Strength, Steel and Success
Established in the Port of Houston City Dock Turning Basin Terminal in 1994, AllTrans Port Services is considered the number one choice for handling and storage of imported steel products. With over 100 acres of indoor and outdoor storage and access to all major US railroads, the company prides itself on accurate, real-time inventory services and its commitment to their employees.
“I asked if they’d be willing to sell that division and they did,” Rains said. “I negotiated a contract with them in which we agreed that we would not do any trucking for five years and they would not do any rail for five years so that we had a head start, so to speak. We wanted to make sure that because of the contract we didn’t have that competition come right back at us.”
“We handle any steel products. In other words – any bulk steel we are capable of handling,” Rains said. “We can handle plate, coil, square tubing, regular tubing, any kind of steel materials that come in bulk we can handle. It’s just that the market has demanded the OCTG product as being what is most needed, so that’s where our focus has been.”
GROWING AND BUILDING
Having already achieved a monumental amount of growth over the years in revenue, equipment and employee base, AllTrans Port Services continues to delve into the marketplace and their list of resources and partnerships to plan their next steps in the evolution of the company.
“You have to look ahead and not just operate on the day to day,” Rains said. “We’re always talking with people wanting to do joint ventures and willing to make new things happen, which is quite important to us.”
“When you have a company you’re always looking for the next opportunity for growth,” Rains continued. “The old saying goes: If you don’t grow, you wither up and die, so to speak.”
As a brand new, state-of-the-art inspection and pipe repair facility within the Port of Houston area prepares to be unveiled, a development that Rains admitted was a necessity for their long-term goals; AllTrans is already plotting their next venture.
“We’ve been working on this project for a while and it’s one that is sorely needed,” she said. “We’re looking at going into the pipe threading and processing business, so this will be another step. We’ve got people we’ve been talking with who are also very interested in this project and others we cannot disclose at this time.”
An entrepreneur at heart, Rains has developed her business sense over several decades from working in sales for a division of the W. R. Grace Corporation, then the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) to becoming a manufacturer’s representative in steel sales (while raising her family on straight commission work). Not a stranger to adapting to changes in the marketplace, she worked diligently to acclimatize herself with the ever-changing technological trends that are increasingly becoming commonplace in the industries AllTrans serves.
“We worked with some groups to come up with an inventory system where our customers could come in and instantly look what we have in inventory for them. It’s worked very well,” she said.
“We could see with our inventories that people wanted to know exactly what they had at any given moment in our place because in the Port of Houston the goal is to turn everything we get in 30 days for our customers and if it’s longer than that we have other yards we use for longer-term storage.”
Keeping up with a society transfixed on the immediate delivery of information was a steep learning curve for Rains and AllTrans Port Services. Placing a heavy stake and investment on its employees meant putting the right people in the right place. In a customer-driven industry, every second is a precious one.
“We have about ten managers and a general manager at all times during work hours,” she said. “We have to be open when the ships are there. Sometimes we have to bring in two shifts a day to meet a ship’s unloading schedule – having some people come in early and some people come in later.”
“When I was first selling it was a pay phone kind of communication in business; as I would travel, I made prospective contacts and appointments as I drove from town to town, from one payphone to the next,” Rains continued. “Look where we are as a country today – everything is instant, we have cell phones, computers the size of a watch, faxes and the internet – everything has become more instantaneous than it used to be. It puts a lot of stress on us as human beings to keep up. Business moves so quickly, and opportunities must be acted upon while they are staring you in the face. The owner of any successful company can tell you, our jobs don’t end at 5pm on workdays.”
Astute and loyal, Rains’ sales experience has made her a savvy savant when forging relationships with the supply chain.
“We have built and nurtured these relationships with the people that we work with – the railroads, the Port of Houston Authority, and we have a number of other vendors that are a valuable part of our business – like our supplier of strapping in the rail service side,” she said.
“Reliable and service-oriented vendors are very important to our supply chain because when we need something, sometimes we need it immediately, so we want to build the kind of relationships where that’s possible. Sometimes if you just jump from one place to another because it’s absolutely the cheapest price, you’re not going to get the best service.”
When it comes to the internal culture at AllTrans Port Services, the company’s approach is an inclusive, nurturing one that is mindful of the needs of their employees and puts profits and the bottom line behind the happiness and well-being of its staff.
“Our corporate culture is more like a family than a big company that has to make every single dollar no matter the human cost,” Rains said. “We like to have the company be profitable at the end of the year, and we need it to be. Thanks to our people through the way we pull together as a team and a corporate family, it is more often than not.”
“If we’ve done well at the end of the year, our employees get a bonus,” she continued. “If things aren’t so great in a year, we’ve never asked our employees to take a wage cut. We will stop paying ourselves and work out of our retirement fund rather than have them not be able to do as well for their families.”
Maintaining the family dynamic at AllTrans takes responsibility and a proactive plan to keep operations safe and running smoothly. Taking an unprecedented step to ensure the safety of its employees, AllTrans set the tone for companies in the area on the importance of awareness and taking action.
“We were the first private company out there that required not only all of our people to have hard hats, safety vests, steel toed boots and gloves in handling material,” Rains said. “But also the people that come into our yard have to sign off on our safety regulations, and they’re not loaded until they have on the proper PPE (personal protective equipment). It took a while but now word has gotten out to our customers and any independent trucks that are sent into our yards to load or unload at the Port. They know that if they don’t have the right equipment they won’t get loaded. This is for their safety, as well as that of our crews.”
“We also promote safety by holding quarterly Safety Lunches, providing a meal and giving each employee a $100 safety bonus is they have been safe for the entire quarter.”
Environmentally conscious, Rains ensures that AllTrans Port Services retains its respect and responsibility for the integrity of the Port of Houston Turning Basin. From internal policies such as ‘clean-up-as-you-go’ and a commitment to recycling products from scrap metal to wood and used oil, the integrated team effort at AllTrans illustrates the importance and impact that awareness can have on the growth of a company.
“We have an excellent Maintenance Manager who invaluably contributes to making sure our shops are in top order environmentally,” she said. “Our Environmental and Safety Manager has been extremely helpful in getting representatives together from the City , the Port, the County and the Transit Authority to accomplish several objectives such as: adding a traffic light at the intersection of Clinton Drive and Gate AA at the Port, causing Clinton Drive to be reworked and paved with new asphalt to help avoid truck accidents, and to cause the Port of Houston Gate AA entrance to be paved or concreted due to the heavy truck traffic entering and leaving this gate.”
“I have time and again been touched by the loyalty, the willingness to help others, and work ethic of our employees,” Rains continued. “When one family has a hardship, I have seen our employees dig into their own pockets along with the company to contribute to the welfare of that family’s hardship.”
“When I see the hearts of our people in actions like these, I am touched beyond composure. I think we have the best people in the business. I am so proud of our people and the way they do their jobs.”
Valiant, resilient and resurgent, Rains’ influence on the rise and growth of AllTrans Port Services since the early days in 1994 is a testament to her strength and courage in defying odds and pushing forward. With accolades including the 2014 Trucking Insurance Underwriters’ Platinum Award for best managed truck fleet to the Best Small Business Award awarded by the Houston East End Chamber, to a list of other markers of success, AllTrans Port Services’ future is fixed on meeting and transcending the forecast of the marketplace.
“We continue to try and stay on top of what’s going on in the market so we know where to put the next dollar,” she said. “We continue to do a lot of reading and talking with people to see what our customers would like to see happen if there’s some particular need they have we try and grow in line with those needs. Keeping those relationships and keeping communication open to what their needs are is very important to us.”
When Rains started selling steel, it was not a common career choice for young women in 1972. A pioneer in her own right, it’s all about attitude as a signpost for longevity and legacy.
“I believe that anyone can achieve anything if they’re willing to put in the work,” she said. “Success often means long hours and hard work in the beginning to get started in the right direction. Good people, choosing people that have the same kind of passion to accomplish what you do is very important.”