By DAVID R. MILLION
WINNING TEAM: APSCO President Larry Mocha, standing far right, hired Vince Williams (next to Mocha) to financially turn the company around. Williams’ sales team, left to right standing, includes Mark Haney and Steve Campbell; seated Emily Campbell and Rebecca Reynolds.
DAVID R. MILLION for GTR Newspapers
APSCO Inc. President Larry Mocha has had two driving forces in his business career. One is to keep his business afloat through tough economic times and governmental regulation changes and to thrive.
The other is to help Oklahoma and U.S. small businesses. That effort began in 1995 when he was named a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business. Closer to home from the 1990s to today, he has served in several capacities in the Tulsa Metro and state chambers of commerce. His list of service to small business is exhaustive.
Mocha’s business, APSCO Inc. (originally Air Power Systems Co., Inc.), has gone through hard times and good times since his father, William J. Mocha, started building brake and clutch air control kits for oilfield trucks in his garage in 1964.
“The real story of our business survival and increasing success,” Mocha says, “is diversifying within our customer base and expanding what we do well into related areas.”
From the beginning, the 1970 Oklahoma State University graduate experienced the small business rough ride. Immediately after earning a business degree, Mocha became his father’s first employee. He left after six months because of poor business. When business picked up, Mocha was rehired in 1972.
The 1982 oil industry downturn caused the company to diversify, helping to maintain a position in the oilfield market while expanding into the construction market.
Mocha took the company reigns when his father died in 1984 and watched the company experience slow growth throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
APSCO followed economic ups and downs with Mocha making adjustments to keep the company alive but not growing it to his expectations.
“About six years ago I decided we were stuck and doing things wrong,” Mocha says. “Gross profits were dropping. We needed someone with the right expertise.”
With the help of consultants, Mocha found the person he felt would get the company on the right track, an engineering graduate named Vince Williams from England’s Southampton University who was working with HydroHoist in Claremore.
“Larry knew APSCO had hit a plateau and wanted a clear view of what to do,” says Williams, who was hired in late 2007 to advance the company to greater success.
It took two years of strategizing and diversifying the company before APSCO’s bottom line showed improvement.
“I was beginning to wonder if I’d done the right thing by hiring Vince, but I knew he had the expertise we needed so I was patient, eventually seeing him and his sales team create a major turnaround,” Mocha says.
“We understood our customers were buying pneumatic products from our competitors we weren’t making. We told them we could manufacture those products,” says Williams.
In addition to making that expansion within APSCO’s current customer base, Williams looked for ways to provide pneumatic products for vehicles in areas besides oilfield and construction.
It wasn’t long before APSCO expanded its customer base, creating and selling pneumatic products to companies in the refuse and utility industries.
“We focused on service, quality and the ability to deliver. Accomplishing that, we were able to raise prices while expanding within our current customer base and picking up new customers,” Williams says.
APSCO gained industry certifications that allowed customers to understand APSCO’s products were of the highest quality.
“People know our quality and understand our prices are fair, making it easier now to gain their business and grow our company with quality,” Williams says.
Mocha praised Williams for understanding what was needed to move APSCO forward.
An example of Williams’ foresight was to purchase one of APSCO’s vendors, a metal fabrication company.
“That allows us now to manufacture a control box for our pneumatic products that our customers previously purchased from our competitors,” Williams says as an example of how APSCO is weaving its way into other areas of the vehicle pneumatic industry.
In 2006 with the old product and customer mix, which is quite different today, APSCO’s goal was to earn $10.6 million. The company missed by nearly $1 million.
A downward financial spiral continued with 2007 earnings at $7.6 million accompanied by Environmental Protection Agency rule changes that were part of APSCO’s financial decline in 2008 to $6.5 million and 2009 to $4.3 million.
Despite the 2008-2009 recession, changes Williams recommended and Mocha approved were beginning to create the turnaround Mocha had hoped for in hiring Williams.
The 2010 earnings were $5.5 million followed by a 48 percent growth to $8.2 million in 2011.
“We’re continuing the upward trend,” Williams says. “Sales in December 2011 were $853,000 and increased in January this year to $911,000 with projections looking really good.”
Mocha said APSCO’s sales are now at an all time high.
But Williams isn’t satisfied. “We’re not closing our eyes to new products and new customers. We’ve created a long-term strategy plan through 2013 and continue to strategize beyond that,” he says.
Mocha said with a big grin, “I really enjoy looking at the balance sheets now and I give full credit to Vince and his team.”