Although developing new sales is often the result of active and systematic prospecting and follow-up, sometimes opportunities appear right in front of you and it’s just a matter of following them. That’s how my dad got his biggest customer, a relationship that provided the foundation for a national business. By day, he was a welder working for a large company. On evenings and weekends, he made ornamental iron railings for people in the neighborhood or small homebuilders.
On his way to work one morning, he spotted a pick-up truck full of two-by-fours ahead of him, which meant one thing to him: a new home under construction. He followed the truck until it pulled into a dirt road that led to a dusty field with a few houses under construction. The truck pulled up to the construction trailer and my dad pulled up right behind him. The guy who got out of the truck was a man named Ed Ryan, who was building his first housing development in Pittsburgh. That was the beginning of Ryan Homes and the beginning of my Dad’s business. He measured the first house for railings, welded it and painted it that night. The weekend, he and a friend from the neighborhood drove over with the railing on the roof of their car and installed it. The following week, he quit his job and became an entrepreneur.
As Ryan Homes grew, my Dad’s business grew. When Ryan wanted wood railings for their upscale homes, instead of losing the business, my dad said he’d build a wood railing. The first ones had only a wood top and newel post. He eventually made a wood railing that was pre-assembled and prefinished, just like the iron railings had been, which became the first pre-assembled, pre-finished wood railing in America. When Ryan went to Ohio and New York, my dad’s railings went with them.
When Ryan Homes went public in the 1960’s, many of the employees who had stock, left to form their own companies in other markets. Because of the relationships he’d built with these former field supervisors, my dad went too. Other builders heard about his products and wanted them too. Within 20 years, Ryan and the offshoots were the largest homebuilders in the country, and my dad’s company was the largest supplier of iron and wood railings to homebuilders in the world. All because he followed that pick-up truck.
There are pick-up trucks pulling in front of all of us. You can’t follow them all, but there are some that you can recognize with the two-by-fours on their way to a construction site.
Those are the Opportunities.


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