by Joshua Jerome
Being entrepreneurial requires dedication to your vision and the confidence to educate consumers and potential funders about whatever kind of widget you may be producing. It also requires optimism and the ability to take chances. But what about married entrepreneurs — co-preneurs? I was curious to learn about the decision-making process and the difficulty of being co-preneurs, so I caught up with such a couple, Rebecca Kerin-Hutchins and Scott Hutchins, to hear about how they make all three of their businesses — Hutch Brothers Concrete, Yellow Dog Properties and K5 Consulting — run.
Scott Hutchins grew up in Barre City and learned about the concrete business from his father, Richard Hutchins, who owned such a business until 1993. Scott worked at Bombardier and in the granite industry and even opened up his own boutique archery shop in downtown Barre. In 2002, Scott was working with his brother at a granite shed when the shed owners undertook an expansion. Scott and his brother used their concrete knowledge to do the concrete work and, after the job was done, decided to start Hutch Brothers Concrete.
Fast forward five years to 2007, and Rebecca was a busy mother of three young children. A conventional 9-to-5 job simply did not provide enough flexibility, so she started K5 Consulting, a bookkeeping and consulting business. Scott and Rebecca met in 2008 and it soon became apparent that they not only shared a tremendous work ethic, but love for one another. From a business perspective, Scott had been operating Hutch Brothers Concrete efficiently, and his good reputation and quality standards helped the business grow steadily. Bringing Rebecca into the business was not just bringing in a spouse, but a different skill set based on non-concrete industry applications.
The two of them were running both of their businesses out of their house. Hutch Brothers employees would show up at the house at 6 a.m. and meander through the kitchen as Rebecca was fielding calls and preparing lunches for the kids. It was soon apparent that they needed to separate the family unit from the business unit, and in 2011 they took that step by purchasing the old East Barre school house. The acquisition represented their first foray into property management with their third business, Yellow Dog Properties. It also would allow sufficient room for growth. And, with Barre’s Main Street reconstruction about to be in full swing, they would need that room.
During the “Big Dig,” Hutch Brothers Concrete doubled in size to 24 employees. These days, the company maintains a heavy workload of 12 to 15 jobs at any given time during the busy season. As technology in the concrete industry has advanced, so have the opportunities to bring new products into the marketplace. From stamped and dyed concrete to advanced application machinery, Hutch Brothers Concrete has remained educated about trends in the concrete industry around the country. Scott and Rebecca attend annual trade shows and often bring several employees along with them. It’s an investment in human capital they tell me, an investment that is only possible because of the close, mutual respect exhibited between employee and employer.
I asked Rebecca and Scott about how they’re able to manage their family of six and three businesses. Rebecca said, “We are always asking ourselves what can we do differently and how can we improve this aspect of working together,” a point that Scott followed up on by saying, “Rebecca’s the only woman that ever made me stronger.” The mutual admiration they share was apparent, all while two phones kept ringing and numerous employees kept coming through to keep them abreast of the morning’s activities. They told me it gets much more chaotic in the busy season, when they often take upwards of 80 calls a day. I asked, “When do you shut off; when is it just, husband and wife?” I was told 8:30 or 9 p.m.
Not only did I admire their respect for one another, but also their ability to finish each other’s sentences. I learned a lot about concrete, and Scott and I talked deer hunting a bit, but mostly I learned about the right way for co-preneurs to make life work, and I am grateful for that.
The writer is executive director of The Barre Partnership.