/images/buttons/ShoulderGiant_button.jpg/images/giants1.jpgStanding on the Shoulders of Giantsstanding-on-shoulders-of-giants.htmIt has been said leading companies are only as good as their best employees. While some of the industry’s most-talented help keep Southwire at the top today, it took a few special people to get the company there.
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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Case, Braswell, Cofer, Griffin.
These are names that hold a special place in Southwire lore and serve as reminders of the people who helped founder Roy Richards, Sr. transform the company from what many called a wild idea to a giant in the wire and cable industry. It has been said leading companies are only as good as their best employees. While some of the industry’s most-talented help keep Southwire at the top today, it took a few special people to get the company there.

 

 

Major A.A. Case

Knowing that he would have to train a workforce for his new wire mill, Richards turned to his mentor Maj. A.A. Case, a mechanical shop instructor at Georgia Tech. Case was a father figure to Richards and would become a key figure in Southwire’s development, but not without some heavy persuading. Like many, Case tried to talk Richards out of his plans. The main drawback, according to Case, was the lack of skilled workers. But Richards convinced Case, whom he called "one of the best machinists in the country," that he could develop a workforce. Case retired from Georgia Tech, moved to Carrollton and set up a shop in his backyard. "The Major’s enthusiasm was infectious," Richards later remembered.

 

 

Margaret Braswell

Early on, Margaret Braswell, a childhood friend of Richards, knew he had what it took to be successful. In the eighth grade she predicted to her mother, "Roy Richards is going somewhere." As bookkeeper and secretary in the early days, and later as Southwire’s corporate secretary/treasurer, Braswell helped him get there."I started to work in the summer of 1938, when the firm was working on its second project, building power lines for the rural electrification program," Braswell said during an interview at the time of her retirement in 1981. "One of the first things I got was the checkbook and I was involved in money management until my retirement, not only for Richards and Associates and Southwire, but for the corollary companies as well." In the early days, money management meant handling each week’s payroll on Saturday afternoon. Later, Braswell, affectionately known to those she worked with as "Miss Margaret," signed 300 to 500 checks a day. By the time she retired after 43 years with the company, Braswell supervised the flow of millions of dollars. 

 

Financially conservative, she quickly developed a reputation for scrutinizing bills and challenging what she felt was frivolous spending. Her staff learned to re-use rubber bands and bend paper clips back into shape. "In the early years, we didn’t have much organization – no set policies or procedures – except to work from soon ‘til late and save every penny we could," Braswell recalled. It was an ordinary day, Braswell remembered, when she first heard Richards mention plans to go into the wire business. "One day he was sitting in his office with his feet propped up on his desk and I could tell he was in deep thought," she said. "When I went into the room, he announced, "Margaret, we’re going to build a wire mill." Throughout her career, Braswell remained modest about her keen business sense. "I was simply an administrator. I was not an innovator," she said. "Roy told me what he wanted done and I knew that he expected me to see that it was done. One rule was try not to let the boss tell you the same thing twice."  

 

 

 

D.B. "Pete" Cofer

A young engineer fresh out of Georgia Tech, D.B. "Pete" Cofer worked with the youthful determination that all things were possible. That outlook served him well shortly after Cofer joined Southwire in 1953. Determined to adapt an Italian-made machine he had recently purchased to the production of copper and aluminum wire, Richards presented the task to Cofer. "He was standing in an array of crates, wheels, gears and pulleys with a bewildered expression on his face, looking at a piece of paper and saying, ‘It’s written in Italian,’" Griffin recalled. Not long after, Southwire patented the Southwire Continuous RodÒ system, which today makes up half of the copper rod continuous-casting capacity in the world.

 

"The only reason Pete ever managed to build a machine that would continuously cast copper and aluminum rod was because he didn’t know it couldn’t be done," said George Ward, once Cofer’s assistant. "Language does not contain enough superlatives to overstate Pete’s value and contributions to Southwire, not just in the continuous rod casting process, but in wire and cable manufacturing as well," Ward said. "The industry is the way it is today in large measure due to the efforts of Pete Cofer. As a result, Southwire Company is known all over the world." On many occasions, Cofer took time from his busy schedule to travel long distances and bolster the customers’ confidence – all for the company he loved. "Never promise a customer something you can’t deliver," Cofer told his staff. "In any negotiations with a customer, make absolutely sure that any answer you give him is stated in an affirmative fashion. If the customer wants a blue suit, turn on a blue light."

 

 

Jim Griffin

A retired Southwire president and senior vice president, Jim Griffin actually was seeking an introduction to the president of Atlantic Steel when Richards persuaded him to join Southwire as its second salesman in 1953. Taking the job, Griffin never dreamed he would stay with Southwire for more than 30 years. "I stayed because I never could find a place to stop," he said in a 1986 conversation. "We were always growing and I was learning something new or there was always a new demand on the business." A native of Macon, Ga., Griffin served in the South Pacific during World War II and graduated from Boston University before going to work in Chicago’s steel industry. A few cold winters soon had him headed back home to Georgia. Over the years, Griffin learned the best managers are open, direct and fair.

"As a manager, you earn respect by being honest, direct and sincere; by rewarding people who succeed and by showing no favorites," he said. "You have to develop a reputation for being fair and non-discriminating and that’s what I covet most. For a manager, that’s essential."

 

 

 

Roger Schoerner
Born into a family hit hard by the Great Depression, Roger Schoerner, a former vice president of corporate development, dreamed about being a top executive in a large business. After working his way through Bentley School of Accounting and Finance in Boston, Schoerner got his chance in 1949 when he joined Southwire. Working with Anaconda Wire and Cable, Schoerner met Richards when Roy Richards Construction Company bought wire from Anaconda for an electrification project in St. Croix. The challenge of starting a wire mill in the South appealed to Schoerner. And a challenge it was. There were major hurdles, including sales and employee training. Then there were smaller details, such as drawing up employment forms and ordering office supplies.

 

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