Global Fastener News

2004 FIN – Stanley: "Yup" Leads to Fastener Career

October 01
00:00 2012


August 10, 2004 FIN – Twice Larry Stanley gambled on nuts and bolts, and twice he succeeded.
After military service Stanley spent 10 years in wholesale hardware sales traveling eastern Washington and northern Idaho. By 1960 he was noticing nuts and bolts sales were strong, and he asked the company hardware buyer if fasteners weren’t among the most profitable items. “Yup,” was the response.
A few weeks later Stanley invited the Lamson & Sessions salesperson out for a cup of coffee. Stanley told the salesperson of his idea to start a fastener distributorship.
“That’s not an original idea, the salesman responded – pointing out John Perine & Co., Seattle Screw Products Co. and Ken R. Humke Co. in the Pacific Northwest.
Stanley next “made a comment to my wife’s boss, who replied, “Why don’t we do it as a partnership? Fasteners Inc. was started in 1961 with Stanley as general manager.
“As something that happens in partnerships I found myself on the outside a decade later,” Stanley narrated. So he gambled again. “I mortgaged our home, cashed in the value of life insurance policies and sold the two stocks I owned and found a bank to loan the rest,”  Stanley explained.
In March 1972 Empire Bolt & Screw opened “in very humble quarters” at the back of a Northeast Spokane appliance warehouse. Stanley did buying and selling, while his wife, Bev Stanley, took the “key inside all-around person role.” Fastener shortages became Stanley’s first crisis. Today’s skyrocketing steel prices remind industry veterans of the rapidly rising steel prices during 1973-74.
“It was a traumatic time,” Stanley reflected. “Bethlehem Steel shut off the supply of half-inch and three-quarters nuts. I tried to get them for four, five months. Then I turned to imports to survive.”
Initially imports were 15% to 20% higher in price.
Ironically, while making a sales call, Stanley spotted a pallet of half-inch nuts from Bethlehem at one of his OEM customers. “That sent me into orbit,” Stanley remembered. He called Bethlehem to complain, and within two weeks Empire began receiving “a few cases” of nuts. But import prices came down, and “quality was at least equal,” Stanley found. Empire began buying more and more from overseas.
Stanley had been a “Made in America” buyer, but supply and later prices “pushed me in the other direction. After importing nuts he found advantages to importing cap screws. Stanley is currently on a steel company board and recently asked the chair if there are parallels to 1973-74. “At first look, yes, the Chinese are driving up steel prices buying scrap,” the executive responded to Stanley. But his real answer was, “It depends on how long it lasts. You tell me how long China is going to be the player.”
Industry Changes
In his more than four decades in the industry Stanley sees two major changes. First is loyalty.
He recalled Bud Porteous came selling for Russell Bolt but also sold to an irrigation manufacturer in Spokane.
“Man, I gave it to him,” Stanley complained. “And when Bud formed his own company [Porteous Fastener Co.] he instituted a policy of selling only to distributors. “We talked about it many times, and we’ve been loyal ever since.”
Another problem Stanley sees is a “lack of personnel quality in all segments. There are so many mistakes. It is a costly problem to ship a wrong order and then the customer has to wait for the right product. You’d think with computers, faxes and e-mails it would be easy. But simple mistakes are made in transcribing.
“It is a challenge to find disciplined people to hire – from the warehouse up. Self-discipline is missing.”
Stanley was the first president of the Western Association of Fastener Distributors and was on the National Fastener Distributors Association board. It was a fellow NFDA member, Don Broehm, who taught him how to import fasteners.
Clarinetist Stanley was part of a group of musicians who performed at NFDA meetings. Others included Dave Kendall on the piano; Phil Fields, tuba; Gene Young, guitar; Broehm, base fiddle; and Dan McIlhon, vocalizing. They last performed at the fall 1994 NFDA meeting.
“Those players are gone, but names change everywhere,” Stanley observed. “When I occasionally sign checks I see how the supplier names have changed too.”
Believing “strongly in transitions, ” Stanley prepared early for his own retirement. He hired his son, Ron Stanley, away from IBM in 1984. “It was a huge mountain to climb financially, he recalled. “I told him, ‘I can’t afford you, but I can’t afford not to hire you.”
To meet the financial commitment Stanley sought to grow Empire Bolt. “You expand as best you can.” His son’s “youth and new ideas also helped expand the business,” Stanley added.
Ron Stanley took over as general manager in 1997 and as CEO in 2001. This year Larry Stanley is “wrapping up the tail end of my fastener career and will give up the chairman title by the end of 2004.”
“I’ll never retire from community service, Stanley insisted. “I’m a firm believer in giving back. He is on several Spokane corporate boards and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council and is active in multiple nonprofit organizations. “I find myself on the go, but I love it. Bev & I may get more aggressive on seeing the world by cruise ship and take longer weekends at the cabin on Priest Lake in northern Idaho.
Editor’s Note: Larry & Bev Stanley can be contacted c/o Empire Bolt & Screw Inc., 1501 E. Trent Ave., Spokane, WA 99202. Tel: 509 534-0636 Fax 509 534-1475. E-mail:  ©2004/2012 Fastener Industry News.
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