Long before George Sidney was named president and COO of McLanahan Corp., and before he became a sales engineer at the storied company, he was a youngster with a grand vision for his future.
Growing up, Sidney had strong interests in engineering and geology. He considered pursuing a career in each of these fields yet ultimately chose engineering, concluding that the pathway into the workforce was simpler.
Fortunately for Sidney, McLanahan contacted him shortly after he graduated from Penn State University, giving him the perfect opportunity to fulfill both of his boyhood dreams.
“Little did I know that I was getting into a company that worked with rocks,” says Sidney, who’s collected rocks since he was a kid. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven.”
More than 45 years since joining McLanahan, Sidney looks back on his career with great satisfaction. He started as a design engineer and soared to the highest ranks of a family-owned company that’s now in its sixth generation of executive leadership.
Over the years, Sidney innovated equipment, mentored the industry’s young aspirants and brought the construction aggregate industry together at critical times. He was a visionary who helped his company expand beyond U.S. borders, and he was a leader the greater industry in the United States could continuously count on through his association contributions.
“He’s very smart, very hard-working, very reliable and very productive,” says Ron DeDiemar, a longtime competitor of McLanahan who now serves on the company’s board of directors. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the five or six strongest leaders that I’ve ever met.”
Sidney spent his first few years at McLanahan on a four-person team designing equipment. He loved being a design engineer, but an opportunity surfaced early on that put him on a track to bigger things.
“Along the way, the president of the company, Roy Rumbaugh, approached me and asked me to consider going into sales,” Sidney says. “I wasn’t really interested in that, but he said I needed to think about this a little more.”
Sidney thought about the opportunity over a weekend, deciding he wanted to remain as a design engineer. Rumbaugh, however, wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“I said, ‘Let me get this straight,’” Sidney says. “’Even though you’re asking me if I’d like to do this, I really don’t have much of an option.’”
Sidney reluctantly accepted Rumbaugh’s offer with a stipulation that he could return to engineering if he didn’t enjoy sales. Looking back, Sidney regards his decision as the best move of his career.
“It not only allowed me to be involved in the design effort, but to truly learn the application of all of our equipment,” Sidney says.
Sidney spent about half of his time on the road during these days, calling on customers in the Rocky Mountain region. His weekends were often spent at the office putting in extra hours as an engineer.
Several years like this piled up before Rumbaugh proposed another opportunity to Sidney.
“He said, ‘I got to have you managing the engineering department,’” Sidney says. “I said I felt uncomfortable doing that because we had hired a lot of really smart engineers since I left the department. These guys were so much smarter than me.”
Rumbaugh laughed and responded plainly: He wasn’t asking Sidney to be smarter than the engineers; he was asking Sidney to lead them.
“That was a real lesson in life for me,” says Sidney, who became McLanahan’s director of engineering at this time. “He truly put it in perspective.”
As engineering director, Sidney added staff and put his department through a wholesale reorganization.
“We came out with a lot of new products, a lot of innovation,” Sidney says.
The new role also positioned Sidney to work closely with Mike McLanahan, who became company president in the late 1980s. Sidney assumed other job titles over the years, including executive vice president, COO and president, succeeding Mike McLanahan in 2004.
“When Mike asked me to take over, one of the things I said to him was I’d like to make some changes,” Sidney says. “If I can’t make some changes there’s no sense in me having a job.”
Together with Mike and his son, Sean McLanahan, who was named executive vice president and CFO at this time, a goal was set to double the company within five years.
“We wound up doing it in two,” Sidney says, “and then we doubled it again in three – and then again. We’ve grown the company tremendously. We grew from one global office in Australia, which Mike McLanahan started, to three offices in Australia and an office in Santiago, Chile; two offices in India; an office in the U.K.”
“We recognized if we were going to go other places that we needed more product line,” Sidney says. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go after the Universal Engineering line – a more comprehensive line of crushing and feeding equipment.”
Through these years, Sidney kept the customer top of mind. He learned in his earliest years as an engineer that the customer’s input was central to everything McLanahan does.
“If you don’t know what your customer is thinking, then you cannot do your job as an M&S (manufacturers and services) entity,” Sidney says. “You have to know what they want and what their desires are if you’re going to be successful as a company.”
Sidney certainly made the commitment to bettering aggregate-producing businesses.
“George Sidney is the type of person you want to be around and exchange ideas with,” says Rob Everist, president at South Dakota-based L.G. Everist. “His easygoing personality combined with his knowledge of the industry has made him an invaluable resource to countless producers and manufacturers in the aggregate world.”
Although the inner workings of McLanahan required his everyday attention, Sidney also regularly invested himself in aggregate industry organizations. Sidney first got involved in the National Stone Association (NSA), the predecessor to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), in 1987.
“I could see that they were sorely lacking in keeping track of things at their meetings,” Sidney says. “So I volunteered to be the secretary.”
Sidney kept all of the minutes from meetings. More importantly, he kept things moving.
“I was the continuity in the effort because they were changing chairman every year,” he says.
Sidney also participated as a speaker at regional NSA seminars on operations topics, educating producers on subjects of interest. And he’s been one of the key proponents of ROCKPAC, NSSGA’s political action committee, canvassing the industry for donations.
Sidney retired at the end of 2018, but he remains on the company’s board of directors. He’ll continue to attend industry trade shows and meetings to maintain his network of friends.
“I have been immensely rewarded through the friendships I’ve made in the construction aggregate industry,” Sidney says. “They are a unique people. This industry attracts salt of the earth people; honest, upstanding, good people.”
Of course, Sidney’s success at work would not have been possible without the support his wife, Leanne, continuously offered at home.
“When you consider that I have surpassed 2 million air miles during my career, that is a bunch of time away from home,” Sidney says. “She has never one time complained. The reason being is that she gets it. She knows and understands my commitment to the company and the McLanahan family of employees.”