Employee Spotlight: James “Bubba” Dukes
In the late summer of 1990, Don Frazier was President of Lehman-Roberts Company, Bill Brown was President of Memphis Stone & Gravel Company and Bubba Dukes joined the ranks as a ground man at an asphalt plant. A lot has changed over the past 26 years, including technology, leadership and benefits, part of our continuous improvement if you ask Bubba.
In the early days of his employment, the days were a lot longer. It was common to work six days a week and many of those days were 12 – 14 hours long. There was little, if any, planned maintenance. According to Bubba, the plants just ran until equipment broke down. After it was fixed, the plants ran again until the job was done. “It’s just more efficient these days. Even with one planned maintenance day, you still get four good days. And, you can get more done in those four days because you’re not stopping to fix equipment all the time.”
After working in a variety of roles in both asphalt and aggregates plants early on, Bubba moved into the role ticket writer when another long-time employee, Joe Welch, retired. Several years later, upon the retirement of his plant foreman, Walter Woods, it was decided to promote Bubba to that role. “Bubba didn’t have any experience running the plant, but we knew he was a hard worker and he had the people skills,” said Eddie Ragsdale, Operations Manager for MSG. “He’s had his ups and downs with employees, but he’s developed a good crew now. He’s got a good team and they are consistently top producers for the company.”
Hal Williford, President of MSG, added, “Over the past four years, Bubba and his crew have consistently had the highest percentage of run time, higher than all the other plants. Bubba is a strong leader, but he’s a strong leader because he thinks highly of every crew member. We all know he’s working hard, but he always gives the credit to his crew.”
Bubba has also given a great deal of his personal time to coaching baseball, softball and football. Recently, he shared a story about the football team in particular saying, “I got the kids nobody wanted. But, you know how I got them to win? I got 100% of their respect. If you show somebody you respect them, they’ll respect you. If they respect you, they’ll do anything for you.” Those kids nobody wanted went on to win three back-to-back championships.
Bubba acknowledges he uses the very same technique in motivating his crew at the plant. Clearly, both efficiency and relationships are important to Bubba. “The better your team runs, the better your plant runs. The better your plant runs, the more production you have.” While that may sound like a simple formula, we all know it takes a great deal of determination and effort to achieve top production honors.