Family business and outdoor recreation draw a man back to his hometown

Alex Willett is the financial controller for R&R Ready Mix, which has offices in Bay City, Cass City, Clio, Hemlock, Saginaw, Sebewaing, Standish, and West Branch. Alex grew up in the area, graduating from Garber High School in 2012. After studying finance and accounting at Central Michigan University, he moved to Detroit and found success working at an accounting firm. But about two years ago, at 27 years old, Willett decided it was time to return to his hometown and work alongside his father. The move allows him to enjoy his favorite outdoor hobbies – golfing, running, and boating – while helping the family business succeed Route talked to Willett about why returning here was the right decision for him and his family.

Q: What brought you back to your hometown?

A: When I first got out of college, I knew that I wanted to move to a bigger city for a little bit, but my dad (Russell A. Willett) has a family business here and I wanted to be a part of the future here. That was a main reason for coming back, but I always liked Bay City, too. The riverfront and the summers, it has a lot to draw people in and it’s a good reason to always come back. I like the small town feel, but it's big enough to not have a real small town feel.

Q: Tell me about your business. What do you do?

A: There are two main operating segments of our business. We’re a ready-mix concrete producer and also operate in the trucking/transportation space. As a controller, I manage the finance and accounting side of things. It varies a lot versus being at a larger company. You have to be a little bit of a jack of all trades. Things pop up pretty much on a daily basis, so you have to adapt.

Q. What does your average workday look like?

A. There's a lot of things that have to be done on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Examples include making sure everything with payroll is getting up fine or that taxes are being calculated correctly. I'm in charge of preparing any sort of monthly financial reports and also working with the bank, insurers, or any other matters on the accounting end of the business.

Q. What’s an exciting day look like for you?

A. You can look at exciting a few different ways. If things are going wrong, that might be exciting – but it might not be in a good way! It’s always good to see things through if you're working on a certain project or working on putting something together for someone in the company. It's always good to wrap a project up or finishing the end of the year's financial information and putting a stamp on it. That's always a good day for me, when I can close something out and move on to the next thing.

Q: How did your business adapt to continue during the pandemic?

A: Once the lockdowns were lifted, we started to pick back up. Construction was busy in the summer, there was a big backlog from everyone having to stop overnight back in April/May. We were busy, but it was a constant back and forth with trying to make sure that we're following all of the right guidelines. We had people who were exposed and you would have to address those situations. Obviously, we had to keep the office closed for certain people and make sure that our drivers and employees were safe. It was new territory for us, we’ve definitely never dealt with anything like that. No one has.

Q: How is R&R positioned to succeed in the post-COVID world?

A. We're pretty well set up to work remotely. From an office standpoint, anyone that doesn't have to be there has had the full ability to work remotely or they could stagger who wants to come in. Always trying to keep up on technology is key, especially when you're a smaller company. But when you're in our industry, the guy that drives a loader has to be there. The guy that drives the mixer truck every day has to be there. The guy that runs the plant has to be there. Until something crazy happens with technology, you can't just take a driver out of a truck tomorrow. Those individuals have to be there on site, the same as any construction job.

Q: Where do you hope to see yourself and your business in the coming years?

A. I came back to Bay City about two years ago this fall. I’m not new, but I’m still learning a lot on the day to day. I'm going to be working in this role for quite a while and I hope to continue taking more on and helping the company succeed going into the future.

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