Maintaining the Legacy of Hose & Rubber Supply
“Let me tell you a story,” Gordon Crawford, owner of Hose & Rubber Supply began. “When my brother and I were working for my dad, we were doing some of the manufacturers’ rep stuff for Hose & Rubber. One of the things you did as a warehousing manufacturer’s rep was to stock and sell the manufacturer’s inventory. You had to do inventory counts for them at a minimum of once or twice a quarter.
“This was pre-computers, so the way we kept track of everything was with a guy by the name of Don Hinton. He would plan everything out on a year-at-a-glance calendar, with different colored highlighter marks such as blue, green, yellow, and so on.”
“My father came in one day and was looking at the calendar and said, ‘Okay, I’ve figured out what all the colors relate to except these, what are all these orange ones?’ Don really didn’t want to answer him. Finally, my father asked again, ‘What are all the orange ones?’ Don got up from his desk, walked away, and over his shoulder said ‘Those are the days this year (24) that you fired Gordon. I kept track.’
And so, the story of Gordon Crawford begins.
Crawford’s dad, Les, was the owner of Hose & Rubber Supply Company. He and his partner, Dave Brown, purchased McFarland Specialty in 1970 and Hose & Rubber Supply was incorporated on August 13, 1976. Both Crawford and his brother, Dennis, started working there in ’79.
“I was actually staying at my mom’s house and my dad called and said, ‘I need you, now’ and that’s how I came to work,” Crawford remembered.
Crawford’s brother was in the army, stationed in Germany. When Dennis returned, his father put him to work, too.
The two Crawford brothers worked for their dad for close to 19 years, and if that sounds like nepotism, it isn’t. Crawford said his dad was harder on them than anybody.
“He expected more out of us,” Crawford revealed. “But my brother and I would actually take turns at ‘who is going to piss dad off this week.’”
Hence, the 24 firings.
Still, he must have been doing something right because he ended up working for his dad at Hose & Rubber Supply for 19 years. He started working there as a 20-year-old kid and, during those 19 years, grew into the man that he is today. He learned everything he could about the industry and, most importantly, how to treat both customers and employees.
“The way we treat employees stems from how my father did,” Crawford stated. “If an employee was out of town on a job, and their wives or kids needed something, we would drop whatever we were doing if they needed help. I saw my father do that several times. He would say ‘So-and-so needs help and we’re going to help them,’ and he would point at somebody and say, ‘Go get in my car and get out there and help them.’”
Reasons like that are why Hose & Rubber Supply is so successful. They’ve gone from one store in Casper to multiple branches throughout Wyoming, Montana, N. Dakota, Colorado, and Utah. A big reason for that is because of the loyalty of its employees. And that loyalty comes from a sense of belonging. The staff at Hose & Rubber Supply constantly refer to their co-workers as family, and that’s exactly what they are to each other. It was something Les Crawford imparted on his sons, and it’s something both Gordon and Dennis imparted onto their employees when they took the reins over for their dad in 1998.
“My father had intended to move in that direction for a while,” Crawford stated. “He bought out his then partner, Rod Rossman, in the early ‘90s, and then it got to the point where he was, more or less, faced with his own mortality. Eventually, he sold a little over 80% of the company to both me and Dennis, sold 15% to his bookkeeper, Bill Pollock, kept a small part for himself.”
And so, the boy who was fired 24 times by his own dad was now a man who owned the company. At first, Crawford said, not much was different.
“It didn’t seem like things had changed much,” he stated. “We all just kind of had to talk more, rather than going to our dad for the answer. After selling to us, he stuck around for a while and kept doing what he was doing, but eventually my brother had to tell him not to go out to the warehouse anymore.”
Les, you see, had commanded such respect from his team that even though he wasn’t technically the boss anymore, the employees still viewed him as such.
“Everybody would just stand at attention when he walked in,” Crawford said.
And that’s a good thing, in theory. But both Crawford and his brother needed to command that same respect. Luckily, it wouldn’t be long before both did.
Crawford has owned Hose & Rubber Supply for more than 20 years. In that time, the company has grown exponentially – to the point that it’s become the industry leader in hydraulic, industrial, and automotive hose needs. Hose & Rubber Supply also offers an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), meaning that literally every employee of Hose & Rubber has a vested interest in the company, ensuring that customers are given the absolute best service.
Hose & Rubber has developed a training curriculum to educate employees in areas of problem-solving, product application, communication, cyber security, and much more. H&R has even started to offer online training videos.
Additionally, Hose & Rubber Supply has earned the coveted AS9100D certification, which is the US Air Force’s highest standard for quality. Everything that Hose & Rubber Supply does has the highest standard of quality because Crawford expects nothing less. He got that from his dad.
Eventually, Crawford said, he’ll retire. And, when he does, he knows that he’ll be leaving the company in good hands, just like his dad did.
“I figure in the next two or three years, I won’t even be necessary here,” Crawford laughed. “Scott Hilton down in Salt Lake City [Utah] has got a pretty good handle on things. We’ve got a good board and we’ve spread out and we’re delegating to people more, and they’re really starting to understand what we’re trying to do.”
And what they’re trying to do is simple – they want to offer the best supplies and the best service they can.
That has been the goal since day one at Hose & Rubber Supply, and it continues to be the goal even still.
“We’re going to be 50 years old,” Crawford stated. “I believe they call that sustainability. A lot of companies come and go. We don’t.”
Nor will they.
Crawford said he wants the legacy of his company to be that it was a good place to work because they always took care of those who worked there. Hose & Rubber Supply has done that. They treat their customers and their employees like they are friends like they’re family. Like a father, or like a son.