Ask the Boss: Butch Mullet

By Beau Denton September 9, 2013

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Butch Mullet, 56, founded Mullet’s Aluminum, a manufacturer and installer of aluminum products, in 1978 and has grown it into an industry leader, winning the Aluminum Association of Florida’s Award of Excellence for the last six years. With 105 full-time employees (including his son, Travis; youngest daughter, Tiler; and brother, Bob), Mullet’s work can be found in projects such as the Palm Avenue parking garage, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the Longboat Key Club and in other large projects around Florida and out of state.

You grew up Amish in Ohio. How did that influence your business style? Church mostly taught me to sit still. I really learned from my father [founder of Sarasota’s Mullet’s Appliances] who taught Sunday school on the off weeks when we weren’t in church. What always meant the most is, “Do unto others as you would have them to do you.” I tell my guys, “Do the job like you’re going to do it for your mom.”

How did you get through the recession? We went from doing $18 to $20 million a year to $10 million. In 2008, we had a big employee meeting and said we didn’t want to lay anyone off. Everyone took a pay cut and had to roll up their sleeves. We moved middle managers back to the crews. My son and I started pulling trailers and hauling materials to the job site. We also began to focus on commercial work and landed a job at the Longboat Key Club replacing all the windows, doors and railings at Inn on the Beach. It was two-year job, and it saved us. Last year was a great year, and this year looks like it will be better.

What’s the biggest challenge in running a large company? Keeping your own people happy. It’s way tougher than pleasing your customers. I’ve had employees for 20 and 30 years, and they’re all stars to me.

After-hour passions? I love to bow hunt, and I live on a 1,000-acre ranch where I raise cattle and grow citrus for juice.”

Advice for businesspeople trying to grow their companies? If you want to grow, you have to hire other people. Choose them well and allow them to be themselves. Don’t micromanage because you’ll end up with people who can’t think. When you give employees the ability to make decisions, you buy yourself the luxury of time.” —By Susan Burns

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