Amish contractor’s faith, leadership talent help grow construction firm. Meet the 2019 Contractor of the Year

He had completed his formal education after finishing eighth grade in his Amish community in rural Ohio.

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His father usually had a crew of two or three workers, repairing old barns, framing, laying block, whatever customers needed.

“He had an engineer-type mind,” recalls Joseph. “He could fix anything.”

But his father didn’t enjoy reading plans and the business side of construction.

“He was kind of the type that would barely have a business card,” Joseph says. “He didn’t have a tax ID number.”

So Joseph began reading blueprints and organizing the projects.

“I would handle that stuff at a really young age,” he said. “As I got to 17, 18, 19 years old, I was talking my dad into taking bigger projects.”

“My dad was just really good at letting me run the stuff,” Joseph adds. “It was a God-given talent that I had.”

He recalls talking with a college student who would work with his father’s business during the summers about taking some courses at a technical college on how to read blueprints. By then, the business was doing larger projects, such as apartment buildings and motels.

The college student chuckled. “You’ll know more about the plans by now than the guy teaching the course,” he told Joseph.

“I’m not saying it to brag,” Joseph says decades later. “It’s just that I loved it.”

Ten years after starting with his father, Joseph filed to establish a construction firm.

Today, he owns and runs Shrock Premier Custom Construction, which employs 35 people and has annual revenues of $14 million.

Ruthie Deal went to work for Joseph about 15 years ago as his assistant. She soon learned he wasn’t the typical boss.

For starters, Joseph was a member of a strict Amish church district that prohibited phones in the home. And Joseph’s office was in his home.

“So he would go down to the end of the road,” Ruthie recalls, “and do all of his calls from the little phone booth. Twenty degrees below zero, and he’s in his phone booth making phone calls.

“He didn’t have a fax; he didn’t have any electronic stuff. All of his checks for a long time were handwritten, and his proposals were all handwritten.”

Working from her home, Ruthie quickly made a change.

“We got a fax machine as soon as I started,” she says.

When asked about working from a phone booth, Joseph laughs.

“It got cold,” he said. “You would learn to get ‘er done,” he says.

But those 20 years of working from a phone booth didn’t hinder him, he says.

“That didn’t keep me from being successful,” he says. “It took more effort was all. I might have to work more hours. But I made sure that every move counted.”

“People have it too easy now,” he adds. “I am convinced that it’s not the difficulties that keep people from being successful.”

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