Under 40: Brothers in law, in business

Phillip Stoller majored in psychology at Purdue University. Brandon Meyer majored in business marketing at Indiana University. Today, the brothers-in-law (Phillip married Brandon’s sister) work for Perma-Column, their family’s manufacturing company headquartered in Ossian, Ind., but they followed very different paths to their current careers.
Twenty-six-year-old Stoller went to college with dreams of opening a family counseling practice, and after graduation, he found a job in his chosen field. His wife — they married while they were still college students — also works in the social service field.Brandon.jpg
Social work is a noble career, but it won’t make anyone rich. When both spouses are working in the social services, it can get tough to make ends meet. Stoller decided he wanted a career change. During the time he intended to be a transition between career paths, Stoller went to work for his father-in-law’s construction company, Meyer Building Corp.
Bob Meyer Jr. had developed a product he called Perma-Column, which places precast concrete posts, rather than treated wood columns, into the ground and then uses wood above ground.
“Bob needed someone to be the energy behind bringing the product to market,” says Stoller, “and he asked me if I was interested in being involved in creating a new company to manufacture and market the Perma-Column.”
What was supposed to be a temporary job has turned into a partnership and a new career for Stoller.
Twenty-five-year-old Brandon Meyer grew up in the midst of the family construction business, but as a teenager, he had no intentions on staying there because, he admits, “I went through the typical teenage relationship with my dad.”
When he entered college and left home, that relationship improved and Meyer worked for his dad as a summer job.
“The opportunity to work in the industry has helped me become familiar with the way things are done,” says Meyer. “I learned as much working with the construction crews about business as I did in school.”
As Perma-Column began to take off while Meyer was in college, the company’s need for marketing became apparent. During his senior year of school, he was asked to join the company to handle its marketing needs. Meyer accepted the challenge and began working full time while finishing his education.Phil.jpg
Stoller and Meyer are two of the many talented, hard-working young members of the rural building community. In conjunction with Rural Builder’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2006, the magazine is featuring industry members who are younger than 40 years old, identifying the leaders of tomorrow who are already pulling their weight.
Today, Meyer is the production manager and oversees the steel production. Stoller is the general manager, facilitating contracts, finding new markets, and educating customers. He also spends much of his time involved with the research and development of Perma-Column and other products the company is developing, such as Sturdi-Wall.
“Being a new company,” says Meyer, “we are all forced to wear many hats.”
“My psychology degree was heavily grounded in empirical method,” Stoller says. “I learned how to research.” He has been working with Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin to research ideas and test products.
Stoller says his psychology degree also helps him in his role as general manager — “When it gets down to the basics, business is about interacting with people. You succeed by helping people reach their goals.” — but it may also help him promote the Perma-Column product.
First brought to the market in 2003, Perma-Column is an innovative idea in the post-frame construction industry, and as often happens, old habits die hard. IMG_0765.jpg
“The difference between an idea that succeeds versus one that fails is your confidence in it and the marketing behind it,” says Stoller.
As the elder statesman in the company, Bob Meyer Jr. will go out and talk to potential customers. Both Brandon Meyer and Stoller respect the experience and wisdom Bob brings to the table as president and sales manager.
“It is inspiring to watch Dad when he is with a customer,” says Meyer. “He has an instant connection with these people based on a mutual passion for the industry and a shared wisdom based on decades of experience.”
“Some of these people have been in business for 20 or 30 years,” says Stoller. “It caan be somewhat intimidating, but I feel we can learn a lot from them.”
Brandon Meyer agrees. “It is humbling to talk to important people,” he says, but he also believes that his and Stoller’s youthful vision and their innovative product attract a new and younger clientele.
Even though they both came into the post-frame construction business from very different backgrounds, Stoller and Meyer are happy with their decision to join the family company.
“I like working with my family,” says Meyer, “and I like being able to do a variety of things.”
“The people in the post-frame industry are good people,” Stoller says. “That makes it fun coming to work.” However, he adds, he does get frustrated by the slow, methodical pace at which people in the industry sometimes work.
“People do get complacent,” Meyer says, “and aren’t always willing to try new ideas.”
Even so, both think the future looks bright, for both the post-frame industry and for Perma-Column.
“We offer a competitive product,” says Stoller. “It’s being used in a wide variety of buildings like churches and a power plant facility. But more importantly, we are seeing the companies who are leaders in our industry adopt our product.”
“There’s a lot of room for growth in this industry,” Meyer says, but as long as people are open to new ideas.
Meyer knows this from personal experience. The young man who once butted heads with his father now says he wants to be more like his dad.
“In 10 or 15 years,” Meyer says, “experience will change you. But one thing that never changes is the need for honesty, hard work, and fairness.”

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