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Turning a Good Idea into a Great Business

By Jen Broders

There’s an old joke that asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”

Well, something similar could be said of how to you take a good idea and turn it into a great business? Work, work, work. But you would also do well to include one more thing: Bill Mayhew; a man with belief, enthusiasm and the gift of gab who, over the years, convinced over 850 independent truckstop owners to sign with CAT Scales.

Before Mayhew came to work for CAT, he was managing a Pilot truckstop in Florida that happened to have a CAT Scale. When Carroll Feuerbach was in town to check on the scale, he met Mayhew and found he has some connections to another large truckstop chain. Feuerbach was so impressed with Mayhew that when he returned to Walcott, he told the Moons they had to hire him.

After talking with Feuerbach, Mayhew knew that expanding CAT Scales was a good idea and that he could help make that happen by signing up as many truckstops as they could handle. When Mayhew came up to Walcott for an interview, he asked Feuerbach how many truckstops they were looking to sign up. At that time, 15 seemed like a good start.* But Mayhew knew he could sign far more than that. After lunch, the Moons told Mayhew, “You get the contract, we’ll get them built.” Years later Will Moon tells how after they first hired Mayhew, he got so many contracts in such a short time they weren’t sure how they would get them all built. But they did.

When it came to deciding how they would sign up truckstops, Mayhew explained, “We kicked the idea (of expanding) around and realized we didn’t want a franchise. What we wanted was a partnership.” Partnerships. That’s what you get with a family-run business, and that’s what the Moons wanted.

In the early days, Mayhew visited lots of Mom and Pop truckstops because they were the ones leading the way for CAT Scales.

“They’d sign up when the bigger chains wouldn’t,” Mayhew said. Now it’s the bigger chains that, when they plan a new truckstop, include space for CAT Scales right in the plans. That’s how much things have changed since 1977.

That’s actually a far cry from when CAT was starting out, in those days where truckers would have to keep quarters handy to put into the scale for an axle, then pull forward, put in another quarter, and do this one final time to get a weight that might be close but was certainly not certifiable. In the late 70s, when CAT began to build scales to weigh an entire rig, it was pretty unique. And to have a scale accurate enough to be certified for something like produce, that was a big leap forward. When Dick Chernick said the ticket color should be distinct, that bright yellow definitely made it stand out.

“That CAT certificate is worth a fortune to a driver,” Mayhew said. “If the scale official sees that yellow scale ticket in a driver’s pocket, they know that truck is good to go.”

So, that’s the formula for success: find a good idea, work, work, work, and end up with a great business. Of course, having lots of good people, like Bill Mayhew, who believe in that idea and work hard to make it happen certainly can tip the scales in favor of success.

*Just as a point of reference, CAT built 100 scales in 2016.