Dave Mitchell & Zach Shepherd on EBD’s Growth Strategies

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineMay 29, 2020
by Karlee Wegehaupt


Dave Mitchell started running the truss plant his father purchased in 1995, when he was 22 years old. Two years later, 16-year-old Zach Shepherd landed a job picking plates in the plant. Today as general manager and operations manager, Dave and Zach have spent 23 years together at Engineered Building Design (EBD) in Washington, Iowa--and they are always on the lookout for the next person who will help their company succeed into the future.  It starts by offering a clear career path.

Career-Focused Hiring

“We’re committed to growing into a larger operation,” Dave says. “The person we hire today needs a career growth path. We want that person to be able to advance with us, and be able to improve his or her role with us.”

Along with hiring someone who they believe has potential for career growth with EBD, Zach says their approach to promoting staff internally has reaped benefits for their rural Iowa plant, particularly during times of need for outside skill sets.

“We’re 30 minutes from a major city, and we don’t always have the right person available,” he says. “I think that we have benefited greatly from [hiring within] in that we have been able to promote a multitude of people within our shop and see them excel in all areas of our business, from design, to sales, to driving trucks.”

Training to Lead

That has helped fill immediate labor needs, but Zach says the next step is figuring out what it takes to get each person trained to become a self-sufficient daily asset for the company to enable Dave and Zach the chance to turn more of their focus onto EBD’s growth.

“The challenges I see are that you have to move from just a couple people managing the whole operation successfully --where we have our hands in almost everything-- to developing a team of people, […] to the medium sized company: developing people, process, and product,” Dave says. 

Delegating Real Responsibility

Zach says to make that happen, he is constantly working on his delegation skills to pass on some of the day-to-day issues that arise to capable leaders. “It’s so easy to try to do it all ourselves, but we can’t. So I don’t want to be stubborn, and not allow somebody else to have an opportunity to grow, to advance their career, because I have to be touching so many things.”

In the near future, both Dave and Zach envision that there will be more opportunities for employees to take on responsibility at EBD.

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“I believe that this is a vision that’s actually going to happen in the near future, and I’m excited to see that come to fruition,” Zach says. “The biggest challenge we have is getting the correct people on the bus, and I believe we’re taking very active steps finding and retaining those people.”

You can listen to all of Dave and Zach thoughts regarding their workforce development approach in their SBCA Component Connection Podcast.

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