As seen in the Tried & True Summer/Fall 2019 issue
Few people are fortunate enough to find success in a self-made business right out of high school and still genuinely enjoy what they do decades later, but Phil Tribby has managed to do just that.
Phil Tribby and his wife, Sue Tribby, run Tribby Inc., a drainage and excavation company in Kansas, Illinois. Phil Tribby and his brother first founded Tribby Brothers Tiling in 1979. The two grew up gaining experience in the industry through their father’s bulldozing and excavation business and saw a chance to rectify a shortcoming in the area.
“We started the business because there was a need for it,” said Phil Tribby. “There weren’t any other contractors around here at the time and I loved this type of work. It was a natural fit.”
The business pairing between Phil Tribby and his brother, however, eventually dissolved as the two decided to part ways.
Phil Tribby maintained his drainage contractor business while his father independently continued his bulldozing and excavation business. After several years, the two merged the complementary businesses to become Tribby and Tribby. They worked this way until 2013, when Phil and Sue Tribby bought the company and converted the name to Tribby Inc.
Forty years since he first began, Phil Tribby is enthusiastic as ever about his business, likening the work to a big kid playing with large Tonka toys in a giant sandbox. And while Tribby Inc. is not the first contractor in the industry to reach a 40-year milestone, they may be the only contractor to have as unique of a collection as Phil Tribby. Through the years, Phil Tribby has accumulated an impressive assortment of tile relics, some pieces dating back to the late 1800s. This miniature museum of the industry’s past is indicative of the passion he feels for his work.
“It’s been really exciting to see the changes in the drainage industry over the last 40 years,” said Phil Tribby. “The advancements definitely make jobs quicker and simpler, but we think about everything we’ve done in the past and are proud of it all. I can’t imagine how that’s going to change even more with new technologies.”
While technology continues to advance, one thing that has not changed is Tribby Inc.’s commitment to their customers. Their success over the last few decades has lived on repeat business, resulting in the maintenance of a customer base who trusts them. Some of these existing customers have worked with Phil Tribby since the very beginning of his operations.
“Our customer service can’t be matched,” said Phil Tribby. “We treat the guy with a 1-hour backhoe tile repair the same as we treat the guy who’s got a 200-acre system. We don’t put anyone ahead of anyone else or treat anyone better than anyone else.”
Tribby Inc. has built their reputation on providing superior customer service and quality work, and they prioritize working with companies who share similar values. They’ve maintained an ongoing relationship with Fratco for the last 25 years for this very reason. Phil Tribby was first introduced to Fratco shortly after he started his business laying clay tile. He says the salesman at the time seemed to genuinely care about Tribby Inc. as a customer and also provided a high-quality product. Initiating business between the two was well-suited.
As time has gone on, Phil Tribby says his respect for Fratco has only continued to grow. From last minute changes to jobs, to timely quotes and large jobs that required staggered shipping distributions, Phil Tribby says he can count on Fratco to take care of everything—something which goes a long way for him.
“I can install [Fratco products] with confidence and know I’m not going to have to come back later and explain why the pipe failed,” said Phil Tribby. “We guarantee our work to be right, so if something were to happen, we’re fixing it on our dime. The continuous quality of the product has been the biggest thing I’ve appreciated about Fratco products.”
Yet another aspect that the two companies share is their obligation to soil and water management. Fratco is a member of eight state chapters of LICA and Tribby Inc. has co-chaired four LICA soil and water shows in different parts of Illinois.
“[Phil] truly loves the land,” said Sue Tribby. “That is something I really admire in him. He always looks for the best interest of the land.”
Serving as certified Technical Service Providers, Tribby Inc. has developed a sort of mantra they adhere to: Future generations are dependent on how well we maintain the soil today.
As for the future of Tribby Inc., they are looking to continue the same pattern of success by doing whatever they can for whoever walks in the door. Seeing the impact they have on farms and being able to provide a beneficial service to those around them assists in continuing to find enjoyment in the hard work they do.
“When it stops being fun then it’s time to quit!” said Phil Tribby.
And for him, the fun doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.