The worldwide success of Oklahoma City-based Pro-Formance Mfg. is so far-reaching it's sometimes hard for founder Darrell Scott himself to grasp. His company — which grew slowly from meager beginnings — specializes in industrial spooling trailers now used in some 20 different countries.
Pro-Formance “spoolers” store or unleash hundreds of feet of cable, fiber optics or polyethylene pipe into oil wells, water wells, mines or anywhere submersible pumps are used. In Afghanistan, 16 of the spoolers are being used to lay fiber optics for U.S. troops' communications, while others recently were shipped to Africa, where new oil wells are being drilled.
Founded in 1990 as Scott Industry, the manufacturer initially made carts, conveyors, racks and other equipment for local customers to handle materials, Scott said. By year-end, overseas business is expected to represent 25 percent of sales, he said.
Pro-Formance has annual revenues in excess of $4 million, Scott said. The company employs 15.
From his 12,000-square-foot shop at 7240 Melrose Lane off Rockwell and Interstate 40, Scott, 64, sat down recently with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in Luther. My mother was a stay-at-home mom to me, my sister and brother, who are two years and six-and-a-half years younger. My dad was a certified welder for Oklahoma Natural Gas and, on the side, ran his own welding/fabrication business, including repairing the equipment of area farmers and building cattle guards and capping off wells for oil and gas companies. I started helping him when I was 11 or 12, doing a man's work before I was even a teenager. By the time I was in my mid-teens, I was hauling hay and helping farmers harvest their crops or getting their fields ready for sowing. Two friends and I could put as many as 2,000, 80-pound bales into a barn in a single day. My father taught me to work hard and never give up, while my mother, who was a woman of great faith, taught me to believe in myself.
Q: Any highlights of your school days?
A: I graduated in a class of 32 and, depending on the subject, was a good to average student. My favorite subject was history. I lettered in baseball, football and basketball, but at 6 foot 4 inches tall, excelled in the latter two. I also was active in the Future Farmers of America, and had a champion Berkshire barrow at the Tulsa State Fair in 1964.
Q: And upon high school graduation?
A: I enlisted and served three years in the Army. It was during the Vietnam-era and, thank God, the Lord didn't want me to go to Vietnam. I ended up in Germany where I spent 22 months in a maintenance unit doing what I knew: fabrication, welding and repair. When I returned, I used the G.I. bill to earn my associate degree at OSU Tech, and then worked as a first-class certified welder for W&W Steel and fabrication supervisor for Steel Supply Co. But I always knew I wanted to own my own business.
Q: Before you did, you spent nine years in education. How did that happen?
A: Oklahoma City Community College hired me to take over their metal technology courses. I told myself I was still in the same field, only on a different level. Some of my time I spent lecturing to students; my largest class was 15. The remainder was hands-on. I really enjoyed molding people into the career they wanted to work in. We trained them to be a sort of liaison between engineers and people in the shop. But there's a lot of bureaucracy in education. After nine years (I‘d initially planned to stay only five), I knew there was only one way to find out if I could be successful on my own. When I'd saved six months' of living expenses, I quit my teaching job and opened shop. It helped that I initially worked from a friend's warehouse.
Q: What do you like most about the custom manufacturing business?
A: I enjoy building a new product. It's rewarding to see the equipment in the field, making someone's working career easier and better. Many in the overseas markets lack the technology we have. And custom machinery allows them to be more able than they were in the past. I also like the fact that the manufacturing business creates new money, versus the service industry, where money is passed from one entity to the next.
Q: The Florida-based biographies company Legacies & Memories captured your life, and company's success, in a book. Why was it important for you to publish your story?
A: I never planned to sell the book. I just wanted to be able to hand young people who may be starting a small business in technical trades some insights about what you have to go through to build a successful business. In today's world, people want almost instant gratification. But running a business is a struggle, including making a lot of cold sales calls to engineers and others to get it going. You have to stay focused, and it takes a lot of good, old-fashioned hard work. I didn't have a lot of mentors. Instead, I learned a lot from my failures. And failures, as long as they're not devastating, are simply part of the process.