Pile of ScrapEp. 38: Family First – The Saccos of Sierra
John Sacco joins his brother, Philip Sacco, and nephew, Philip Sacco II, in Wyoming for a special Pile of Scrap episode focusing on the importance of family business and what it’s like growing up at Sierra, all while reminiscing on a few crazy stories.
John Sacco with his nephew, Philip Sacco II, and his brother, Philip Sacco.
Intro: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery. Pile of Scrap with your host, John Sacco.
John Sacco: Well, hello, hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Pile of Scrap. This is the most unique one yet. I keep saying that. I'm here with my brother, my partner, my friend. Oh, shit. Here, I am all emotional. I just got started. My brother, Philip. Welcome.
Philip Sacco: Well, I'm very pleased to be here with my blessed brother, partner...
John: My neck.
Philip: And my wonderful son – third generation. Proud of you, brother.
John: And, my nephew, Little Phil. You're going to be Little Phil all day.
Phil (Philip Sacco II): All day, every day since I was born.
John: So, you know, I've interviewed a lot of people. Um, ‘Pile of Scrap’ has taken on… Um, we have a lot of viewers who aren't even in the recycling industry now and that we're finding out. And, I think what happens is we are touching people and educating people about what it is we do. But, this is going to be kind of about the history of who we are and where we kind of came from, and a lot of things. So, always, I want to start this off. Every time I talk to somebody: “How is your brother, Phil? How's he doing up in Wyoming?” I go, “Well, you know, he's the smartest one in the bunch,” and they all laugh. They all go, “Yeah, he is.” I'm stuck in Bakersfield and that stuff, but I'm in Bakersfield. I choose to be. And you're up here, Phil.
Philip: Living the dream, living the dream.
John: You are, man.
Philip: It's one big playground… A lot of work though. Peace of mind, get a smile on my face, get to do what I've dreamed of doing since I've been a little boy, but only through this wonderful family business and the two gentlemen and the other team that's not here, I was able to achieve that goal. And, that's one heck of a team that Sierra has, and a family – Sacco.
John: Yeah. You know…
Philip: That’s awesome.
John: Well, look. Phil…
Philip: You know, Dad… You know, Dad… Dad laid the groundwork.
John: Well, sure.
Philip: He laid the groundwork. We’re a people – people I talked to him about dad. Dad laid the groundwork was sure, no dad laid the groundwork. We're a people – people-people family, we're a people-people company. Without people skills, you will never get across what we need to build together, uh, in our partnerships.
John: Okay. So, let me make sure I got this right, because even though you and I, you know, look… As a kid, you were always the closest one in, you know, there were five of us. You were always the closest one to me, but somewhere along, you wanted to be a guide, right? ‘Cause you were always in the back country, but dad would have nothing to do with that because, you know, here's this immigrant – this powerful man… When…
Philip: 1979. Um, it was 1979, ‘78. I was at the university of Colorado and I was in, uh… Met a gentlemen that, uh, who's still a dear friend of mine today that, uh, wanted me to be a guide on a rafting because I was an accomplished rafter. And, he knew I was a good fisherman, so he hired me to start working June 1 as a raft guide/fishing guide. And, my poor performance in college, it had me up on the, uh, unemployment line. And, so my father stepped in and says, “Son, we have an opportunity for ya. Come back to Bakersfield, but you first got to cut your hair and you're gonna not do the things you're going to do in Colorado. You're going to come back and give us a hundred percent commitment.” And, then I said, “Yes.”
John: So, you moved here in 2018 or ‘17? Full-time?
Philip: At the time, it would have been 2018, full-time.
John: Okay. So, almost – how many years is that? ‘79… So, that's 40 years – uh, almost 40 years. So, now you're kind of doing that all these years later. You finally get to do truly what you want?
John: What's your favorite? Hunting, fishing, guiding… What's your favorite thing?
Philip: So, you know other people enjoy the harvesting the fruit here. Like you… Coming here to see you smile. I stood up on my horse to see you with a smile on your face, with peace, making the cast, watching that rod go like this, watching the excitement of everybody. To me, like our late father, he enjoyed seeing people having a great time.
Phil: That was like me yesterday, man…. To see uncle John up here, fly fishing, catching his first trout on a fly racquet yesterday. Jackie was actually in tears with me knowing he was having a good time.
John: It’s the first time I ever fly fished. We did in Alaska, but that was that one time. But, on a river and, uh, yeah, I was successful yesterday, surprisingly. I didn't think I was – it was really cool yesterday. I – what a great experience. First time I ever fly fished… So…
Philip: On a private river.
John: Yeah. On your river. Your private river.
Philip: Can you say how many rivers are on two and a half miles, both sides, in North America, let alone?
John: Yeah, you're pretty… That's… You’re up here. You're smart. You're doing what – you’re living what you want to do. And, uh, uh, I think that's fantastic. So, let's go to business for a second because there's one thing that I know, and I tell people all the time… I think you're one of the finest, if not the best, metal trader that I have ever seen. I mean, you know how to sell iron and you know how to sell your non-ferrous. Okay. I'm the – the sales people at Sierra know, “Don't bring Uncle John in here, don’t bring John in here because he'll sell it for less, then their commissions are less.” Where did you get that? Where was it that your ability to trade?
Philip: The first… That comes to my census is when my second father Morris G Rosenberg, my late father's business partner, took me under his wing and dispatched me to the rag market in Los Angeles, which was predominantly an old Orthodox Jewish community. Shrewd businesspeople, honest people. There were some that weren't so honest and you had to learn the trading skills of that generation from the turn of the century, pre-Depression, the Great War – World War II, and Korean war. These people were self-made people. They demanded the best of people who did business with them. That was the art of trading that I learned. And, you learned that when you're selling an item for a cent and a half to 2 cents a pound, how are you going to make money on that? So, the trading skill – the trust that was built during the old school Jewish community/business community in Los Angeles taught me my business skill. Not Sierra initially, but the Jewish community and LA taught me how to trade with people.
John: So your history at Sierra. Let's go back to as a kid. Now, as a kid, I, being the baby of five, I remember on Saturday mornings, you and Anthony would get to go to Sierra, but I was too young and I would cry when they would leave the door. I remember it – 1800 Country Club Drive. I'll never forget that Saturday in my life. What was your favorite drop as a kid? I mean, when you got down to Sierra, what was it that you couldn't wait to do?
Philip: Go to the printing room and watch bags come off the printing press.
John: See, I never got – I was never in that department.
Philip: To me, that was fascinating because the material came from India and Bangladesh, which was East Pakistan then. We bought the stuff from halfway across the world to bring it here to put in, you know, to use in American agriculture. It was really a neat experience. Uh, uh, so as a little kid, the printing room with Angelo Pinelli was truly the, uh, the joy on Saturday mornings until the scrap business started going. And, then we wanted to go down and watch the car crusher. We wanted to see those cars go boom, flat. And we don't care – flying glass came around and in today's world, that'd be the most dangerous thing we could do in our workplace.
John: I remember that old car flat. That was a crazy machine.
John: What about you? You, as a kid, your dad brought you down. What was your favorite job when you came down to Sierra on a Saturday?
Philip: Don’t even need to ask you. In the excavator.
Phil: Yeah, the excavator. But, like both of you guys, Nano had me starting… I remember he'd give me 10 bucks a warehouse to sweep and you know, six, seven years old… That was – I was a rich, rich kid getting 10 – It'd take me until lunchtime, then he’d normally pick me up and we'd go to Luigi's for lunch, imagine that. But, uh, you know, sweeping those warehouses, I just kinda remember that was my first learning what work actually was. It started out fun and started for money and then I just remember after doing a couple, I was like, “Oh, this is actually going to take me some…” I just kind of vividly remember that thinking back like, “Oh, this is what they talk about when…”
Philip: Literally from the ground up.
John: Yeah, yeah. I always say, yeah… The first piece of equipment I ever operated was a broom.
Philip: That was it. Mine too.
John: But, you don't – you got over to the new bag side. ‘Cause you know, Sierra… There was Sierra Bag Company before there was ever Sierra International Machinery and there was Sierra Iron and Metal, but we were always on the backside growing up. I never – Anthony kind of worked over in the metal side…
John: Our oldest brother. But, uh, I – my favorite job was always, uh, operating the upstroke baler in the bag plant – and the used bag plant. You were over in the new bag plant. I was in the used bag plant. So, that was always my favorite. And, to think all these years later, I'm selling balers. And that – if you think about it, it's just crazy.
Phil: We’ve been taking other people's discarding items, taking those items and making money on it…
John: Repurposing it.
Philip: All our life.
Philip: Our whole career as workers, businesspeople have been converting in people's discarding items. Um, so we've, uh, found the value of that.
Phil: I often sometimes think about, too, you know, growing up in the family business and just growing up in the scrapyard, you look at it… I mean, obviously the point of business is to make money, but, you know, we talk about, hey, we are major part of the recycling industry. Sometimes it's when you step back and you look at it, you go, “Oh wow, there's an old bike, there's an old, uh, bed frame, or there's an old steel I-beam. Sometimes I’ll think, “How many times has that actually been reused?” And they've all been reused multiple, multiple times. I mean, it's a raw material. These items are being melted and reformed and reused time and time again. And, sometimes being in the business, you kind of forget that even though we know that's the end goal and that's what we do, but when you kind of step back and you look at it, sometimes it kind of fascinates me and I go, “Oh wow. We were – we, aside from the business side of it, we're actually recycling and keeping this planet clean and doing our part.”
Philip: You said a great thing. You know, in World War II, Korean war, the scrap business was to help the war effort. And, today, it's to help the world environmental effort. Uh, so we've seen transition in our industry as in tactical industrial strength here in America that produced what Japan needed and started a world war because they needed our scrap to build their Navy and their war machine. It's amazing. So, when you look at history, the scrap business has a foundation that has historical roots in many events in this world.
John: As kids, growing up, you know, dad would bring in people from all over the world to our house. We had, uh, parties at the house for…
Philip: Ambassador from Pakistan.
John: And Monsignor Carol Abby. And, you know, then we always had, uh, the contingency from India and Bangladesh that would come…
Philip: Trade commissions.
John: And, uh, you know, so as a kid growing up, we always had people from around the world. Father Henry – he was a missionary from, you know, he'd go all over the world. What, of all the people, that came through, who's the one you remember the most? And, why?
Philip: That's a great question. And, it made me really pause and think here. But, the first person I have to come to think is Mr. Agarwal of Calcutta because Mr. Agarwal was someone who I personally had to engage with as a young person and learning how to trade to buy the materials that we needed. Um, Mr. Agarwal was the first exposure to Indian culture – another culture that I got personal with. And, then my travels to India –seeing where he lived, doing the business, going through the cultural transition of being an American teenager to go to a third world country, uh, of India where food crops weren't grown yet.
John: How many times you've been to India?
Philip: Four times.
John: Four times. I've only been there once. I was there when dad – when I graduated high school. Uh, your grandfather took me around the world and we, uh, we went to New York and then we were in Rome. And, then I remember catching the 1:30 flight from Rome to New Delhi, then New Delhi, um, to Bombay. We spent the night in Bombay at the Duncan House ‘cause they were the big traders.
Philip: Right across from Mother Teresa's convent.
John: And, uh – you met Mother Teresa.
Philip: Yes, I did.
John: Tell us that story. Let’s get off track here.
Philip: March 6th of 1979, my brother Anthony and I were, uh, dispatched from Rome, Italy, where we were living at the time to go meet Sierra's contacts – our father's friends in India and Bangladesh. On our arrival to Calcutta, which is now pronounced “Kol-cutta” – We were dispatched to the Duncan House, which was right across the street from the Mother Teresa's convent. And, during those times in India, when you'd wake up in the morning, there would be dead bodies on the street. And, you would see the people being picked up and stretchers, covered. Um, they would go to the convent and get a blessing from Mother Teresa or one of the nuns. And, because of, uh, the tradition at the Duncan House, the guests at the Duncan House were the guest of the convent. Uh, that afternoon, uh, we were introduced to the convent by the nuns who greeted us. We were brought into the room, um, where they gave us, you know, what they did there in the caring. And, Mother Teresa came out and she looked at me, and she put her hands, and I put my hands, and she took her hands on top of mine. And, I could feel the wrinkles of her hands on my hands to this day.
Philip: She looked into her – in her eyes and I saw pure holiness. And, as she looked into my eyes, she looked away from my eyes and then this most horrible odor came a call upon us. And, then I looked over my shoulder, there was an Indian woman dressed in her Hindu, um, dress. And, she had a dead child, but I noticed one thing about the Mother and the other lady attending, uh, uh, assisting her on her dead child were lepers. I was in the presence of a leper and Mother Teresa said to me and Anthony, “It's okay, son.” And, I felt a calm. And, this woman presented her child to the Mother Teresa where they gave her the blessing, they cleaned her. It was a girl and they dressed her for a ceremonial funeral, and that touched me to this day. And, she would not accept money for charity. She just wanted our souls.
John: That's – that's a pretty heavy story.
Phil: Wow. Yeah.
John: I listened to that, I mean, you know, how many people…
Phil: Sitting here, getting goosebumps.
John: But, I think my favorite person, you know, Dad… We had a lot of people. I think it was Ernest Borgnine because he was an actor, and you know, McHale's Navy. I remember as a kid, I loved McHale's Navy.
Philip: You remember Wide World of Sports when he caught the sell fish?
John: Yes. And so, you know, and so Ernest Borgnine came in on as part…
Philip: That’s mounted in his home.
John: And, this was part of the fundraiser things that we had – we had a lot of people, you know, I think that's part of our upbringing… Why, you know, it's been so easy to do business all over the World because our father, your grandfather, introduced us to people from all over the World and it was a natural – it wasn't odd to us.
John: It – it was just a natural, cultural…
Philip: Differences were embraced by us. We embrace – “Wow. This is a person from Pakistan. Wow, this person is South Africa.”
John: We lived – Okay, so Phil. We lived in Rome in 1976, ’77, then we lived that one summer in Frajana, outside of Rome.
Philip: Summer ’68.
John: Ringo Starr's wife was Barbara…
Philip: Barbara Bach.
John: Well, Barbara Gregory at the time. She married Augusto Gregory. That's – that's a great story.
Philip: Remember Joe Waltz’s wife, Margie?
John: Yeah. Well, yeah. So, that's a crazy thing. And then, we spend another summer touring all of Italy. What is your favorite family travel story? Let’s just have a little fun with what is your –
Philip: Well, we were outside of – it all just comes right to it – We were outside of Bari in the bus. I called it the Baltimore – What was it? The bus.
John: The Fiat.
Philip: The Fiat Bus. And, Anthony was up to his antics, you know, being Anthony. And, all of a sudden there was a chipped tooth in the family.
John: Oh, yeah.
Philip: Whose chipped tooth was that?
John: That was mine.
Philip: And, I'll never forget Anthony thought that was just cool. Well, when my father turned around and got the situation in his – how he decided it, I never seen my brother, Anthony, have fear of what he did. But, at the same time, he was laughing at the top of his lungs. Thought it was the coolest doggone thing until he got his first swat on the butt. My brother, Anthony, quieted up, shut up, sat down. Then I started laughing.
John: I wanted more punishment. He didn’t get it. I wanted…
Phil: But, what did he do?
Philip: But, I started laughing.
John: Anthony would squeeze your – your right here on your thigh. And, and that was very ticklish, and he squeezed me, I went up and then he slammed me in the back of my face, and my face went: Wham on the back of the seat. There was a metal bar and it chipped my tooth. I didn't want a chipped tooth. Okay. But, you – you – you liked that story, alright?
Philip: Yeah. You know why? Because it was me who got my butt kicked for laughing.
John: Okay. Well, it was you who got me slapped by Mother because you taught me how to burp.
Philip: Yes, sir.
John: So, there I am on the balcony of Virginia in 1968. Your dad is teaching me how to burp. And, I was amazed.
Philip: Can you do one for us?
Phil: The famous baps?
John: The famous baps. And, they would just egg me on. And, here I am doing it. Well, so Mother comes back from Rome. She comes in and just: Wack! – slaps me across the face. I'm like, “What?” “You know, Barbara called me…” Which Barbara Bach, the actress. Barbara Carr. “And you woke her up from –” you know. “She's pregnant. Dah, dah, dah. And, you're out there. Dah, dah, dah.” I’m like, “Great.” I just – and it was you.
Philip: That’s what older brothers are for.
John: I tell ya. Oh, wait. Now, you travel. Hold on. You've traveled with Nono.
John: And, your cousins, Brandon and Claudia. ‘Cause you're all born two weeks from each other. So, your brother – you always were raised brothers and sister, right?
John: So, you traveled with Nono, and Nona, and your mom all over, you know, around on cruises and stuff. What's your favorite story? Tell us a story about you guys and your travels as a kid. ‘Cause you got to travel too.
Phil: So… Oh man. There's so many. The one… Well, since you mentioned my cousins, nano and everybody. We did a cruise around the Mediterranean. I remember we had just turned 13 years old, all of us. We were teenagers. It was that summer and that was all of our birthday gifts from Nono and Nona. ‘Cause they were taking all the grandkids on a cruise, get to go tour Europe for a couple of weeks. And, we were – our first stop was in Madrid, Spain. And, I remember we were staying in this really cool hotel and we're in an elevator. Me, Brandon and Claudia. Mind you, here we are: three 13-year-old kids up to no good. Well, at that time, me and Brandon were competing on who could jump higher. We're in the elevator, the elevator's going. And, you know, sometimes when the elevator would start to go down and you'd jump up, you'd get more air. Well, we'd hit it, so it went down, jumped up. And, we grabbed onto the top of the light fixture and the light fixture in the elevator snapped down.
Phil: That's what we thought. And, then all of a sudden, wads and wads and wads of cash just start falling. I'm talking like something out of a movie, just fat wads of cash just start falling down off this thing. We’re, I mean, my heart rate just jumps up thinking about going, “What the heck just happened?” So, we immediately, like, stop the elevator. We look up there and we're hitting it to go back up to the – to our floor before we got to the lobby. We get it to go back up. We're stuffing Claudia’s purse, and I forget if me or Brandon had a backpack. We had an entire backpack full of cash and an entire – and it wasn't just a small purse.
John: It was before the euro.
Phil: Yes. So…
John: Or, no. It was after the euro… Alright.
Phil: It was, yeah. It was, uh, they were Spanish pesos – legitimate Spanish pesos.
Philip: Which were worth nothin’.
Phil: We run in, we run in, we ran in…
Philip: Yeah, they were worth nothin’ at the time.
Phil: …to the room and I'll never forget the look on Nano and Nona's face. My mother was there, and instantly we're about to get beaten by Nano cause he thought we just went and robbed somewhere. I mean, literally they were tellin’ him, “No, no. We found it.” Then, he goes into this. “Oh my gosh, where did you find it? We have to be careful. Like, you found either drug money or Carte–” Whatever it was. We were – there's all this money that was hidden in the upper part of this light fixture, uh, in the elevator. And, we – Nano takes it to the front. It was real money. It wasn't counterfeit. It wasn't anything. It was Mex – or, uh, it was Spanish pesos. So, we go to the bank. We literally go to the bank. Me, Brandon and nano, to see if we can exchange it. We had missed the cutoff when they had changed from the Spanish peso – So, when all of Europe went to the euro and we had missed the cutoff to change the money by like a month, like 40 days or some…
John: How much money was there?
Phil: I believe it was gonna transfer to almost a hundred thousand United States dollars. But I mean it was…
John: What’s the old saying? Dollar a – dollar short – day late, dollar short.
Philip: Day late, dollar short.
Phil: But, I mean, it was just the most unbelievable thing because here we are kicking off this trip and we found some money.
Philip: In an elevator.
Philip: Saccos and elevators in Italy are amazing. One day – one day, we were in a hotel as kids in Rome. Brother Anthony, your uncle, was fascinated with elevators. He would like to jam the buttons so that they would get caught in between doors. When other people were going up the elevator, he would press the certain button and get people stuck in an elevator. Well, guess what he did one day? He got stuck himself doing the same goofy stuff while he was in the elevator. And, we were old. There was about 15, 20 people in the, uh, in the lobby. And, this elevator… People were waiting for the elevator and they were just getting a little impatient. Next thing you know, this elevator comes down, Anthony presses the button inside the elevator, that he tells me. The elevator gets stuck halfway out, uh, halfway down. But we don't know that until all of a sudden this door and we see these fingers and this door is goin’… And, then you see this face and you see this guy getting’ red and his fingertips were like this. And, finally the elevator door opened and we noticed the elevator was maybe one-third the way down to its final position to get out. He crawls out underneath, jumps out and runs away. And, everybody's looking at this kid, “Who the hell was this?” Your uncle.
John: The Sacco travel escapades. I mean, that's a whole…
Philip: Well, how about in Venice? When, uh, when we accidentally locked your uncle Anthony on top of the roof of a hotel?
Phil: I remember this.
Philip: And, I'm looking out a window and, all of a sudden, I see this shadow jump across. Andrew goes, “That was Anthony.” Anthony jumped over a canal from one hotel roof onto another hotel roof.
John: That was a bad day. That was a bad day.
Philip: Saccos, elevators, and hotels as kids. Traveling escapades.
John: Let's move on. They're probably still looking for us. They’ll probably find... Let's move on from elevators. All right. So…
Philip: Going up.
John: We worked with dad and, um, for a lot of years. Now, your son is working. What's that like? Tell us that feeling. ‘Cause I don't have that. You know, Giovanna is 21. She's a senior at ‘SC. Giancarlo is a senior in high school. So, I don't have a son or daughter in the business, but you do. Tell us how that makes you feel.
Philip: It feels great. Uh, it feels good to – someone to pick up the work at a passionate level because you’re a family member and want to contribute to a business and grow it. To me, that's a privilege to see someone take on the drive to be successful, but not for themselves but for the team, for the family, and for the organization. I think that's probably the most – As a team sport, former coach seeing players on the – our Sierra team and to have Philip come onto the team and to get along with people, show leadership, show productivity, discipline, and kindness to the fellow employees as a Sacco, because sometimes the third generation doesn't have a good chance as we all know, don't they?
John: Yeah. Well, I can tell you.
Philip: But, he's done it with grace. And, so it puts a big smile on my face.
John: What's the one takeaway… And, I’m going to get to you here in a second on this. And, I'm only asking for one takeaway because there's a gazillion of them.
John: What was the one takeaway Dad – that you – that our father gave us? Your grandfather? One takeaway that you – it's just part of your makeup, everything you do?
Philip: Do good. You'll never have to look over your shoulder.
John: [Speaking Italian]. Do good, forget about it. Do bad, and you have to look over your shoulder. Mine was Dad always drilled in my head: Your word – without your word, you’re nothing.
John: All right. So, now you're going to tell me and tell us, what's the one thing your father has instilled in you that you use on a daily basis?
Phil: Oh, man. There's more than one.
John: You're allowed one because there's always a gazillion fathers that influenced mothers, but you – you get one.
Phil: You know, I think it's, uh, hard work, honesty and integrity. And, I think…
John: There's three.
Phil: Yeah. Three that I bind into one. You know, and just work hard, do right. And, uh, yeah, things will take care of themselves.
John: So, growing up, I was always mean ‘ol Uncle John. Okay? Okay.
Philip: Maybe you still are.
Phil: Still are.
John: All right. Well, that's been another episode of getting piled upon.
Philip: You ready to pile on?
John: I was mean ol’ Uncle John, growing up. A couple times… You know, it's been years. You came to me and said, “I now understand you.” What was mean ‘ol Uncle John – to the perception into what it was now, what you understood about me? That gave you the perception. I was mean ol’ Uncle John.
Phil: Oh. You like to get to the point. No goofiness, get it done, don't beat around the point. Um, as kids, we were crazy.
Phil: I mean, we were – we were out of control.
John: I was not ready for – I was not ready for primetime, trust me.
John: And, I was not ready to be an uncle.
Philip: I remember when he held Giovanna for the first time he went…
John: Oh, yeah.
Philip: “What is this? A baby?”
John: It was the overwhelming sense of change.
Phil: I also think that's a big thing that changed you. You’re youngest of five, you know…
Philip: When Uncle John…
Phil: There's still a big age gap between us, but you know, you're the youngest of all my aunts and uncles, so I think we wanted to gravitate to you.
John: Hold on, hold on. We're going back to travel the Italy stories because you and Amelia were going to Italy.
Phil: Oh, man. Here we go again.
John: And, he goes, “Uncle John, uh, me and Amelia are going to go to Italy.” I go, “Great.” This is a year after you're married or…
Phil: I think two years.
John: Yeah. And, I go, “Oh, how romantic? Careful. You know, that's how, you know, babies get made. You're going to be in romantic Italy, a little vino…” You know, I'm making – And, you're just like, “Uncle John, that’s not gonna happen.” It did.
Phil: Yeah, sure enough. That's where, uh, little Alona was manufactured.
John: And, then I get the phone call from you, “You jinxed me.” Not a jinx, huh?
Philip: It’s a blessing.
Phil: Nope. It’s a blessing.
John: No. That's another travel-to-Italy. I mean, there's just so many stories about our travels and I think that's interesting how, you know, your travels – you’re a salesperson. You're the RSM for Canada, regional sales rep and for the Western U.S. and other than Oregon and Washington. And, you're on the road a lot. I'm on the road a lot. We're here, but this is –– doesn’t feel like on the road. This is a pretty amazing, uh, spot, Phil. Uh, you know, congratulations for you to be up here. This is, you know, people, again, I'm going to go back to people always asking me about how you're doing. And, I always tell them, you know, I told them, you know, “You're smart,” but I always tell him, I go… You know, they would always ask me how it works. I go, “Yeah.” My brother and I got…
John: We got it… We got a partnership. You guys don't understand. Don't ask about it. But, I always said – tell him, I go, “He's happy here.” This is peace for you. And, and, and, and, and I'm setting this up because from 2015, 14 to the time you bought up here, our industry was going through the worst times, and we also had some bad things happen to us internally.
Philip: Life-changing moments.
John: What do you –
Philip: It goes back to – it goes back to Dad’s teaching: “Are we bleeding, son? Is there a leak in the boat?”
John: Yeah. That's when business says – when you bleed, that means we're losing money.
Philip: So, are you humble enough to address it? Or, are you going to stick your head in the sand and get you know what kicked?” Um, we have – no matter through our career, it's been a great career, but during those years, John, it was tough. And, that those were the years where it challenged me, where am I going? Do you want to stay in this game and just be stuck in a place that, you know, it's productive? You know, you're making the living, you're contributing, but I'm not getting any nourishment. And what is that nourishment piece?
John: Well, we –
Philip: Being in a place where I can hunt and fish. Every Fall, I was either in sports, football coach, doing things that I wanted to be hunting and fishing because you have to take care of family and kids like this over here first as a responsibility. And so, Fall was a time of commitment in sports, teaching kids, being part of the high school, being part of developmental football. I wanted fishing and hunting and riding horses in the mountains, in the fall. And now I have it, but without Sierra, without the great you and the other great people we've had on board that are no longer living are still living with us. I give my credit to them.
John: So, did you tell your dad to buy this ranch here because it was in your territory where your regional sales managers so you could come up here and work out of here. I mean, come on. Pretty convenient.
Phil: No, it just kinda happened that way.
Philip: Nope. Fell in my lap.
John: Yeah. I remember.
Philip: I came to your office and he says, “No, Philip. This is you. I'm not that.”
John: No. This… I mean, but it is. You know, it, you know, it’s that in life, you're at a different point. You had a grown son out of the house in the business. I got…
Philip: Different dynamics.
John: All types of kids in school. And, you know, uh, but, you know what? Is it that your happiness is shy. I could always tell every time you come back to Bakersfield, it's like a meter. One day, two day… By day three, it goes, “When you goin’ back?” Not because you – I want you – because I could see the happy meter dropping on you. Because it's the intensity of it all. And, and here, you know, you get to do what you do best and that's trade the metals for Sierra. And, you know, you oversee it, but it's that day-to-day thing that really is a downer for you.
Philip: The day-to-day thing after 40–some odd years… I don't want to use this, but it's so – I use it. That's maybe not the right term, but babysitting adults… Tired of it. That means managing ongoing processes between links of personnel in our business. I want the team to take on their own responsibility, which they've done. They are a very interlock chain. One link gets weak, it affects the whole chain. And, this team that we have built at Sierra won't allow that now. And, it's a culture to keep the chain strong. And, for me to be like, “No no,” our late father would say, “I just want to be the conductor. I just want to conduct the orchestra.”
John: I know when you're out of tune.
John: That’s what he’d say.
Philip: Yes. That’s the role I've embraced. I enjoy it. But, to see the success… Like our young salespeople – Jessica coming up with a sale. To see the diversity in our sales team, the diversity in our purchasing team and management teams from the equipment side, from Georgia to Bakersfield, to the logistic team in – at Sierra Recycling. These are wonderful people that are getting it done. And you know what? It is wonderful to stand back and watch the team play between the lines and score touchdowns. So, as a coach, I want to be the coach.
John: Yeah, I love coaching too. Yeah, coaching Giancarlo… There was nothing like coaching. Coaching…
Philip: Coaching is the ultimate.
John: I would say, I'd quit my day job if I could coach, but sure doesn't pay like my day job.
Philip: You know somethin’? So, what you said there… In my taking away from Sierra actually took time away from Sierra. Did it help Sierra? No. It helped the kids and, and, and the things I did for the school. But, when I look back at it, I left a lot of my talent off the field for Sierra and that I won't do again.
John: You know, that's the rearview mirror that… Proverbial 20/20. Hindsight’s 20/20.
Philip: But, in the late 50’s, you learn that. And that's – that's okay. It's okay. It's part of life and I – I've embraced it and made that change. That's why I retired from coaching to give it back to Sierra – my last year.
John: All right. We're going to – we're going to come to conclusion here. But, I always like to, you know, I think about a lot of funny things and you know, my mind – the way I am… I like to think of a lot of funny things. What's the funniest story at Sierra? That you got to come –
Philip: No, I know what it is.
John: What is it?
Philip: There’s no question. One day, Dad, Morris Rosenberg, Mario D, Mike and Darian invited me to lunch at the Bakersfield Country Club. It was in the middle of the summer – potato season. I didn't have the time to go from the factory – to go have lunch, but they demanded me to do so. It was part of the recognition of doing a good job. And, and of course, being with Dad, Rosie, Mario, – who was my godfather, it was a great lunch. And, we were all talking until Dad took a phone call at the bar. Do you remember the old bar?
John: Yeah, sure. The orange bar, yeah.
Philip: We have a phone call. Dad gets on there and dad comes right back to the table, irritated, red. You can tell my father was irritated. He tells Rosie, “We got to go. There's an issue out, down at Sierra.” Fire Department's been there. We thought it was fire. But, it wasn't a fire. As we got down on Mount Vernon and we started going over the overpass, we noticed a huge cloud of dust. I mean, not a small cloud. I mean, a very large cloud plume coming up into the sky and we were just going, “Wow, what's going on over there?” As we started looking, it was right over Sierra on Calcot. So, we came down Brundage. We were going westbound on Brundage. And then, we made a turn into the yard, we noticed it was coming from Sierra. Well, we drove in the back and there was my brother Anthony in a 1955 Oldsmobile doing figure eights around the scrap pile and had built a dirt track that actually had a mile bank to it. And, he was side going. And, this cloud and everybody there was a crowd around. I never laughed harder my life. And to hear my godfather go, “Doggone kid. I can't trust that doggone kid because every time we leave, the doggone kid messes up here, Ben.” So hearing my Dad, Mario – two Italians from the old World – start screaming at each other, and then this calm Jewish guy would say, “Why don't we just get him out of the car and kick his butt?” Well, they drove right up to him and all of a sudden, Anthony does a side brody, stops as we were coming here and stopped between me and the bed, his car going sideways, stop. Mario jumps out of the car, Dad jumps out of the car, I stay in the back seat of the car, Rosie sitting in the front seat, “It's going to be okay, Phil.” Well, my brother Anthony ran from both of them. They couldn't catch him… Until that night at the dinner table, Anthony had to address Dad.
Phil: Oh, I can only imagine when you were the old drill sergeant. Man, he is…
Philip: Tell me. But, you guys just to see the whole – the employees gathered around, it was like a Demolition Derby in a scrapyard with my brother creating the biggest dust cloud I've ever seen.
John: Oh, we used to take in cars. We used to have an auto dismantler. He would – if he could get one running, man… That was –
Philip: He was on.
John: He knew that was – What’s your funniest story?
Phil: Oh, man. I was probably 10, 11 years old. You guys had just bought the new excavators in the back. Old scrap yard stories. And, you had Qatar and I believe it was sand Sindu…
Phil: Sindu that were running it. And, I remember I was in the front and you just kept hearing this loud “Kuh.” “Kuh.” Like this booming sound that would – shook the ground in the front parking lot. And, then you look back and here you see these two excavators with grapples fighting, just hitting booms, grapples, grabbing on each other. Here, here's these two guys fighting in two, almost brand new excavators.
Philip: And, I'll never forget Nano, just B-lining it back. Dad, you coming out of the office, going with you guys and just… And, you almost couldn't help but laugh, but then at the same time, just all hell broke loose. Poor guys. I don't know. Rightfully so. They were fired on the spot, but, oh my gosh. Talk about being a little kid, laughing at a scrapyard story. I said, “Who would have thought? Two grapples…”
Philip: Two grueling booms.
Phil: Just going at it.
John: Well my, you know, there's so many, but the one that's coming to my head because you, you brought up Mario. And, Mario had a temper, he gets so upset, he'd opened doors and slam them. And, he had that, “Ah, that doggone –” Whatever. He – and one time, I went to go up and he looked at me, all calm. He went, “You can't come in yet. And he's just slamming the door right in front of me.” And, I’m like, “What the hell?” And, today, those actions… You just…
Philip: You couldn’t do those in the workplace.
John: So much things are not… You can't tolerate. But, you know, I think that's, uh, uh, it's just part of what we are in private – Well, look, guys. We can go on for hours talking about... But, we've had an amazing 24 hours here. Only 24 hours. We fished, we had an outdoor barbecue dinner last night on an open flame, which I haven't had, been on horses. And, just been a great…
Philip: You get to learn how to shoot a bow here shortly.
John: I'm going to do that, and I'm really excited about that. I have not done that either. So…
Philip: You’re going to –
John: So many firsts, so many firsts. Well listen, Philip, my brother, I love you.
Philip: Love you too, Johnny. Thank you. God bless you. You too, son.
Philip: Sorry for my emotion, but our families took some hits this past year and a friend that we here took a hit, lost a friend – lost a father, but life is good. And, um, that comes from a really good friend of ours who, quoted, says, “You know, you Saccos, you're our partner profit.” Dennis Rivet. That has pretty much been my, uh, compliment of to why Sierra has a relationship we do in the marketplace. We do. Because we want to partner with people in success.
John: Well, it's the personal touch. Phil – Little Phil.
John: Little Phil.
Phil: Well, it's, uh…
John: Thanks for being here, buddy.
John: I have a funny feeling and we'll see you on Pile of Scrap some other time coming up from past. But, you know what, great time and, look, everyone. It's just a – it's just an honor. It's kind of a trip. Kind of, uh, Darren would call it punk rock for me to interview my brother in a Pile of Scrap. And, my nephew. Great stuff, guys.
Phil: I want to end with this. You know, it's growing up, third generation, coming into the family business. You know, any family business has its ups and downs, but there's not a greater team, greater teachers than you, Dad, you, Uncle John, my late grandpa. And, it's an honor to be on such a great team where, you know, we'd say we throw around “team” a lot. I mean, Sierra truly is a – and family. Aside from blood family. I mean, Sierra has got multiple people where they've got their sons working, or their nephews working at Sierra. And, it is just surreal to be a part of not only a family business, but a business that is truly a giant family team. And, that's what, uh, has made me continue, want to thrive and grow this company and be a part of this amazing adventure that we're on.
John: Wow. A lot – a lot more years to come. A lot more fun things. Maybe we we'll meet back up in five years and we'll have different, funny stories and different, great things to talk about. And well…
Philip: Many more chapters to write in the book.
John: Oh boy, I'll tell you, somebody’s got to write a book in this family. I'll tell you that much. This has been another episode of Pile of Scrap.
Conclusion: This has been a Sierra International Machinery, original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.