When Gene Vance is asked about the history of his family’s construction company and says “it’s a long story”, he isn’t necessarily referring to the length of the story he’s about to tell. The real longevity, in this case, is in the life of the company itself.
In the early years, Gene’s father, grandfather, and two uncles started a logging, sawmill and lumber business. Later on, his two uncles left to serve in World War II. Gene’s father and grandfather maintained the company until the two young men returned – at which point, the family expanded beyond the lumber business and began building houses, too. When the 1950s swept in America’s Decade of Prosperity and the economy began to work its way back to booming, the family business expanded once again; this time adding commercial construction to its growing list of services.
Business carried on, evolving with the times but maintaining its status as a growing, thriving family company throughout the 1960s. The next decade, however, was one of considerable change for the business and the family – with a decision to focus strictly on commercial construction. Later on the decision was made to divide the company, separating the lumber yards and the construction business into separate entities. One of Gene’s uncles took over ownership of the lumber yards, and his other uncle and father continued together with the construction division of the company until their uncle decided to start a radio station. Gene and his brother, David, then bought out their uncle and a new father-and-sons partnership was born. Gene remembers attending his first annual meeting at the Tan-Tar-A resort on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri in 1967. His mother and father attended the annual meetings on a regular basis after that.
Pre-engineered buildings were growing in popularity. Gene attended that Star annual meeting in Oklahoma City in the early 80’s with his dad, Howard, who had begun a partnership with the company nearly 20 years earlier. Gene had always known his father was extremely dedicated to the annual meetings, and he soon began to understand why. At that meeting he attended a round table discussion on Design-Build & Negotiating. At that time the company was very heavily into hard bid work. He left the meeting with valuable insight on evolving and growing their business model and a taste of the value in having a faithful, trusted partner who takes a personal interest in serving your business.
Gene knew he would continue the relationship and today, though much has changed, and he is now the sole proprietor of Vance Construction, his trust in Star remains constant. “Star has been a great partner to me through the years. I have a bit of a reputation for looking for pre-engineered buildings that are not standard;” explains Gene, “I do a lot of projects that need special widths, special heights, special roof slopes. Star has always been great to work with on those special projects.”
Maintaining an edge technologically is not an aspect of the construction business with which Gene’s father had to be concerned, but for Gene it’s been a valuable aspect of his partnership with Star. Gene remembers utilizing the printed price book, and still has one on his bookshelf, and later the original computer pricing program on a Tandy computer from Radio Shack which utilized an eight-inch floppy disc. Later, after Star migrated the pricing program to the PC, he was a member of the President’s Advisory Council when the pricing software and integration of AutoCad were developed.
Thankfully, because Star is committed to leading the way in building industry technology, a lot has changed since then, but one thing never has: the Star commitment to providing exceptional service and treating customers like family. Gene recalls several of his friends from Star traveling to Arkansas for his father’s funeral, and to this day he continues to take vacations and go to social events with some of them. “You know, it’s more of a friendship,” says Gene; “It’s more of a family atmosphere than it is a business relationship.”
Gene, from all of us at Star, we’re proud to be a part of your long story.