Talking Shop with Stan Crader, president of CDC-BME

Monday, October 4, 2010
Stan Crader holds an early model of a Stihl chain saw. (LINDA REDEFFER)

Stan Crader of Jackson started out screwing nuts onto bolts at his grandfather's International Harvester tractor dealership in Marble Hill, Mo. He soon graduated to refilling the GoJo dispenser and cleaning the toilets at Crader Equipment Co. The company's focus turned to growing its Stihl chain saw distribution, and after returning from college Crader started working with his father full time at what was then called Crader Distributing Co. He's been president the family business, now known as CDC-BME, since 1990. More recently he has written two books about growing up in a small town.

Question: How has CDC-BME grown and changed over the years?

Answer: Crader Equipment became a Stihl retailer in 1958. The foreign saw was clearly superior to anything on the market, but since World War II had only been about 15 years earlier, the German-made product was not readily accepted. Crader Distributing installed the first computer in 1978, and since I was the only person in the business with a college degree, I was put in charge. I had no idea what I was doing. Dad (Don Crader) and I made a trip to Germany and convinced them to let the distributors expand by acquiring their neighbors. The first acquisition was Central Equipment, expanding the CDC's Missouri/Illinois territory to include most of Kansas and Nebraska. A few years later came Blue Mountain Equipment (BME) adding Texas and Oklahoma to our territory and the frequent trips to Texas began. One of the first trips was a series of dealer meetings held throughout the state. My wife, Debbie, and I loaded our three boys -- Justin, Scott and Brad -- into our minivan and spent two weeks driving across Texas. The boys are in the business now, but I don't think any of them have cleaned the toilets or refilled the GoJo can. CDC is a true family business. My brother handles the banking side, and my sister handles the payroll. However, no major decision is made without their involvement, consent and influence. A family business is run a little different from a public company or a sole proprietor. In a family business, nobody is solely in charge and most decisions are done by committee.

Q: How did you go from writing articles in company newsletters to writing your first novel?

A: Writing has always been a requirement with my job. Letters to customers, but more fun are general articles that are featured in our newsletter. I won a couple of Silver Quill writing awards given by an organization in St. Louis. And then there were the Christmas letters, an effort to do an annual letter that others enjoyed reading but offered family news. I've written articles about flying that have been published in flying magazines. And also a recent article in Rural Missouri about Ira Biffle, a Bollinger County native who was Charles Lindbergh's flight instructor. Most of my writing has been for our company newsletter. The articles have ranged from business specific to politically charged to human interest. Eventually people began to suggest a book. So I set to write a book. It was a much bigger project than I imagined. The first book took a couple of years, was published November 2007. Sales to date are over 3,500 but less than 4,000. That's about 3,000 more than I expected. During 2008, the book spent several days on Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's best-selling list for Christian fiction. I didn't set out to write a Christian fiction, just a story that was suitable for all ages, so the publisher categorized the book into Christian fiction.

Q: Describe your books, "The Bridge," released in 2007, and "The Paperboy," due out next month.

A: "The Bridge" was named so because the goal was for the reader to identify with one of the characters and allow the story to be a bridge to their own memories. It's a story of a young boy who is at first self-centered, then grows to care about others. "Paperboy" continues with many of the same characters. But in "Paperboy," it's the town that changes for the better. And the main character, Tommy, as the paperboy, learns a great deal about his customers that most don't know. He observes the town dealing with a number of challenges, racial and otherwise. The goal of the story is for the reader to realize that everyone has a story worth getting to know. I'm making a draft for the third in the series of books, "The Longest Year." It's about a group of friends who are 15, and one by one they turn 16. The story will feature the anxiety of waiting to get their license. And the story will include a variety of subplots, including deportment.

Q: In addition to being a businessman and an author, you are also a pilot.

A: I've been flying since I was 10, sort of. My dad flew and actually let me fly from the left seat beginning at age 14. Once I began taking lessons, it took me three years to finish. I only took lessons during the summer when I was working and could make enough money to pay for lessons. The business has grown to require travel. Private flying has been a huge time saver. For example, I can leave my house and be in McKinney, Texas, where we own Blue Mountain Equipment, in less than three hours. The same trip by car would require at least 10 hours, and a commercial flight would take six hours.

I've made several fun trips through the Rockies. I once flew across the Atlantic to Greece, and I once flew the Lewis and Clark trail. I have always liked photography, but the film era was too expensive. The digital age makes photography affordable for anyone. My YouTube channel is a fun way to share the photos through video slide shows. Heck, why take all the great photos if you're not going to share them.

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