America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
LR Falk Construction, St. Ansgar
Lindsey Falk is the president of LR Falk Construction Co., Saint Stone, and owner of the Enterprise Journal (his most recent entrepreneurial endeavor). LR Falk Construction Co. was founded in 1922 by Lindsey’s grandfather, LaVerne Falk. LaVerne started out in the hauling business, trucking items back and forth from Chicago to Iowa. When he began hauling heavy equipment like tractors and rock crushers, LaVerne realized that this was an untapped industry in Iowa. He opened a rock quarry in St. Ansgar and began to grow the business from there. By the 1970s, LR Falk Construction Co. had 35 employees and operated out of seven different quarries. David Falk, LaVerne’s son, served as company president from 1970 to 2010, when he was succeeded by his son Lindsey Falk. Lindsey Falk, now the third generation of owner-operators, directs a business of 60+ full-time employees operating out of nine quarries and three sand pits. “I’ve realized that being an entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an inventor,” Lindsey said. “You can take a family business that has been in operation for 100 years and continue to evolve, grow, and try new things.”
Lindsey has put those words into action over the last several years. The primary business remains the quarry, but practices have been updated. “We’ve always invested in ourselves and diversified,” he said. “We’ve always thought: what else can we do?” The company has seen 100 years of change, and found that adapting and innovating is what has kept them ahead. The quarry has diversified its offerings, now including custom crushing for customers. Lindsey also established Saint Stone, a subsidiary of LR Falk Construction, to create a marketable product out of excess stone. They select interesting local stones, pick them out by hand, and transform them for decorative purposes, heirloom use, landscaping, and more. Saint Stone ships its products across the country, and creating new local jobs in St. Ansgar out of rock.
Giving back is important to Lindsey and the legacy of LR Falk Construction. Both his grandfather and father believed in its importance and were deeply involved in the community. In 2018, Lindsey decided to further invest in his community when a friend of the family spoke to him about taking over the Enterprise Journal, the local Mitchell County newspaper. “The time came to either step up or let it go non-local. And that was never an option. We feel that a community newspaper is important.”
Running a newspaper is different than running a quarry, Lindsey noted. “The challenges right away were how do you survive let alone thrive in an industry where people are saying it’s dying.” But Lindsey and his team found their role in the community, focusing less on profitability and more on relevance. By establishing the Enterprise Journal as a resource for the community, it’s now a standalone business with a promising future.
Lindsey has worked with the NIACC Pappajohn Center & SBDC on several different aspects of each of his businesses. “I’d recommend taking full advantage of the Pappajohn Center and the SBDC,” he said. Working with the business counselors, networking with other entrepreneurs, and doing market research through the entrepreneurial training programs helped Lindsey hone his strategies and his specific skillsets. “A [business] idea needs focus and that’s where I think the Pappajohn Center and SBDC come in to play,” he said. Lindsey also noted that the partnership of the Pappajohn Center, the North Iowa SBDC, and NIACC is a huge asset for our industry and our community. “It’s part of what we need to be successful in rural Iowa.”
Lindsey has some words of advice for his fellow entrepreneurs. “Be confident […] but make sure you do your homework and don’t jump into something that’s bound to fail,” he said. “Use your partners to be successful; talk to people you trust and find help when you can. But have a good plan and once you go, go all in.” He continued, “In our area, we need entrepreneurs. Not to be inventors, but to be our plumbers, our electricians, our quarry people, our newspapers. I think being an entrepreneur can be taking an old idea and refreshing it or bringing new energy to it. I want to encourage all entrepreneurs to also be an entrepreneur in their community.”
Learn more about LR Falk Construction here: https://www.lrfalk.com/