Heather Cyphert, managing director of Precision Tool, Performance Hydraulics, Progressive Industries and Phoenix Trucking, which are all based in Westover, West Virginia, talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about her and her husband’s businesses, one of her worst business moments and what she learned from it.
Cyphert graduated from West Virginia University with a journalism degree. After graduation, she joined her husband’s family owned business, Progressive Industries, and then expanded to the other three businesses.
How did you get started in this business?
“My husband has worked there since his early 20s,” Cyphert said. “Greg and I got married in 2008, and I played the stay-at-home mom role. I couldn’t do it anymore, so I said I have to come to work.”
“I started doing a little paperwork here and there, but as the days went on, I said we don’t have a good sales person. My background is in sales. Let me go out and sell. I would just drive anywhere and ask anyone for business.”
“Then, I got more involved with day-to-day operations. It kind of just took off from there.”
What was been your most challenging business moment so far?
“My husband and I are not big Wall Street Journal readers. We weren’t real big into the newspaper, and we really didn’t follow things,” Cyphert said. “One morning, we woke up and MERN Energy had purchased five of our customers. Those were our five biggest customers.”
“Overnight, we went from having customers to not having customers. Right at this time of the year prior, we had this really big boom in the United States for coal. I think the mines in Australia flooded. I didn’t find out until a year later that that was why we had done so well the year prior.”
“We kept too many people too long. We employed them to do nothing,” Cyphert said. “We should have laid people off sooner. The problem is that in this industry, it is a truly skilled industry. I mean, I have people who have worked for me for 20 years. They can fix any piece of coal mining equipment, and if I lose them, I can’t get them back.”
“I had to keep certain people. We went from 20 to 30 pieces of coal mining equipment a year to six and then to none. Then you borrow against your house; you use your savings.”
“There was one coal mining equipment left, and the coal company was having trouble paying their bill. I remember sitting in line to pick up my kids, and they would call me if the check came that day. I remember them calling and saying the check did come and sitting in line crying because we were going to be able to make payroll and everything would work out that week.”
“Three weeks later, I was sitting in that same line, and them calling and saying the check didn’t come and it wouldn’t be coming.”
“The biggest thing I learned is you have to know everything about the business that you are in.”
Listen to Cyphert’s full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS
- RECOMMENDED BOOK: Radical Forgiveness: A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to Heal Relationships, Let Go of Anger and Blame, and Find Peace in Any Situation by Colin Tipping
- RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: Quickbooks
- PERSON CYPHERT WOULD LIKE TO MEET: Every purchasing agent at every coal mine and the state superintendent of schools.