Reaching for Excellence

RA Materials Creates A Once-In-A-Lifetime Employee Bonding Experience.

By Therese Dunphy

On April 8, one small Texas operator transformed a quiet afternoon into a big moment for team building. Like many across the United States, the team at Comfort, Texas-based RA Materials LLC paused work for a short while to view a rare total solar eclipse.

“It was a pretty quiet day,” noted Arthur Galindo, operations manager. “We got a lot of things accomplished in the morning, and we took a moment to appreciate the eclipse. It was really cool.”

With many area businesses closed for the day, Galindo suspected it would be a quiet day in terms of customers, so his staff tackled some maintenance issues and changed out a screen deck earlier in the day before taking a break to view the height of the eclipse.

“Everything lined up perfectly,” he said. “It was cloudy for most of the day but cleared out just a little bit so we could see what was happening. The guys were really into it. They were wearing the glasses. They were taking pictures of the eclipse and each other so they could show their loved ones they were enjoying it.”

The RA Materials team paused operations to view the eclipse on April 8, and noted how the temperatures quickly cooled as the moon covered the sun.

Creating the Right Culture
Taking time away from production and maintenance to view the eclipse reflects the operator’s culture and core values, which include respect, learning environment, integrity, service, and safety. The company views those core values across not only its employees, but also its customers and vendors.

“Not only do we need to sell to our customers, but we need to sell to the community and to our own employees,” Galindo said. “We want that environment for everyone to thrive in.”

Respect: Galindo is quick to tell his team that they are not there to be treated disrespectfully. “If someone’s yelling at you or rude to you, call me,” he tells them. “It’s my job to be yelled at.”

Learning environment: Rather than focus on being the top equipment operator, RA Materials’ culture promotes sharing knowledge and tips between employees. “We’re not about being the number one loader or whatever,” he said. “We want everyone to share what they know.”

Integrity: The company focuses on honesty and integrity, which can be a challenge, especially if a mistake is made on the job. Galindo said that his approach is to make sure that employees understand that mistakes create a teaching moment, but covering up mistakes creates a disciplinary one. While those conversations can be difficult, creating clear expectations and holding employees accountable creates a better team in the long run.

Service: And, those same standard holds true when dealing with customers. “We’re honest with our customers too,” he said. “If we are not the best ones to help them, we’ll tell them. We want to provide the same type of service we want when we go somewhere.”

Safety: Safety is straightforward, Galindo explained. It’s about making sure everyone goes home in the same shape as when they arrived at work.

Building a Stronger Team
As a small producer, RA Materials likes to create a laidback style of company events, such as the eclipse viewing. It also hosts an annual picnic along the two-mile stretch of river on its property. The operation will close early on a Saturday as family members join employees for an old-fashioned barbeque. If the weather is warm enough and the river is deep enough, they will also swim in the river. Everyone seems to enjoy the outdoors and have a moment to get together and relax.

These moments, though seemingly small, can have an outsized impact on workplace culture, as demonstrated in a LinkedIn post Galindo wrote on April 8.

“Today’s solar eclipse was a spectacular reminder of the wonders that the universe holds. Witnessing this celestial event was not just a pause in our busy lives, but a moment that united us in awe and wonder,” Galindo wrote. “Sharing this experience with colleagues brought a sense of camaraderie and excitement to our workplace. It’s these little moments that make our daily routines extraordinary.

“Now, as we return to our tasks, we carry the inspiration of the cosmos with us. Let’s channel this energy into our work and continue to reach for excellence, just as the moon reaches to eclipse the sun.”

Therese Dunphy has covered the aggregates industry for nearly 30 years, while also serving multiple roles as a public official. As the owner of Stone Age Communications, she provides communications consulting services to help aggregate producers build stronger relationships within the communities they serve. She can be reached at [email protected].