Luck’s alternative management approach

By |  May 1, 2013

Luck Cos., a MegaProducer with 15 quarries in Virginia, sunk to its lowest point in the company’s 90-year history in 2008, according to President and CEO Charlie Luck IV. That year, the Great Recession forced Luck Cos. to reduce its team by 18 percent.

Many companies went the low-man-on-the-totem-pole route in determining who to terminate that year and in the years that followed. But Luck Cos. went a different route – one that exhibits a unique company culture Luck Cos. had previously discovered.

“In the past we would have let the newest people go and kept long-tenured people,” says Luck, who delivered a special presentation back in March during the AGG1 Academy in San Antonio. “But we looked through our team and made cuts through a new lens. We kept the people who were really focused on working on themselves.”

A focus on developing people first – not profit – is an approach few producers and contractors probably took over the Great Recession’s trying years. But Luck Cos. went that route because of its belief in values-based leadership, which a Texas firm called the Hay Group introduced it to.

According to Luck, his company became too focused on profitability and growth during the boom years of the 1990s and 2000s, and it forgot about what launched the company to greatness in the first place: its people.


Values-based leadership is an open-ended concept that involves identifying values on which companies can form a foundation to grow and prosper. The values Luck Cos. holds dear – the ones on which Luck’s grandfather and father built their company during the 20th century – centered on its people.

The values-based leadership process isn’t a simple one, though. It’s not a matter of selecting three or four values, putting them on fliers and company emails and beating your chest to say these are our values.

Instead, Luck describes the process as intense and humbling. For example, as part of the values-based leadership process Luck went through with the Hay Group, he asked his employees to share their thoughts on how the company was being run. Their responses were at first shocking, Luck says, yet helped to shape the company’s new culture in the long run.

“Criticism can be a gift,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to change yourself.”

One lesson Luck was reminded of through the process is that his employees have untapped potential – sometimes even million-dollar ideas. Still, tapping that potential requires sound leadership, he says. And that means listening and coaching employees when required.

Once customers and stakeholders see the values of a company, others will want to do business with you, adds John Pullen, chief growth officer at Luck Cos. That, in turn, will increase revenue and lead to profitability. – Kevin Yanik, managing editor

“The number one driver of success of an organization is how a person feels about the organization,” Pullen says. “Disengaged associates are less safe, less productive and actually work to undermine your highly engaged associates.”

One caveat Luck offered at AGG1 is that businesses can’t necessarily measure productivity in a values-based leadership model as they might in a model that stresses profitability and growth over people. Instead, Luck says businesses can “see” productivity increase.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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