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CWJJ Episode 58: Phil Wiegers

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Thursday, May 20- Join the guys as they reminisce on the time Jim almost met our guest at the World Series in 2011. There may have been banners, bands, among other things, but we can’t confirm or deny this. Phil Wiegers, Founder and CEO of EGW Utilities, Inc. joins the show this week excited to share about the EGW Utilities, Inc. Utility Solutions Conference coming up May 25-27, 2021. 

Quick Links:

Phil Wiegers on Linkedin

Episode Transcript

Jim Schauer:  [0:24] Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of “Coffee with Jim and James.” James, as usual, my memory just came back. Phil and I have known each other for a long time, but I don’t think he remembers the first time I almost met him.

James Cross:  [0:41] [laughs]

Jim:  [0:42] Thinking back to October 2011, St. Louis, Busch Stadium, it was either Game 9, 10, 11 of the World Series, I don’t know, and I had a seat there. I was so far back, I think I was in another ZIP code.

[0:58] I had binoculars on, and down, right next to the home team dugout, I saw this man. He had banners. He had a band behind him. He was cheering them on.

[1:11] I will say in a few minutes, somebody went streaking on that field. I’m not going to confirm or deny it was somebody we know.

[1:19] Anyways, that might have been the first time that I saw and/or met Mr. Phil. How does that sound for a somewhat almost believable story?

James:  [1:29] The weird thing is on my screen, which is the one that records, you pointed to me. That’s awkward.

[1:38] I don’t know Phil as intimately as you do, but I did run across him a few times at some Texas Gas Association events. We’re excited to bring Phil on board today.

[1:52] Phil, good morning. How are you?

Phil Wiegers:  [1:55] Good morning. I’m great. Thank you guys for having me today. It’s really great to be with you.

James:  [2:01] He’s live outside the EGW headquarters there, as you can tell, [laughs] live in the sunshine.

[2:09] Jimmy, I’m not even going to lie and pretend that I’m best friends with Phil. We shared more dialogue today in the pre‑show, I think, than we have our entire lives. I’m going to let you bring Phil officially on board and set him up for success.

Jim:  [2:24] Phil, we’ve known each other for years. We actually sat on the board of the Texas Gas Association about the same time that I popped off.

[2:33] You’re still on the board. You’ve been in the industry for years. Would you give our viewers a quick synopsis of your history? Then I do have a follow‑up question because it’s a very important one.

Phil:  [2:44] Sure. I got into the utility business in 1988 when I started with Mueller Co. in my hometown of Decatur, Illinois. Mueller moved me a year later down here to Texas in a fire protection division sales role. Not long after that, they folded that division. I went over to the gas group.

[3:08] That would have been, I guess, about 1990. I’ve been in the gas industry since 1990. From there, I transitioned to A.Y McDonald, moved to the East Coast, then moved back to the Midwest in the wonderful city of St. Louis, the home of the world championship many times, St. Louis Cardinals, where Jim and I almost met.

[3:37] Moved back to Dallas with Smith‑Blair to get back to Texas, went into distribution for a while after that, and then in 2001, decided through a series of events that I wanted to start my own business. That is what EGW is today. Married to Liz is for 32 years. We have two beautiful daughters. We live right here in Flower Mound, Texas.

Jim:  [4:04] Flower Mound.

James:  [4:05] We’re practically neighbors, Phil and I.

Jim:  [4:09] That’s right.

James:  [4:11] Almost at Flower Mound.

Phil:  [4:13] Great.

Jim:  [4:15] OK. Wait a minute, a date. You said a date. Now I’m thinking in my head, is there something special coming up this year with EGW? Is it a bicentennial? Have you guys been around for 200 years? No, not quite, although it seems like your presence in the industry has been like that. Go ahead and share with our viewers what’s going on right now.

Phil:  [4:36] Well, on May 15th of 2001 or almost 20 years ago, that is the day that I incorporated the business to begin EGW Utilities. May 1 of 2021 is going…Excuse me, May 15th of 2021 is our 20, not 200th…

[5:00] [thunder]

Phil:  [5:00] anniversary. That’s a pretty big deal.

Jim:  [5:03] It is. It absolutely is.

James:  [5:07] I hear the thunder here. I just got a big roll of thunder here. We’re just going to power through it because we’re professionals.

Jim:  [5:14] We are.

Phil:  [5:14] That was thunder for the 20‑year anniversary.

James:  [5:17] That was rolling. I didn’t know if it was for that or if the Thunder was the precursor to the event you guys have coming up. See? Professionals. Phil, tell us a little bit about the event you guys have coming up. What’s the purpose behind it? How do we get there? What can we expect?

Phil:  [5:42] Well, this event is the first ever Virtual Utility Solutions Conference, is what we’re calling it. I want to go back a little bit and tell you that historically, from the first year we opened the business, we did what we call a road show.

[6:00] We would travel from location to location, usually in a trailer. We would introduce our products and services to utilities between 60 and 70 stops a year, demonstrating, letting people put their hands on the tools and so forth that we sell.

[6:20] Well, last year, obviously, we weren’t able to do that because of COVID, so we did a virtual road show. We wanted to do something with a little different spin this year. What my team came up with was they sensed that there was a thirst for people to re‑engage, which I think we all would agree with.

[6:42] We came up with this idea of presenting what we call a Utility Solutions Conference. We’ve been working on this thing for probably about three or four months now. It’s May 25th, which is a Tuesday, through…It’s 25th, 26th, 27th, so Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

[7:06] It’s going to be a series of one‑hour segments on a variety of topics, all presented from a problem solution or opportunity solution type of an approach. We’ve tried to find industry experts in all of the different topics that we’re going to discuss. That’s going to be on a wide variety of things.

[7:34] There’s going to be some sessions, for example. Jim, we talked about this not long ago. What’s going on in the supply chain related to polyethylene pipe? Why can’t we get it? When are we going to be able to get it? What’s happened? So on so forth. We’re going to talk about that.

[7:52] We want to talk about also a session having to do with virtual training, which is a topic near and dear to you all’s hearts. What did we learn during COVID? We got a lot better at it, obviously, out of necessity.

[8:09] Now, we’re going to look back on lessons learned and how we can use this to move forward as an industry. There’s a lot of benefit, obviously, that we got in with it.

[8:22] We’ve got some new technology topics like new metering technologies, smart fusion equipment, some new tools for service people, how to deal with static electricity when you’re squeezing off polyethylene pipe. It’s just a little bit of everything in there for a variety of people across utility. We’ve got some safety‑related things.

[8:51] It’s probably a total of about 12 one‑hour sessions that we’ve put together. The registration page is up. If you don’t mind, I’d like to do a shameless pitch here.

James:  [9:05] Oh, please. Yeah, go on.

Jim:  [9:06] We were going to ask you. How does it really register for that? How do we do it?

Phil:  [9:09] Well, it’s a long address. You go to www.egwutilitysolutions.com.

James:  [9:19] Got it. Amy will put that over here, somewhere over here.

Phil:  [9:25] Then put the /utilitysolutionsconference.

James:  [9:30] We got that.

Phil:  [9:31] That will bring up our registration page. You can go on and register for each session individually.

[9:39] Just to make it a little more fun, we’re going to give away a really nice door prize at the end of every session for everyone that’s registered. Then at the end of the conference, we’re going to give away a really nice door prize for anybody that will sit there and listen to me talk during the wrap‑up session for a few minutes at the very end. That’s pretty much that we mentioned.

Jim:  [10:03] What is the cost of the conference?

Phil:  [10:06] For you, Jim, or everyone else?

James:  [10:08] Yes.

Jim:  [10:09] Let’s do everyone else.

Phil:  [10:11] OK. Everyone is free.

Jim:  [10:13] Wait, what?

Phil:  [10:14] No charge to anyone for the conference.

Jim:  [10:17] Free? If you want one session, or for all three days, morning to night, it’s still free? Wow!

Phil:  [10:25] Absolutely free. No charge, and you have a chance to win a gift of over a hundred dollars in value.

James:  [10:31] That’s awesome.

[10:33] And for those that don’t know, I’ll tell you what, excites me. Even with what you said, Phil, about the old road shows, anyone who’s seen EGW at a conference, I always feel bad, being a vendor myself.

[10:48] I walk in, I pop my little backsplash up behind me ‑‑ a little shower curtain ‑‑ and throw out a couple of hats, and I’m ready to go to the bar.

[10:58] Here comes EGW carting in some more stuff. They’re carting in stuff when I got there, and then carting another thing.

[11:06] They travel well. They put on a heck of a show, anywhere they go, anyway. Excited to see that. Amy will hook us up with some, with some quick ways for people to be able to access that. That’ll be awesome.

Phil:  [11:19] Yeah, that’d be great.

Jim:  [11:21] EGW does do a good thing. They bring in trucks to conferences. I remember Phil and I were in Kentucky one time.

[11:28] Phil, you were actually working the show. You and I worked separately. I remember at least offering to help you at the end of the show, trying to get some things to the truck for You.

Phil:  [11:37] You did help me. I never forgot that Jim. I appreciate that very much.

[11:43] Let me, let me just add one thing. I love to go back from time to time and review, the business plan that I put together back in early 2001.

[11:55] One of the things that was in the business plan ‑‑ it was a pain point for me ‑‑ and that was that when I went to a lot of trade shows, I didn’t get to talk to the people that actually used the materials that we sold.

[12:10] I had to come up with a way to get in front of those folks. That’s the way that our road show came to be. You guys know how this goes. They don’t send a lot of crew people, foremen, superintendents like that to shows, and understandably so.

[12:26] What worked great for us was to go to them; and so we’re a little bit of a traveling circus, if you will, when we go out. It accomplishes that thing that we recognized years ago. Our customers are not sitting behind desks most of the time. Most of the time they’re active crew people.

[12:47] With this conference we’re really encouraging all of those folks with the technology that we have now, get on your cell phone, get on your tablet or if you’re at home. There’s something in this conference that we’re doing for everybody, and really very much so for the guys who use the tools and equipment and technology on a regular basis.

Jim:  [13:07] That’s a really good point and it brings up another thought that I have. It continues on with that little Kentucky episode that you and I have, and your commitment though, Phil, to the industry and connecting and having relationships.

[13:25] When you look at that organization from all the way through it and all the way sideways, multiple different departments, I’d like to hear your perspective on it.

[13:36] I’m leading you into this because I know in our worlds, relationships, networks, trust, having people you can call on. Even if it’s not for direct answer about something, but more so for, “Hey Phil, do you know anybody in the industry that does this?” and you help out somebody. That speaks volumes on the road.

[13:59] What’s your thoughts about networking relationships and how that plays a critical part in our industry and what we do?

Phil:  [14:06] Well Jim, it’s probably one of the things that I love about this business the most. Our whole thing is about solving problems, connecting others and serving people. That’s our core purpose.

[14:22] You used the example of, “Hey, can you help me with this?” We don’t want to be that company that says, “We can’t help you.”

[14:33] We want to be the company that says, “We can’t help you, but call Jim, or call James. They’ll know somebody that can help with that.”

[14:40] It’s just goes back to the right thing to do. The kind of people you want to be. It’s all reciprocal. I help you, you help me.

[14:52] Even with competitors, we try to be friendly with our competitors. We try to work with our competitors. All those things come back to you in multiples, in my opinion. That’s just my approach to business.

[15:07] The other thing I love about the gas industry is some of my best friends are people that I’ve met through my job. People like Dan Pajak who you guys know. Dan and I met. I followed Dan as the AY McDonald regional manager in New England back in the early 90s. He went to work for UPSCO, which he now co‑owns.

[15:33] They were my biggest customer. We’ve stayed friends and business associates now for almost 30 years. I consider him a close friend. We talk probably once every couple of weeks. I can just go on and on about people that I’ve met through this industry.

[15:56] A guy that retired five years ago called me the other night at eight o’clock. “Hey, I found something I know you want. I bought it for you and I’m going to ship it to you.” Fantastic.

[16:09] It’s just that kind of an industry and I really just feel great about it, whether its customers or suppliers or guys like you.

[16:23] Just a little kudos to you guys, what you put together here. You made lemonade out of lemons with what we’ve got for a predicament. That’s turned into a really neat thing and I know you’ve enjoy doing it. I can tell by just watching your broadcast and talking to you guys about it over the last couple of weeks. Thank you for doing this too. I think it’s a real service to the industry.

James:  [16:50] You got it, Phil.

Jim:  [16:52] Thank you for saying that. It’s been my vehicle to get back in touch with folks. You know me Phil, 20‑something conferences a year in the past, shaking hands with a thousand people, talking to them, having conversations, the friendships. Then all of a sudden this happens.

[17:09] James came to me a year ago, “I got something for you.” He goes, “It’s going to be therapy. It’ll help you,” and it really has.

James:  [17:16] Now I need therapy. It’s totally reciprocal. You’re right Phil, yes.

Phil:  [17:22] You should spend time with me.

James:  [17:24] I’m not surprised.

[17:26] Phil, we were at the show. If you’ve watched any of them, which you have and I won’t judge you. If you watched the show, we always finish the show with the question and I’m excited to hear your answer today.

[17:39] Phil, do you love what you do?

Phil:  [17:43] I absolutely love what I do. I do. I love it every day. People ask me all the time because of my advanced years.

Jim:  [17:52] [laughs]

Phil:  [17:54] Jim, you didn’t laugh enough when I said that. You should laugh a little bit.

Jim:  [17:59] [laughs]

[17:59] James Scott: He felt it. He felt [inaudible].

Jim:  [17:58] My hearing aid wasn’t on. I couldn’t get that one.

[18:01] [laughter]

Phil:  [18:03] No, I get the question all the time. When are you going to retire? Dan Pajak asked me that just the other day and I said, “As soon as I don’t enjoy coming to work and doing what I do every day, I’ll start to think about retirement.”

[18:24] I’ve got so many exciting things on my plate today, almost every day, and I see so many opportunities to open up new avenues for the business. We’ve created three new businesses within our business here in the last 18 months.

James:  [18:41] Awesome.

Phil:  [18:42] There’s so much opportunity out there. I’ve got my oldest daughter in the business, my youngest daughter, who’s just coming out of college.

[18:53] She’s not in my business, by the way, the oldest, but she works for a customer. The youngest one has an interest in the utility business.

[19:00] I don’t have a bad day in this business. I really don’t. I love it.

Jim:  [19:08] You’d miss it, wouldn’t you? I would. When I think about retirement, to me, that almost seems like a punishment.

James:  [19:16] We’ll be those old men. No offense out there, because we’re getting there rapidly. We’ll be the old men at TGA that they go, “Who do you work for?” You’ll be like, “Nobody.”

Phil:  [19:26] [laughs]

James:  [19:26] Are you a member. “Yeah, I’m an associate member for life. They made it for me.”

[19:31] [laughter]

Phil:  [19:31] They’re all looking to get out of the house.

James:  [19:35] We’ll just be hanging out with everybody…

Phil:  [19:34] [laughs]

James:  [19:36] still showing up for the receptions and drinking the free little beers. Man, Jimmy, it’s quite some guest. Me and Phil Wiegers, after all this time, we didn’t even know it. I think we heard the same thunder at one point.

Phil:  [19:52] We did. You want to meet up later?

James:  [19:55] Yeah. How about, let’s say, halfway would be Marty B’s.

Phil:  [19:59] I can be there in 45 minutes.

James:  [20:02] Me too, see?

Phil:  [20:03] [laughs]

James:  [20:03] We thought we were joking.

Jim:  [20:06] A prime example, everyone, of what happens in the industry is that we just don’t make connections. We make friendships in the industry.

James:  [20:14] No doubt.

Jim:  [20:15] They are so strong, so long‑lasting. It’s a wonderful industry and one that, I’ll speak on behalf of all three of us, gentlemen, we absolutely adore. We respect it, we cherish it, we love it, the whole bit.

James:  [20:32] We’re very blessed.

Jim:  [20:34] I might need a tissue right now. I’m welling up a little bit.

James:  [20:38] Phil, tell everyone we said hello over there, all of our friends.

Phil:  [20:42] I will.

James:  [20:42] It’s weird not to see the people we see and play golf with and all those things while we’re out and about. It’s really odd to miss people you don’t even really know that well. [laughs]

[20:56] I’m just kidding. You know what I mean, though. The people that we see maybe once a month or something as we’re out about, it’s weird to have that taken away last year.

Phil:  [21:06] Let’s hope that we can get back to it sooner rather than later. I’ll look forward to seeing you guys and shaking your hand in the near future.

Jim:  [21:15] Absolutely. Phil, on behalf of James and I, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a wonderful time.

[21:21] Everyone, please go to the EGW Utility Solutions website. Phil, is there a link on the website, or they need to do the backslash?

Phil:  [21:31] If it’s not there, it’ll be there in the next day or so. You can go to the website, or you can go to the /utilitysolutionsconference.

James:  [21:41] We’ll link it up in the post on socials. We’ll make it easy for them. Cool.

Phil:  [21:46] James, that would be fantastic.

Jim:  [21:48] Check it out, whether you’re in the industry, spend all three days there. If you’re not in the industry, come see what our industry’s about. Do check it out.

[21:56] Again, Phil, on behalf of James and I, thank you so much for joining us, sir. We know your schedule is fully jam‑packed.

Phil:  [22:02] Thanks, guys.

Jim:  [22:03] For carving out a little bit of time for us, we’re very grateful for that.

[22:06] Everyone, thank you for tuning in today. We hope you enjoyed this episode. Please hit the Like button. That’s what keeps us going, or follow us.

[22:16] Until next time on “Coffee with Jim & James,” everybody, please take care. As I always say, stay safe. Everyone, have a great week.

James:  [22:26] Bye‑bye.

Jim:  [22:27] See you all.

James:  [22:28] Thanks, Phil.

Jim:  [22:29] Thanks Phil.

Phil:  [22:30] Thanks, you guys.

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