By Jim Granberry
When I was a child, my summer vacations were spent traveling with my parents from cotton gin to cotton gin in the family’s blue Buick (the model with four scoops on the front fenders). During those sweltering southern days, I spent untold hours waiting in the shade of cotton gin suction sheds, while my father met with his customers, the owners and managers of cotton gins.
My mother worked on the company books from the front seat of the car. My reward at the end of each hot day was a cool swim at a Holiday Inn or Best Western motel. Only later in life did I realize that I was receiving a priceless education in the traits of a successful entrepreneur (my father) along with those of successful cotton gin owners (my father’s customers).
In 1939, my father, Cliff Granberry, began his career in the cotton ginning equipment business, sweeping the warehouse floors of the Dallas office of Lummus Cotton Gin Company. At Lummus, his mentor, Samuel Buckmaster, taught him that a positive attitude was the pathway to success.
By 1955, my father’s hard work, coupled with a positive attitude, lifted him to the position of western regional manager for Lummus. And then, in 1958, he established Cliff Granberry Corporation to provide innovative products to increase the efficiency of cotton gins.
Our family dinner table conversations revolved around the family business and developing products for cotton gins. So, when I went to college in 1971, it seemed natural to immerse myself in the study of entrepreneurship. I was fascinated by the study of owner-managed businesses and their risk factors.
It occurred to me that cotton gins have far more risk factors than most businesses. These include unpredictable weather, capricious commodity prices, politics of federal farm legislation and a changing labor base that was becoming averse to working in cotton gins.
If those factors weren’t enough, there was the constant threat of the loss of customers to newer, more efficient and higher capacity cotton gins. The list of challenges never seemed to end.
In the mid 1970s, after finishing college, I began working in the family business. Since that time, the industry has developed remarkable efficiencies. During my career, the number of active cotton gins in the United States has declined by 75 percent. Yet I’m told that the approximately 700 cotton gins that remain in the United States today are capable of ginning as many bales of cotton as with 3,500 gins in 1975.
Today’s cotton gins use highly sophisticated, fast, efficient systems but with the same basic process that Eli Whitney created in 1793. The industry has been transformed through the years by a cooperative effort of hard working and innovative gin owners, managers and equipment manufacturers.
I believe that the common denominator of the cotton gin industry people is the same factor that my father was taught in 1939 – the power of a positive attitude.
After 55 years, Cliff Granberry Corporation continues to develop solutions to make cotton gins run more efficiently. We just completed a year-long redesign of the elevated seed house.
With the new SpeeDflow 2.0 seed house, cotton seed flows freely out of the hydraulically operated doors, virtually eliminating choke-ups and bridging of seed in the hoppers.
In our family, the valuable lesson that was taught to my father in 1939 has been passed on to each new generation.
At Cliff Granberry Corporation, we continue to believe that the power of a positive attitude is the best way to serve our customers.