It might sound strange that a company that's been around for nearly 40 years would have to start over. But for the Fideldy brothers of Bovey, MN, that approach was just what they needed to stay in business.
The Fideldys' father had begun a well-drilling business as a sideline to his job as a driller for northern Minnesota's mining industry, and ran it until his death in 1968. The four brothers, who spent summers working for their father, decided to keep the business going. They bought more equipment and gradually attracted more work. But a lack of business expertise and occasional family rifts limited the company's growth.
When Bill, the eldest brother, retired in 1997, Jim Fideldy and his younger siblings, Dennis and Ralph, sensed that the family business had reached a crossroads. "We knew the technical side pretty well because we'd managed to keep up with drilling technology over the years," Jim says. "But from a business standpoint, we were really struggling. We felt the time had come to do things right—to put together a formal business plan and marketing strategy, and take a more professional approach to our operations."
Jim explains that because well drilling has a high profit margin, even a handful of additional projects can vastly improve the bottom line. "We've already invested in the equipment; it's just a matter of getting the job, researching it, and doing the work," he says.
For help, the brothers turned to a longtime family friend: Dr. Crumpton Farrell, a former professor of business at St. Cloud State University, and a SCORE mentor.
The company's business has steadily increased by 20 to 25 percent a year. The brothers drilled 120 wells in 2000 and entered the winter with a backlog of projects that will allow them to make a fast start in the spring. The improved operations have also allowed the brothers to upgrade their equipment and enroll in training courses that will further enhance their operations and service.
Dr. Farrell provided the brothers with expert guidance on developing improved business and marketing plans, as well as financing, budgeting, sales, and general management practices. He also gave the brothers tips on effective advertising strategies and planning for long-term growth.
Dr. Farrell's assistance had an immediate impact on Fideldy Brothers Well Drilling "Before, we would do about 50 to 60 wells a year," Jim says. "The first year we worked with Dr. Farrell, we did 80 wells. Most of that increase was due to us hitting the pavement and doing a better job of marketing, which had been a problem area in the past."
Along with being poised for a more secure future, the brothers also know that they can always count on their SCORE mentor for help. "Dr. Farrell faithfully keeps in touch with us every month," Jim says. "He always sends us articles and information that he feels we can apply to our business. It's nice to know that he's always thinking of us."