Post 2 of ’90 Years in the Making’ – A W.W. Clyde & Co. Blog Series
Clyde and Sumsion Go Into Business
After his first project in Nevada, where W.W. said they “got nothing but experience, and a lot of it'”, W.W. felt he had truly found his niche. With his head up and mind ready, W.W. made his way into the highway construction arena.
In his preparation for his next job, he sought out his good friend James (Jim) M. Sumsion for advice and a potential partnership. Jim had a considerable amount of experience in construction, having been in business for many years with Sumsion Brothers Construction Company; a partnership with his brothers George, Henry and Ernest.
Jim Sumsion’s son Richard said the following about the events that led Jim Sumsion and W. W. Clyde to come together:
“The Sumsion Brothers Construction Company reached a point where they had some fairly good success on railroad projects. The brothers decided to more or less retire from the construction business. So three of them (Uncle George, Uncle Henry and Dad) went to Sanpete County and bought farms. Individually they had their own acreage and they proceeded to get back into farming in a big way.
Dad wasn’t very happy in Sanpete and decided that farming just was not his thing. He sold his farm and returned to Springville to go into the feed business with Ralph Smart. W. W. Clyde approached Dad with the idea that they would jointly venture a road construction project near Pequop Summit in Nevada just west of Wendover.”
Jim and W. W. went over the possibilities on the Pequop Summit job and could see great opportunities. However, the job was extensive, and even with pulling together what they each had available financially, they knew that the job was out of their range. Recognizing the potential, they decided to reach out to William McKenzie, Jim’s brother in-law, to seek an investment. William agreed to invest in the job, making it possible for Clyde-Sumsion to successfully bid and acquire the work in 1924.
The road-building techology of the day relied – for the most part – on manpower and horsepower. W.W. hired roughly 20 men to work on the Steptoe job and used as many as forty large draft horses to pull scrapers and haul gravel to the roadbed. Clyde and Sumsion learned quickly to make do with the resources that were available. They purchased an ‘old time’ crusher and maintained and transported it with extreme care. Using fresno scrapers for grading and old pull graders to spread and level the gravel, the team got to work.
The project timeline was not conducive to setbacks, so the partners were forced to focus on productivity. To keep a rigorous pace, in spite of adverse conditions, W.W. relied on setting an example of personally working long hours on the job site. It was said that Jim and W.W. ran a ‘tight ship’, but W.W. did not expect any more from his employees than he did of himself.
Worker motivation and performance increased as they realized that the traditional hierarchial chain of command was replaced by feelings of mutual respect and co-dependence. Sumsion and Clyde rewarded their employees for diligence, loyalty and ethical behavior – traits that are still rewarded as the company enters it’s 90th year in business.
The Steptoe project was a huge success for both partners. A commitment to hard work and innovative techniques compsenated for lack of equipement, and culminated in a financially profitable job.