal stuff that would crumble some other people.” And I'm like, “I just think that my normal values are here, where maybe somebody else's would be down lower.” Not values of life, but just where we operate. I'm just so normal of just having so much stress all the time. I'm sure you can relate to that.

John Scepaniak: I had a day like that yesterday. Yep, it was– This is pretty much how it happened yesterday. I got here early because I knew I had a bunch of solo projects I had to work on. And then when everybody else gets the office, I just do a lot of helping other people have the tools and information they need to do their job both in this house and out in the field. And then afterwards, after the rest of the admin leave and kind of hang back and catch up on that to do list. And yesterday was just a nightmare. Myself and Ty, he's my counterpart that oversees our recruiting and HR. Him and I were kind of in the same boat. Just on some rough seas, we'll call it. And I looked at him and I said, “Days like this suck, but this is where some people quit.” Days like this where you're dealing with the federal government, employee issues, internal issues, people making decisions internally that you wish they would have not made those decisions, we'll call it, you have problems from every direction. But that's when a lot of people quit. They say, “This is enough, I’m out.” So I said, “Let's just get through today and the sun's coming up tomorrow, so let's keep going.” And that is such an important perspective to keep. But then also in the same breath, have the gratitude that you have the capacity to handle this stress. Because I deal with employees and I see the things that get certain people frustrated, and you just have to take a step back and be like, I am thankful that I am able to step back, see the big picture, and manage these types of issues. Really, it's something where you got to look at it as you're entrusted with the capacity to handle these challenges. So don't let it get to you. You could have been born not with the frame of mind or the strength of mind, rather, to handle this so be grateful for it. Take on the challenges as they come.

Taylor White: Yeah, you sound like a really good dude that if I was having a bad day, I'd want to talk to. But you sound very like you're relaxed. But don't get me wrong. I'm sure you probably have a side where maybe you're not so relaxed, but I get it that you just sound like a guy who definitely is probably good at managing and running a lot of different people.

John Scepaniak: You got to keep perspective on stuff. I've had truly bad days, and so I have pretty good perspective on, “Hey, whatever.” We had a windshield break on a skid steer. It's money, but it's not a bad day. Just a bad minute.

Taylor White: You got to have the bad days to know what the good days are.

John Scepaniak: Oh, yeah. 

Taylor White: Have you ever met somebody that only has good days? Liars. 

John Scepaniak: Yeah, exactly. 

Taylor White: That's definitely not true. Dealing with employees, you said you had HR and recruitment because I know that you have a bunch of people working with you and for you on your team. How do you find that? How do you like that? Because if I'm being transparent, honest, my least favorite part of the job, and not because of the people, because of the type of personality that I have is dealing with people. Because I'm kind of an [EXPLETIVE]. I'm not kind of, I am an [EXPLETIVE]. Because at work, I'm very cut and dry. What's the problem? Fix it. This, that, okay. Great. So I'm not HR. I can't be because nobody would work for us if I was the guy that was trying to figure it out. But how do you like that part of the job? I'm always interested to ask, start dealing with a lot of people and employees and stuff.

John Scepaniak: I saw it as a necessary evil. So if you want to look at where myself, my brother, my two cousins, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. I guess when I came into the business I looked at it as, well, if I want to really make progress here, show that I can make a difference, let's look at these huge, disgusting, ugly problems that nobody really wants to handle. And I was like, “I'll just take the shovel and start scooping [EXPLETIVE],” metaphorically speaking. And so I started doing that and that's where the hiring and managing people can be some days. You look back 10 years ago probably at 50, 60 people working here. So every year we would try and bring on maybe 10 more. So it was something where I was reviewing candidates, resumes, interviewing, doing the outward recruitment and then we had our payroll administrator handling the technical HR side of things, the drug screenings and obviously the payroll integration and things like that. As we scaled, as it says today, we're at about double the headcount. We have about 125 employees. So obviously with me trying to manage the projects in the field, it doesn't make sense for me to comb through resumes and interview people because there's just so much groundwork that needs to happen to get an employee in a seat. 

And it was really just happenstance. When we brought Ty on he was in a corporate recruiting environment, finding like temporary CFO's. He had a very niche recruitment job and him and I were roommates in college. And COVID happened and essentially his salary was x but the commission is where he made his money. But he wasn't allowed to go out and meet with clients because of COVID so he's working from home. He's like, “This isn't working for me.” He's living in the Twin Cities and there was all the stuff, I'm sure you know that's going on. It was just hell on earth. And he’s like, “I got to get out of here.” So he called me, we had a conversation and we brought him on board to handle the recruiting and then also handle the HR aspect of things. It's kind of a hybrid job for him in that regard, but it's been great. 

And you look at it now, it's a never ending project, staffing a company, because you just look at the– I know these numbers because we talked about it yesterday. You look at the, what should I say, task that it is to go from resumes down to getting a person in the seat operating for you, it takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of sorting, because it's not about [EXPLETIVE] in seats, it's about the right people. You got to look at it for the long term. We've walked away from multiple people who are plenty qualified on paper, but we did not think that their personality would mesh or we didn't think they were a team player. And I've left machine sip for that, and I've gotten grief from my counterparts in the business on that. They're like, “We got to get this plant running.” Just, “We got to find more people.” And I'm like, “We don't need to find just more people. We need to find the right people.” I could double our staff in a couple of days. You just increase your offering wage and check all the initial boxes, but you want people to be here for the long haul. My greatest sense of satisfaction working here is seeing somebody come in. Maybe college wasn't for them, they come on board at 18, they decide to hit the ground running with us and learn how to operate machinery. We push them into a plant operator position, and in three, four years, they're making more money than their parents. They're working hard for it, and we set them up to have a really successful life. That's what I enjoy. I don't get a kick out of just checking the boxes and filling all my machines and having this disgusting turnover rate. I don't know. Once again, I don't know if I answer your question, but that's just my thoughts on that. It's a never ending challenge to staff a company. And in this day and age, we're at this very weird transitionary time where there's a lot of external factors, and it's a very employee favorable situation. 

People, do they even have to work if they don't want to? I don't know. I haven't really seen that side of it. But it's a never ending challenge, and I'm sure you experience the same thing in your part of the world. You just got to stay on it,  because it's not just about hiring people, it's about hiring the right people. So you got to keep hunting.

Taylor White: No, I totally agree with everything you just said. It's so important to look at the person and look at the personality and not, “Okay, great. Well, they ran a hoe for 12 years and they're the best in the world. Great. But if he shows up in the job interview and the first thing comes out of his mouth is, “I'm not here to make any friends. I'll just do my job.” Like a guy that says that and it's like, “All right, no way.” But it sounds like you have definitely the right temperament and personality to be in where you're doing. And you don't need me to tell you that, because you already have a successful business, running a successful business. And there's no doubt in my mind that you're the third generation that will grow it to something even crazier than what it is now, man. So I really appreciate you cutting out time. I know that you're busy. I know that we all have stuff going on. Thank you for cutting out time to actually talk with me today. And I look forward to seeing everything, all your success and what you do.

John Scepaniak: No, thank you very much. And the same goes both ways. I really once again admire what you've done in the construction world as well as on the Internet for us as an industry. And it's exciting. I always leave these conversations very energized, and I'm glad that I had the bad happen. And then I got to talk to you today because now I put all that behind me and I got to practice what I preach and keep moving forward. So I appreciate this conversation. It was very beneficial for me, and I hope I was able to reciprocate that and provide you with some value.

Taylor White: Not in my mind that people will love it. Thank you guys for tuning in to the CONEXPO/CON-AGG podcast, brought to you by our good friends over at Komatsu. As always, thanks, John. I appreciate it.

John Scepaniak: Yep. Thank you.

Taylor White: Take care.

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