The Boyertown Area Times
Schlouch Inc. celebrates 40 years in business
The company that began as a family operation in the Schlouch’s basement now does site preparation services across 8 counties
In the winter of 1983, Barry and Deb Schlouch laid the first of many foundations.
From a small office in the basement of their Shoemakersville, Berks County home, they set the cornerstone of a site planning company that would grow to employ hundreds and be recognized as an industry leader.
It was March 3, and Barry Schlouch had recently left his steady job as an excavating foreman to fulfill his dream: Schlouch Inc., a site preparation firm that focused on excavating and utilities.
At the time, the Schlouches had no firm jobs on the books, no equipment, and only $2,000 in startup capital.
What they did have was a commitment to great quality — a commitment that Barry Schlouch, president of Schlouch Inc., contends was the “secret sauce” behind their success.
“I always thought that the golden goose is doing great work,” Schlouch said, “If (a business) does great work, and they’re competitive, and consistent, people are craving that, today and tomorrow.”
With the help of his mentor, local engineer Dwight Powell, Schlouch put together a business plan, and the company quickly acquired its first job—a $15,000 assignment to prepare a site in West Reading for a Wendy’s Restaurant.
From there, Schlouch said the company began building its reputation for quality.
Still, Schlouch said he faced challenges throughout the initial years.
“It was block and tackle daily, off the start,” Schlouch said. “The first five years are critical. Money is tight, it’s not very forgivable to make any mistakes…we had to do a lot of things right.”
As a young company, survival was anything but easy, Schlouch said.
“I just had to get up and make sure we were doing it right every day,” Schlouch said. “It’s easy to screw it up. It’s hard to make it work.”
40 years later, the company employs 285 people, and has expanded its services from excavating and utilities to include surveying, blasting, concrete, paving and more.
Schlouch said it was his company’s consistency and workmanship that generated repeat business and attracted talented employees.
Schlouch Inc. now serves a variety of residential, commercial, industrial, energy and governmental clients — many of whom are repeat customers.
“We’re putting out high quality tradespeople at every job site…We really set ourselves apart, we get 85% repeat business,” Schlouch said.
Part of what attracts quality employees is Schlouch’s commitment to safety, Schlouch said, exemplified in the company’s approach to the pandemic.
“We really took advantage of our safety-driven culture,” Schlouch said, “We were doing check ins every morning for symptoms… We didn’t have a positive (COVID test) from the start of the pandemic until Thanksgiving in November (2020).”
Other safety-oriented practices by Schlouch Inc. include providing the latest equipment and technology to workers, and holding a daily “safety huddle” where safety hazards unique to each job site are identified.
Schlouch said the company’s planning during COVID extended to its approach to material shortages and the resulting price fluctuations in the industry.
He said that by pre-purchasing materials, Schlouch Inc. was able to cut costs substantially for clients — including large clients like the Lehigh Valley Health Network and Hershey Park.
Meticulous planning can also be seen in the company’s approach to growth, according to Schlouch.
“Our formula is slow growth. We know that if we stay within 10% to 15% growth, we can upscale and train people,” Schlouch said. “If we grow too fast, we can’t keep that high standard of quality if (people) aren’t trained…and really, the quality of the people is the quality of the outcome.”
Schlouch also heavily invests in top-tier training for employees, Schlouch said.
“We have a full training program that includes leadership, project management, and field training,” Schlouch said.
Schlouch Inc. is engaged in multiple projects across eight counties.
Those include several in Berks,
like the 450,000-square-foot Reitnauer Trailers manufacturing plant in Ontelaunee Township, the Hamburg Commerce Industrial Center on 201 acres in Perry Township, and a road improvement in Lower Alsace Township.
In addition, the company recently wrapped up work on a new 250,000-square-foot FedEx building at the Reading Airport.
Schlouch said he believes the company has the potential to last for decades to come, thanks to the dedication of employees, including his daughter, Stayce Rowlanes.
“There’s only like 4% of females in the (construction) field,” Schlouch said. “Our daughter is really setting a trend. She can operate equipment, she can put pipe in the field. She’s really setting our company apart.”
Schlouch said he believes his company’s dedication to quality could see it last another 100 years.
“That’s really how John Deere got to 190 years in business,” Schlouch said. “I see us becoming that.”