All Together Now – Where Customers and Employees Feel Like Family

Delta Industries
Written by Allison Dempsey

Working to fulfill its original mission of being the best concrete company in the South, Delta Industries continues to build upon the foundation laid in 1945 with a strong leadership team that represents almost 200 years of combined experience.

Serving a clientele that includes the biggest and most well-known industrial contractors in the country in addition to do-it-yourselfers and residential and commercial contractors, Delta’s continuous technological investments allow its team to offer precise batching, prompt delivery, and information on the status of every job.

A family-oriented company from the start, with an initial focus on concrete, Delta has also worked in a number of related businesses such as aggregate mining, lightweight mining, and concrete block, along with some unrelated sectors like catfish farming in the Mississippi Delta.

“We’ve ended up with concrete, aggregates and some related construction materials as our primary product lines. It’s morphed and changed over the years,” explains CEO Lance Bonner. “Two of the founding families are represented on our board, grandsons of the original founders.”

Bonner stresses one of the biggest reasons behind the company’s success. “Our people are what make us different,” he says. “We’re in a commodity business selling concrete and aggregates, and so are a lot of others, but we focus on service and professionalism: being on time, thanking the customer for their business, and treating them with respect and fairness.”

The company’s enduring success has stemmed from its focus on the customer—and very much on its employees as well, including numerous 30- and 40-year employees choosing to spend their whole career with Delta.

“That makes a huge difference because they have a wealth of institutional knowledge and loyalty and they buy in to our business approach,” Bonner says. “They know our customers and customers know them.”

One of the concerns Bonner has had as the company has grown is not wanting to lose the teamwork and connectedness everyone has in a culture that has developed to being highly focused on exceptional customer experiences.

“It’s a challenge to grow and maintain connectedness and a family feel. Simultaneously, we aim to innovate, improve, stay customer-focused, and achieve high-level results,” he says. “I’m not claiming perfection, but we’ve found a way to manage both aspects, and it works for us.”

Taking the time to train employees properly is also extremely important, teaching them what’s expected of them and supporting them through that training as well.

“We have something we call the Delta Difference, an acrostic that spells out our name Delta, that describes our culture emphases,” Bonner says. This Difference embraces a focus on consistent quality excelling in customer service; love to communities, employees and families, with involvement in the broader community as well; and reaching out to employees’ families to bring them into the organization.

“I think that’s critical—family members being part of and supporting their work with our organization,” Bonner says. “One that really resonates is the T in Delta in our acrostic: Treat others with respect and fairness. We consistently discuss the values of integrity and honesty in our actions, ensuring that everyone is treated with respect—customers, coworkers, vendors and suppliers. This message strongly resonates with our employees.”

Indeed, Delta is committed to telling its customers the truth every time. “If we didn’t do it right, we tell them upfront, and then we talk about a solution,” Bonner says. “In instances where things aren’t going perfectly, such as falling slightly behind schedule, we are proactive. We call them ahead of time and let them know what’s going on. Our employees buy into that approach.”

Part of employee engagement with Delta involves taking pride in being accountable for one’s work and ensuring it’s done correctly. Delta places a strong emphasis on its commitment to safety and secure operations. “It’s really about us all caring about our fellow employees, our communities, and our families that live in those communities,” Bonner says. “I don’t want to go home injured; I don’t want anyone going home injured. In that sense, I am my brother’s keeper.”

The company has strongly promoted the idea that safety is a team effort. “Sometimes you don’t see for yourself what’s happening behind you or around you, but maybe your teammate does. So, we look out for each other. And that’s a critical focus that’s essential for our success.”

As for future growth, the company grew slowly over many years, exercising a “very cautious” approach to ensure that its ability to deliver on its service commitment to customers never wavered. Delta never overextended itself, and now has all the necessary infrastructure in place for ongoing growth.

“We’re looking strongly at growth in a number of new markets, but the key to that is having the right selection, training, and culture programs in place where we can replicate what we have now,” Bonner says. “We’re not going to put our name and our brand out there if we’re not certain we can fulfill our commitment.”

Growth includes expanding the company footprint—perhaps fairly significantly—from its base in Jackson, Mississippi across the South and Southeast over the next few years, as well as moving into some complementary product lines, most notably the sand and gravel mining sector.

Being in a cyclical and seasonal industry presents its share of challenges, but right now, everything looks good, including a few years without a recession, says Bonner.

“We learned valuable lessons from the events of 2008, and when COVID hit, we took a pause to conduct a multi-tiered assessment. We asked ourselves, ‘What if this scenario plays out? How do we ensure the well-being of our people, as we value our loyal, long-term employees?’ Simultaneously, we recognized our duty to shareholders, aiming to prevent substantial financial losses. Through this process, we developed strategies that, I believe, assist us in scaling up and down effectively without disrupting people’s lives any more than necessary.”

Facing various challenges such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other storms in the last four or five years, Delta has consistently embraced proactivity. Lessons learned from these experiences emphasized the importance of proper preparations and reinforcement of its plants, including the construction of resilient batch offices to withstand storms. Delta remains steadfast in its commitment to providing customers with high-quality service, regardless of the challenges it encounters behind the scenes.

“It’s just part of the business that we hope our customers don’t have to dwell on, but we engage in open conversations when they do,” Bonner says. “For instance, fuel prices spike occasionally. We may need to discuss a slight adjustment in the fuel surcharge to manage the impact. But our goal is to never surprise the customer; we prefer to talk it through with them and make sure they understand why. We approach it as a collaborative effort, refraining from any attempt to recover all of the cost on such matters. We’re in this together.”

Delta’s future plans also have room for some impressive projects, like the ones it has done previously for St. Jude in Memphis, and as primary suppliers on a Nissan automobile manufacturing plant located in the Jackson area and the Continental Tire plant in Clinton, Mississippi. Delta is presently supplying concrete to the largest concrete project ever in the state, a new aluminum mill being built near Columbus, Mississippi for Steel Dynamics and their subsidiary, Aluminum Dynamics. “It’s an impressive project. We’re excited about the partnership and the impact it will make on the surrounding community,” Bonner shares.

Despite all of its impressive success, however, one of Delta’s biggest accomplishments is having employees who love to work at the company for their entire career. “That speaks to me,” Bonner says. “I think that’s great and I love seeing that.”

That employee satisfaction has indeed led to exemplary customer service and satisfaction as well, and Delta aims to maintain that in the years to come. “We’re continually trying to improve how the customer relates to us, and that includes adopting new technology, honing our training programs, and holding customer panel forums for direct feedback and relationship building,” Bonner explains.

“I think what sets us apart is this fanatical focus on customer experience. Most people in our industry are focused on their own capabilities, and their plants are good and their trucks are maintained, and that’s important,” Bonner says. “But ultimately, to meet customer expectations, you have to be there with the right product, at the right time, every time—that’s the Delta Difference.”

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