As seen in the Tried & True Winter 2023 issue
When Steve Overmyer stepped into his leadership role in 1978, the company was still known by most as Francesville Drain Tile—named after the small Indiana town where the original facility still resides. For the duration of Steve’s near 30-year tenure, that location remained the company’s only facility. And while Steve’s down-to-earth leadership style, natural business acumen and focus on quality service set the stage for later expansion, his heart and focus always stayed rooted in his beloved hometown.
“It’s interesting,” explains Steve, “all the time I was at the helm, our marketing area never changed. It was always that football-shaped area covering basically the whole state of Indiana.”
When asked why that was, Steve gives an earnest shrug, smiles and says, “I always had the mentality that I didn’t want all the business. I just wanted all the business close to home.”
With that goal in mind, Steve’s business strategy could be best described as playing defense, rather than offense.
“I did everything I could to keep the competition away,” Steve laughs. “Of course, that’s what made us do so well in the area. One thing I would do, back in those days when we only had a handful of trucks, was stockpile customers’ yards with our products before they even put in orders. I’d tell them, ‘It’s here when you need it. Don’t worry about paying me until you put dirt on it.’ Of course, our customers loved that—it was so convenient for them.”
“So, when the competition would go to these customers and try to take them away from us, the first thing our customers asked was, ‘Will you stock me like Steve does?’ And the other guys would say, ‘Oh no, we can’t do that.’ But I could, because I had great relationships with these customers and I trusted them like family. And I was right to do so, because we never had a problem with anyone paying.”
While Fratco’s customer base may now be far too large for Steve’s presale stocking tactic, the spirit of hometown trust that he fostered lives on in the company’s customer relations.
Likewise, the internal workplace culture of trust and support that Steve cultivated among Francesville employees still thrives to this day. When asked about the employees he worked alongside through the years, Steve says, “I consider them my family, just like I considered my customers my family.”
For a moment, Steve’s manner turns more solemn as he reflects back on the many workers who played vital roles in making Fratco a success. “It’s difficult to talk about them,” he explains. “I had a lot of employees that were there for decades and decades. You dance at their weddings, and you cry at their funerals. And sometimes you’re the one playing taps at those funerals. That’s why it’s difficult to talk about them.”
With tears shining in his eyes, Steve pauses to compose himself and then goes on to say, “I don’t mind living where I do now, but I’m sure glad I grew up in Francesville. That’s what made me work so hard, and that’s what made the job so much fun. Because, when you have this little town of just a thousand people, you know everyone, and they know you. And everybody’s depending on each other.”
Just like Steve cared so deeply for his Francesville employees, Fratco continues to care for the people who work hard everyday to help keep the company running smoothly. With Steve’s son Chris prioritizing the same family mindset as he walks in his father’s footsteps as Fratco’s current CEO, that long-lived culture of care isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Read Part Three of this story, “Meet Chris Overmyer,” here: fratco.com/meet-chris-overmyer