Jerry Isenhour CVC Success Group coach

CVC Succcess Group coach Jerry Isenhour

In today’s episode of The Chimney and Fireplace Success Network Jerry welcomes special guest Doug Wing. Doug’s father Hal Wing is the inventor of the Little Giant Ladder. Growing up, Doug learned first-hand all the phases of the Little Giant Ladder Company and literally worked his way up the company ladder. Doug retired from Little Giant in 2019 but is here with us today to share his years of ladder experience with us as well as tips for ladder safety.

The Chimney and Fireplace Success Network is a weekly podcast brought to you by the CVC Success Group and hosted by industry expert, Jerry Isenhour. Each week you will find new presentations to assist business owners and managers in turning their business dreams into their business realities.

Video Transcript

Jerry I.: And good afternoon, and we are live here at the CVC success group with our tips and tactics and our podcast, the chimney and fireplace success network. So here’s the deal today, I got a really impressive guest that’s going to join us today, and we’re going to be talking about ladder safety and other things. So, hang around with me, we are going to start in just a minute, and I will introduce our guest.

It is good to have you here today. So my guest today, and we’re going to talk about ladder safety. And we’re going to talk about developments in ladders, and this guy is going to be a super resource. I recently met this gentleman, and we’re in a very a coaching group together.

So we actually see each other every Thursday night on coaching calls and never met him face-to-face, but a very impressive gentleman. And his name is Doug Wing. And so, you are aware, if you have ever heard of the Little Giant ladder, Doug’s father invented the Little Giant and manufactured.

And Doug’s going to tell us about some of the development in last couple and over the course of the history of the Little Giant ladder company. So just stick with us, because this is going to be interesting. And if you’ve got any questions during this, hey, put them in the comment bar. So Doug, how you doing today, brother? It is good to have you on with me today.

Doug Wing.: Jerry, how are you? Good to see you, good to be on your show. And thank you for having me to talk about Little Giant and ladders and ladder safety.

Jerry I.: Well, that is it, man, because we are going to talk about some stories today about ladder safety and some of them are not pleasant, those type of things. But first of all, Doug, let’s tell the folks a little bit about your background.

Because as I got your bio, I found out that you actually lived in Germany some years ago actually, two different times. So let’s tell the folks a little bit about your childhood, where you were born, and that kind of stuff.

Doug W.: Sure. Yes, so I was born in Germany; at the time, my father was in the military. This was during the time when we had missiles and rockets pointed at Russia. And my dad was on kind of a secret missile base there in Southern Germany. And he went into town to do some work at the local mayor’s office there from time to time, and he saw my mom and liked her, and he just showed up at her house one day, and she slammed the door in his face because her dad said don’t ever bring home an American.

And so he just kept going back and finally was able to go out with her, and they got married. And then we moved shortly thereafter after I was born, we moved back to Utah, to a little town called Springville, Utah, which is about, oh, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake where my dad was born and raised, and that’s where I grew up.

Now we did move back to Germany when I was about seven years old, and my dad went to work for a life insurance company. By this time, my dad spoke German fluently and English, and so they wanted him to go over there and open up this agency over there. And that is where my father first saw kind of a raw prototype of the Little Giant.

And it was created by a German house painter, and kind of make a long story short, my dad became friends with this house painter. My dad bought containers full of ladders, and then over time became, did some licensing and then manufacturing and then designed his own ladders and received his own patents. And so just over the last gosh, most of my life, in fact, all my life I have worked for Little Giant, it is the only company I have ever worked for, and that was a wonderful experience.

This is like a natural progression, insurance to ladders.

Jerry I.: So, this is like a natural progression Doug, insurance to ladders, I am saying it is like you just naturally convert right into this. So your dad saw a prototype in Germany that a German had, and if we look back and my background was in the printing business. And I can remember many years ago when German engineering was considered at the top of the heap of the world.

We talked about, and you’re a car freak, and I asked you about where you were born, and you said near the Porsche plant, because everybody needs to understand, probably one of your biggest hobbies is collecting cars. But this was a natural progression of going in, he saw this concept, so then he brought it to America and started developing it for the American market.

He really liked quality.

Doug W.: Yes, that is correct. Yes, so my dad was; he has always been a car guy. He really liked quality, and so he was a good salesman. He could sell anything, and he saw this product and liked it and saw potential for it. And so again, brought over a container full just to try it, and went out to trade shows, home, and garden shows, and just did toe-to-toe sales and figured out how to make a presentation and sell them.

And then one thing led to another, eventually, as I mentioned doing a licensing thing and then eventually, doing our own thing and manufacturing our own products and going through some real highs and lows in the company over the years.

Different recessions and all kinds of, our patents expiring, and then we had to kind of reinvent ourselves with new innovation and go into different verticals, different markets and doing an infomercial, which was wildly successful and then taking the company as a second-generation with my brother and I, and taking it to another level. All of those things happened over a 40-year period, and it was a lot of fun.

I could remember many years ago, seeing infamous informercials like you are talking about.

Jerry I.: Well, I could remember many years ago, seeing infamous infomercials like you are talking about. And I presume that was your dad on those commercials, where they were marketing this to American homeowners. So was the thinking when you started this, was it homeowner oriented? Was it commercial? Or was it industrial, which are like three different segments of the latter market? What did he envision for this?

He was going around to trade shows.

Doug W.: Well, that is a great question because originally, he was just going around to trade shows, to sell to the trades, and then to home and garden shows, to sell to homeowners. And he was at a show one time, and a big industrial distributor out of Los Angeles approached him and said I’d like to start selling these, and my dad said we don’t have a resale program.

And the guy said, well, I want to buy a hundred ladders, right now I’m going to give you an order for 100 ladders. I’m going to resell them in my stores and in the construction trade, and so my dad just had to make up a distributor program.

And so things just kind of evolved from the company, from being just okay, we’re going to sell direct, and as we went through the years with the creation of the internet and things like that, the company had to adjust and eventually go into more retail places like Costco and Lowe’s and home depot and things like that.

But yes, I mean in the beginning, it was just all toe-to-toe sales, then it went into distribution, kind of on the industrial side. And then just evolved into different places where now Amazon sells them and all kinds of different places like that.

It is a brand that people call that style of ladder.

Jerry I.: Yes. So, when you went into this, I would say that the Little Giant, and it is kind of like a Maytag washing machine or a Frigidaire or whirlpool, that I, it is a brand that people call that style of ladder a Little Giant, but it is not an authentic Little Giant. How many companies do you think have copied your dad’s thought processes over the years?

Imported from Asia and the quality just was not there.

Doug W.: Oh, quite a few. And you bring up a really good point, we had people coming into the market at half the price of ours imported from Asia, and the quality just wasn’t there. My dad would never, as I stated before, he would never jeopardize the quality. He would say things like our competitors know what their product is worth, and so do we. 

And so, even at double the price, we still sold a lot of ladders. And customers learned the hard way sometimes when they would buy the cheaper ladders, and they would break and then they would come back and become a customer back to us again. And so he was always a real stickler on the quality, and we’re never to cut that, and that served us very well. As you mentioned, I mean people walk into a store, and they ask for a Little Giant by name.

It’s kind of like going into the store and asking for facial tissues; nobody does that; they say where the Kleenex is at. And so, we build a brand, totally built that brand where people think, even if they have a competitor product, they say oh, I have a Little Giant, and they have got another brand, but they think it is a Little Giant. So kudos to all the marketing guys and the production guys and the quality of the product to be able to have that kind of a reputation in the business.

You were able to maintain your price points.

Jerry I.: Right. But you were able to maintain your price points; even though there were cheaper people doing this, they were importing them out of Asia. So, question to you is the Little Giant an American-made product? Has it always been an American-made product, Doug?

Doug W.: It’s been an American-made product pretty much throughout the life of the product. There are some products that are made in Asia now, and some that are still made in the US And so things like Apple watches and iPhone and things like that are made in Asia, but they have very strict quality.

We were 100 percent made in America.

And so, for a long time, we were 100 percent made in America, and select products are still made in the USA, and some are made overseas. Some parts are made, components and things like that. For the most part, a lot of our fiberglass products are made here, and some of the metal products are made in Asia. But the quality is still there, that we have very good manufacturers there.

Jerry I.: Well, you know one of the things about it, and a lot of people may not understand this. But when we talk about made in America, if you actually break it down, many times, it is assembled in America.

I mean, I could go into a lot of American manufacturers, but if you go into the inventory rooms and the stocking that is coming in, you are going to find that many of the components and the parts, they are imported in, and they become assembly plants here in America, where people are assembling those products.

It is all about the quality control of the parts you get manufactured.

And realistically, in today’s world, when we look at it, it is all about the quality control of the parts that you get manufactured. They say one of the secrets of off-sea, offshore manufacturing is making sure that you got someone there that’s overseeing it to make sure your quality is where it’s at.

But that’s kind of the normal scheme of things today because you want to buy springs or you buy fasteners, or you buy certain pieces. Many times you’re going to source those components from foreign countries to put them together. So, at its heyday, when it was the most, how many people did you all have working for the Little Giant company making ladders? How big was your workforce?

We had about 400 people working for us.

Doug W.: When I was there, we had about 400 people working for us, 400 employees. And so I think they’ve got at least 400 now; it may be more. But I’m totally out of the company now. My brother, he sold most of his shares to the business; he’s still there as a minority interest in the company. He’ll be there for another four or five years, I think.

But I think we have at least what we had when we were there, which is probably four to five hundred. So it’s still, and it’s growing like crazy. I still talk to some of the people that work there, some of the employees that I knew, and they’re busy, they’re super busy. COVID has really put a lot of companies behind, and Little Giant is one of those that is behind right now.

Your Dad sounds like he was a very innovative guy.

Jerry I.: Yes, got you covered. So as you do this, tell me this, Doug, your dad sounds like he was a very innovative guy. Did you have a childhood of the life of leisure’s? Silver spoon in the mouth? Rich kid? Hey, here’s a new Porsche for your birthday, here’s a corvette. You don’t have to do nothing, just lay around and don’t worry about life and all that. Was that your childhood?

A lot of people think that business just takes off overnight.

Doug W.: No, not at all. And in fact, the company really wasn’t, I mean, it took a long time, and that’s the thing I think a lot of people think that businesses just take off overnight. It was gosh, I don’t think my mom and dad really got super successful probably until after we had left, I had left the house, and all the kids had left the house.

And so growing up was, my dad was on the road over 300 days a year during my junior high and high school years, and that was tough because my mom, we had seven kids at home. And my mom was taking care of all of us and making sure we stayed out of trouble.

He was sleeping in a station wagon on top of ladders.

And dad was on the road sleeping in a station wagon on top of ladders and had his lunch and his dinner in his cooler and was driving around sleeping in parking lots and cleaning up each morning in a gas station restroom because he could only stay in a hotel about every four or five nights. He just didn’t have the money.

And so yes, when I was growing up boy, things were real lean and mean, and we were working hard and trying to help out where we could. And I’m grateful for my parents; we grew up cleaning the restrooms when we were younger in the business and sweeping parking lots and warehouses, and then we worked in the manufacturing and learned how to build all the products, and slowly worked our way up through into customer service and sales.

And eventually management, and then owning the company. And so I had some pretty good parents that taught us how to work, and then also taught us every aspect of the company, which really served us well when we got older.

That reminded me of the Colonel Sanders story

Jerry I.: Well, you know as you went through that, that reminded me of the Colonel Sanders story. If you ever listen to Colonel Sanders and his story and what went on, and how he got his fried chicken recipe out there, and how he was getting five cents per chicken from the people that bought him.

But that’s what the Colonel did; they said he hit the road, and that’s all he ate was the fried chicken that he was fixing for people, slept out of his car. In fact, Doug, I was going up through Kentucky one day, and I was headed to, as I think we were going to Columbus, Ohio. And anyway, I saw that Colonel Sanders motel that he had was right off the road there.

So Sheryl and I swung by there, went through the Colonel Sanders museum there, where the motel was and all that. And learning that story about the Colonel and what he done, your dad sounds like maybe we need to name him Colonel Wing here it’s what sounds like he was following in the Colonel’s footsteps.

The company went through ups and downs and highs and lows.

Doug W.: Yes. Again, the company went through some ups and downs and highs and lows, and I mean, there were simply different key points when our patents of the original Little Giant ran out. We really had to reinvent ourselves and did the infomercial, and then developed other new products with safety in mind. 

And so again, there was a lot of scary times, a lot of good times, and then there were times when we were like, are we going to make it this year? And I will tell you what, there was one person that always, that I saw that never was afraid or never let us see was afraid, and that always said we are going to make it, we have always made it through all of this, and that was my dad. He was a real optimistic guy, and he always believed that we were going to make it, and we did.

How big was his concentration on safety?

Jerry I.: Yes. So let me ask you this, you just said a key thing. And I know this is probably a big thing and has really developed into bigger parts of manufacturing. But when your dad started doing this, how big was his concentration on safety of the user? I can remember infomercials, and a lot of these are on YouTube, am I right? Those people can still find your dad. How would they find this on YouTube, see some of these old YouTube videos?

He is still selling ladders from the other side.

Doug W.: Yes, the infomercial is still running. My dad’s been gone almost ten years, and so we always joked around that even though he’s passed on, he’s still selling ladders from the other side. But yes, you can go on to YouTube and just put in the search engine “Little Giant infomercial,” and you can watch some of the infomercials, the different ones that are on there. But yes, he is still selling a few ladders here and there.

How big in the early days was a concentration on safety?

Jerry I.: Yes. So, how big in the early days was a concentration on safety? Both homeowners and also in commercial settings? Now I asked this question because in the last few years, in the industry I’m in, we had a death from a ladder fall from only eight-foot.

And it seems like now, there’s this big consensus about wearing climbing helmets to protect from head injuries as you’re climbing ladders. But back when you’re dead was starting, what was the safety considerations that he had to be looking at in his design? Was that a big part of the process of building the Little Giant up?

The one thing that served Little Giant very well was our quality.

Doug W.: Well, at the time, safety was not what it is now, obviously. But the one thing that served Little Giant very well was our quality, and we just would not compromise on the quality. And we worked very hard on our instructions and how to use the latter, a lot of safety videos and things like that.

So it was big for us to make sure that we had a safe product because you’ve seen our ladders before the original ones, there was a lot of moving parts. And so, customers needed to make sure that things were locked into place and that they used them according to the instructions.

People do not use ladders the way they are intended to be used.

And you know as well as I do sometimes people do not use the ladders or products the way they are intended to, but I think with us and the quality of the product, and then making sure that we had good instructions and good parts and were able to show people how to use them properly, that we were blessed with, not as many accidents as other ladder companies.

I think for several reasons one is that we stayed out of the cheaper products. There are some companies that made ladders that were 39 or 49 dollars, and we always kind of stayed away from those lower duty ladders that had a tendency to flex and bend. And so I think that’s one of the reasons why we didn’t have as many injuries and things like that, is just that we were more of an industrial version of a ladder.

Jerry I.: Yes. One of the things about extension ladders and looking at it is we have different color tips on ladders. Where you got a red tip, which means a certain weight rating. We got the blue tip, we got green tips, and we got black tips different ways. 

When you all manufactured the Little Giant design, was there different ones for different weight ratings for people like I am kind of a big boy, and you are too. So is there certain ladders that you all design that was more of what we would call a commercial-grade ladder? Was that part of what you all were doing in the design phase?

There are ladders out there that are really light duty rated.

Doug W.: Yes, that is a good question. There are some ladders out there that are really light duty rated like a type three ladder, and Little Giant always stayed away from those. The lowest ladder we ever made was a type two, and I think right now, the lowest one we make is a type one.

And then everything else is either type one A or a type one double a, which one double a is the highest rating you can get on a ladder which will hold a guy that is 375 pounds. And that’s as high as the ratings go on ladders right now.

So again, we stayed away from those, the real inexpensive household versions, because those are just very flimsy. And so we stayed away from those because those are the ones that a lot of companies have lawsuits on, things like that, and injury things.

The design was a ladder that folds up and can be put in the trunk of a car.

Jerry I.: Right. So, if you are not familiar with the Little Giant ladders, this design was a ladder that folds up and can be put into a trunk of a car, take up truly little space. Doug, of the Little Giants on when they were fully extended, we fold them out, turn them into straight ladders. What’s the longest reach that one of these ladders ever had in these fold-up little giants?

Doug W.: The longest one that we made, and that is currently made by Little Giant, is one that is 23 feet long.

Jerry I.: Okay, so 23 feet. So, during development, and I am sure you all went through ongoing R&D changes and new things coming out. What were some of the big advancements like in the mechanism where you unclasp it, and it turns into different shapes and those kinds of things? What were some of the most significant developments you think you all had in manufacturing these?

Originally the locks on the hinges would pull out, and we reversed those.

Doug W.: Well, originally, the locks on the hinges would pull out, and they reversed those and made them so that they would push in, and with the leverage of pushing them in, it made it a lot easier those hinge locks. So over time, we made some developments that just made the ladder easier to use and more user-friendly.

And then, as the company continued to innovate, we came up with some really neat designs. We actually changed the why of our company, and several years ago and the why was and still is preventing injuries and saving lives, that’s our company why. And so we started going out into different verticals, we created lightweight ladders for industry-like construction.

And you know the technical guys, the guys that are linemen and cable TV guys and things like that. And so we started developing lighter ladders, we started realizing that people were overreaching on ladders. So we made on regular extension ladders, we ended up coming up with some outriggers that they could adjust with building leg levelers and things like that.

Because we found that people were overreaching, that they were using the wrong ladder for the job. They were setting them up improperly and things like that. So that’s really the major cause of accidents right now on ladders, is when people use the wrong ladder for the job, they overreach. And then also that they set them up improperly as well.

One of the major injuries results from improper placement of the footing of the ladders

Jerry I.: Right. So on that, injuries in the latter industry, it seems like that one of the major injuries results from improper placement of the footing of the ladder.

It may just not be property like I just finished a basic chimney sweep training class right before we started this where we teach angles of ladders, how to set it up, how much to have above the point of contact with the roof, and a lot of developments. But it seems like a lot of injuries occur, either getting on or getting off the ladder. Is that pretty well where injuries usually occur?

They have got it up too steeply.

Doug W.: That can be a big factor. And as you mentioned, somebody can have the ladder, either they have got it up too steep, they do not have it out far enough, and so they have got it up too steep, and then they can fall over, pull the whole thing over.

The ladder can kick out on them.

Or they have got it out too far, and the ladder can kick out on them. Or, as you mentioned, they put it on some surface that’s not solid. There was a famous, it was on like 60 minutes I think several years ago where a guy set up, a farmer sets up a ladder on a pile of manure in the morning, and it was frozen, and then as the day went on, it softened up, and he got back up on the ladder it came down or whatever, and then it had warmed up, and he fell, and the guy got hurt real bad, and there was a lawsuit and everything.

So a lot of it is improper setup. They’ll have one ladder will be on ground, and one foot will be on dirt, the other one won’t. And different things like that. Or ice, you have got someone trying to set up a ladder on ice, and he slips out.

Improper setup can be a big part of it, just not having the right angle.

So improper setup is a big part of it, just not having the right angle. And for every four feet that you go up high on a ladder, you’ve got to move it out one foot more on the base so that you have the right angle. And you do not do that, boy, you can get hurt bad.

Jerry I.: Right. That’s what I was getting ready to say; in the classes that we teach, we teach a four to one angle, and we teach three feet above the roofline, so you’ve got something to come off.

But you’re seeing a lot of now there’s adapters where instead of going off the side of the ladder, you go through the ladder, and you have handrails that go up. But you know from climbing a lot of roofs, and I’ll be honest, Doug back many moons ago when I first entered in chimney service business.

I took a pretty hard fall myself; luckily, I survived; it didn’t break nothing. But it may have done a little brain injury; we never know about that. But anyway, and as you look at it, what scares me is ladders kicking out, ladders on wooden decks, that’s a big scary one to me.

In fact, we’ve come up with some tools that we found for strapping down that goes through the boards and comes up with a strap. I have talked methods of taking a crowbar on dirt, drive the crowbar in, strap it to the foot of the ladder. 

Teaching ladder safety, that is a big part of what we try to do in our training here.

So, teaching ladder safety, that is a big part of what we try to do in our training here. So you agree, it’s like uneven ground and all these different types of things. So Little Giant was more than just the folding ladders that we consider the Little Giant. So you all went into extension ladders. Is that also, was that sold under the Little Giant brand?

Doug W.: Yes, it was. Yes, and they still are. So yes, the Little Giant, at some point during the infomercial, the company just decided hey, we better go and make our company stronger, and we need to go into different verticals. 

And I mentioned to you before that at that time we were approached by all the major cable companies, and their technicians the Comcast, the charters, those types of guys, they were carrying around 90-pound ladders, and so they were having a lot of back injuries, shoulder injuries, arm injuries and then they were dropping ladders on people’s houses, on cars, through windows and things like that.

Can you develop a 28-foot extension ladder and make it 50 pounds instead of 90 pounds?

And so, they approached us and said, hey, can you develop a 28-foot extension ladder and make it 50 pounds, instead of 90 pounds. And within several months, we did that, they tested them, they loved it. And we took over the entire cable market, and it saved those companies millions and millions of dollars by switching to Little Giant.

And it was twice the price; keep this in mind, the extension ladder was twice the price of the ladder they were using. But they saved millions because they had reduced so many strains and sprains. And their technicians were more efficient; they were more effective, they could do more in one day because they had a ladder that was almost half the weight, and it was huge for them, massive.

Jerry I.: So, to make that 50-pound ladder, what was the reach of that 50-pound ladder, Doug?

It was a 28-foot extension ladder, which is what all the able guys put on their vans.

Doug W.: It was a 28-foot extension ladder which is what all the cable guys put on their vans. But to do that, we had to come up with a new proprietary fiberglass design that reduced weight, and then we reduced weight with the design of this new fiberglass material that we have. And then we also did other things that changes to the ladders, that basically made them lighter.

Jerry I.: Well, now you are telling me something that’s kind of shocking to me because that is one of the things about fiberglass ladders is. In certain occupations, you really need fiberglass because it doesn’t conduct electricity. But at the same time, fiberglass is heavy as a rule. So this is the first time hearing about a 50-pound fiberglass ladder with a 28-foot reach. What’s the weight capacity on that boy?

It is a 375-pound rating.

Doug W.: Well, what is incredible it is the 375-pound rating. So Jerry, the thing that was interesting is when we first came out with this ladder, the other ladder companies laughed at us. I mean laughed at us. And they said nobody wants these ladders; you guys are wasting your time, these are dumb, why are you guys doing this.

And within several years of us overtaking several markets in the industry, I remember one of the biggest ladder companies in the world, the CEO came up to me at a show, and he goes man, you guys didn’t just take some of the business away in the Telco industry, he goes you took it all. And he was just in shock. But the thing is, they were just sitting around doing nothing, and the customer was begging for this product, and we filled the need, and it took over the whole industry.

Jerry I.: Well, I can imagine, I will be honest with you. I know, and so people are aware, Doug retired in 2019, right Doug?

Doug W.: That’s correct.

Fiberglass is a great material, but it is heavy.

Jerry I.: So, Doug retired, he sold his share of the company out in 2019. But it’s really amazing at what you’re telling me here, and if you’re listening to this. This could be something for people in the industry we work in, because a 50 pound, we’ve talked for years. Fiberglass is a great material, but it’s heavy. But what you’re saying here is this is a 50-pound fiberglass ladder.

And when I look at it, and it’s got 375-pound capacity payload of the human being going up it, that’s impressive, Doug. Because I had a 60-foot ladder in my company, and raising a 60-foot ladder is not an easy task. You’re supposed to have four people to put that stinking thing up. But that ladder was so heavy; it was unreal. And a lot of people, that’s one of the strings.

I mean, we talk about injuries, and you hit on a key thing which is back injuries and strains and that type of stuff. And when you look at it, that ends up in being downtime. And downtime is extremely expensive when you got a key worker, and all of a sudden, he can’t come to work because he’s injured.

You got the workers comp claim, plus you got the lost time, and you do not have your guy, and it puts everything behind. I mean it’s unreal, so that’s a pretty phenomenal thing right there what you’re telling me about.

It opened the market to those companies for female technicians.

Doug W.: Yes, I mean, it was incredible. One thing that we never even thought about is it opened the market to these companies too for female technicians. Because the female technicians could not lift a 90-pound ladder, but they could lift a 50-pound ladder.

They could raise and lower it because we put a side pulley, a double pulley on the side of the ladder that made it so much easier to raise and lower it as well. And what that did was, a lot of cable companies found that the women technicians did a better job like installing in the house.

They were more; they cared more about not knocking things over, and they did a cleaner job when they did the installation. So it opened up a whole new marketplace for these cable companies by being able to bring women into the workplace.

We see this in the HVAC industry, we see it in other service industries, a lot of women are coming in.

Jerry I.: I can imagine, and that is a big thing. It’s like right here, and we see this in the HVAC industry; we see it in other service businesses. That a lot of women are coming into this industry, and you just said a key thing. 

And women, as a rule, have a sense of care many times when they get in here that Joe may not have; I mean, so you are recognizing things right here that are pretty unreal. So anyway, so as you went through this, how big of an issue was liability? Did you all, was this a big thing in manufacturing to have the liability insurance to cover the product from product liability, Doug?

Little Giant has been very blessed because of quality and innovation.

Doug W.: Well, that is a big part of the business. But again, as I mentioned, Little Giant has been very blessed because of quality and because of our innovation, the way we produce ladders.

That yes, of course, we’ve had people that have fallen off product before, but compared to other ladder companies when I was there, we had very, our number of lawsuits and injuries and things like that was very low and much lower than the other ladder companies that that were out there. So again, I really attribute that to the design, the quality, because again we just built in more safety into our products, and it served us very well.

That was a part of the mission statement of Little Giant.

Jerry I.: Well, from what I heard you say a while ago, that was part of the mission statement of the Little Giant. And going back, the thing is if your dad was, I guess your mother is German then, and you’ve got family in Germany and all that. 

And Germans are very conscious of these type of things, and I said that was probably a lot of what was bred into him as he went through this. So Doug, let’s go into Doug a little bit. Doug retired in 2019; as I shared a little bit earlier, Doug has a really nice car collection, you’ve been doing this for years. And Doug likes to ride hot rod mustangs that are capable of more speed than you can put on the highway. Is that right, Doug?

Doug W.: Well, I have got a few of them. My brother and I, we got kind of the car craze from my dad when he was alive. He kind of had, like I call it, a Jay Leno collection. My dad had about 60 cars, the most he ever had when he was alive. And so he had a big car collection, he loved collecting and driving and racing and all those things.

So we kind of got the bug, and yes, I’m more of an American muscle guy; I’m big into the Ford brand and the Shelby’s things like that. My brother, he has got a few mustangs and things, but he is more a European guy. He’s got a lot of Porsches and Audis and things like that. But we like it, we caught the bug, and it is a lot of fun.

Jerry I.: Yes. I mean, like I said, Doug’s even got a Blazer from back in the 1990s in your collection, I believe. Is it a 94 or 96 Blazer you got there you are proud of?

Doug W.: I have got a 96 Bronco, and then I also have 79 Ford Bronco that is immaculate, that I bought down here in Arizona at a Barrett-Jackson auction several years ago.

Jerry I.: Yes. So, Doug, you’ve retired from the ladder company; you wanted different things. So tell me what the future’s holding for Doug Wing, and I know a little bit about this, but let’s tell the listeners what Doug Wing is pursuing. Because I do not think Doug Wing is a guy that is just going to sit around the house and watch television going forward and just getting some hot rods once a while, would that be right?

I have been very busy working on a book.

Doug W.: Yes, that is true. I’ve been pretty busy; people say, what do you do all day? And I mean well, I just moved into a new home, and there’s always a few things that you’re working on with your house trying to make it your own home. But for the most part, I have been busy right now working on a book, a very special book that is about my dad and his story about how he started and built a Little Giant ladder company, and that has been taking up quite a bit of my time.

But that’ll be released early next year sometime, is when we’ll bring that to print. And then also working on a program, a training program that will work with the book, that I can go in and help companies with their sales teams and teach them some of the core principles and values that Hal Wing used to build his company. So I’m working on that.

And then I started another company with two other partners in Utah; that we own a bunch of apartments, and we own a property management company. And then we’ve kind of ventured off into some other businesses; we have an axe throwing business.

Jerry I.: A what?

Doug W.: An axe throwing business. And we have several locations in Utah and Idaho, up in Washington now. It’s a big thing, and people can go in, and they have these targets, and you throw the axes. And we have a couple of other businesses; we even have a hamburger place in Provo now, Provo Utah that’s really good.

And so we’ve gone out into a couple of other little things, but for us, the big part is our apartments, our real estate that we have, and then our property management company. But the other little parts of the company are kind of neat, you know.

Jerry I.: Yes. Well, like I said, I got to know Doug through one of the coaching groups, so we have a similar interest, and we had a lot of meetings together and learning a lot. And Doug was in Charlotte a while back; he came down and visited with Jeffrey Gitomer, I believe.

And next time he comes, hopefully, he’ll swing by my house, since he’s that close and he can swing by one of these supercharged Mustang Shelby’s he’s got there; we take a look because I’m sure he loves to go across the country here. But Doug, your family made a difference. I think that is what you look at.

Your Dad is an example of a true American Success Story

And when you talk about writing a book and talking about your dad and how it went, your dad is an example of a true American success story from what I have heard from you and what I have researched. Your dad had a dream, okay. He didn’t have it easy; your dad went on the road, your dad was sleeping in a pile of ladders. Maybe sleeping in a hotel every fourth or fifth night, probably eating; I doubt he was eating at Ruth Chris’s around the country and Chima steakhouse and that.

I’d say there was a lot of beans and a lot of getting by with bologna sandwiches and other things. So you need to be really proud of it, man. I’m looking forward to getting this book out there and all that. So hey brother, it has been a very interesting conversation with you today.

Sharing stuff I’ve learned from you, that’s what I like about doing these shows. I actually learned things, this thing about the 50-pound fiberglass ladder, definitely I’m going to pass along with people. So I really appreciate it, because like I said, there’s a really big concern with safety and ladders these days. And for you to go through some of the things you have talked about here in development, hey, it is a great thing, brother.

How do you inspire people?

So, I really appreciate you being on here today. Is there anything you’d like to add to inspire anyone to get to their dreams that kind of stuff? That’s kind of my whole thing, is turning your business dreams into your business realities. And you’re kind of going in the coaching business too, so how do you inspire people? Give me a little inspiration for the people who might be listening to us?

The key to the book us that Hal Wing did very well, he build people.

Doug W.: Well, the one thing that is really the key to the book is that Hal Wing did very well, was he built people. And I remember when my dad passed away, the governor of Utah came and he said to me, he said Hal Wing always said he was in the ladder business, but that is not true. Hal Wing was in the people business.

Hal Wing was in the people business.

And as I interviewed former employees and current employees, and the stories that through the years that I have seen and heard from my dad. Hal Wing built people, and then the rest followed. And so, my advice to people out there who own companies, or who want to start companies is this if you will treat your people well if you will take good care of your people and build them up and help them to be successful.

If you will take good care of your people and build them up and help them be successful.

Then you are going to be successful. Zig Ziglar talked about that when he said if you want to, to get what you want, just help enough other people get what they want, and so that was really the philosophy of Hal Wing. Build the people, and the rest will follow. So Little Giant built this incredible culture, where everybody knew that Hal Wing loved them and treated them just like family. And built them up and helped them to be successful.

Hal had this vision where he saw people and he saw their potential and then he helped them achieve that potential.

And Hal had this vision where he saw people, and he saw their potential, what they could become, and then he helped them to achieve that potential. And so that is my advice to people, as you go through business, as you start businesses, and if you have a business, remember this is what my dad said.

The most important asset you are employees.

The most important asset you have are your employees and treat them the way you want to be treated; and they will take you to the highest mountains, and you will be super successful. So it’s worked for us, and it can work for anyone. Is just take good care of your people, treat them well, build them, and they are going to help you go to the next level.

Jerry I.: Yes. Well, Doug, I appreciate you being here today and all you folks that are listening, feel free to share this out there. I think there’s some really great information; some of the things Doug shared hey, it could save somebody being injured, it could save them from being worse. 

So this is Jerry Isenhour, CVC success group. I want to thank you all for being here. I want you to know it’s an honor, and it’s a privilege, and it’s a pleasure to be able to speak to you like this. So appreciate you joining us, and we will see you on a future episode of the chimney and fireplace success network.