R.C. Worst & Company is celebrating 60 years of business in Coeur d’Alene this year.
“If R.C. Worst came strolling in here today, I think he would be really proud,” said R.C.’s grandson and part owner of the company, Ken Worst, who is in charge of the company’s accounting and technological development.
R.C. survived the Great Depression by fixing cars in Kellogg. Eventually he built himself an automotive business in Hayden.
In 1953, R.C. Worst bought Brown Construction from his father-in-law, Fred Brown, and named his business R.C. Worst & Company. In the early 1970s the general contracting business became a regionally reputable distributor of water and wastewater systems. R.C.’s wife of nearly 60 years, Geneva Brown, was the company’s accountant.
Together they raised a family and business simultaneously.
Today the business is a fourth-generation success with 18 employees as well as a sister store in Spokane.
The company is expanding its marketplace by selling its products throughout the Inland Northwest, the U.S., and now Canada. “Our inventory is the largest and most complete in the Inland Northwest,” said Ken Worst on the company’s website, http://www.rcworst.com.
“When Worst is your last name and your business name, you have to rise above that connotation to really do the job right the first time,” Ken Worst said. “That’s probably the biggest thing we do. It’s not just gouge them and go on to the next relationship.”
Allen Worst, Ken’s brother and grandson to R.C. Worst, is also an owner in the family business whose primary role is sales.
“We’d like to continue serving our customers in expanded areas that we see fit, but our goal is not to necessarily have branches all across the country and become the McDonald’s of pumps,” Allen Worst said.
“True,” agreed his brother. “We’re not owned by General Electric or something; we’re a local business.”
Allen and Ken Worst attribute the company’s prosperity to their predecessors.
The brothers remember their grandfather showing them how to hold a wrench and how to use leverage with tools. At times they recall him as “gruff” and “hard to please,” but he was always present and practical. They remember how their grandfather’s primary concern, despite the day and time, was to help a client. “He’d hop up and help anyone,” recalls Allen Worst. “He had a passion for helping people.”
Jim Worst, R.C.’s only son and father to Allen and Ken, started working for the company during his summers in between school years. After completing his engineering and business degrees from the University of Idaho, Jim returned to Coeur d’Alene to his apply his education to the family business.
He excelled behind and beyond his desk, with handshakes and with details.
“Our values are what have kept us in business so long. We’ve tried to have integrity with dealing with people and be fair with billing so we’re not burning bridges. We’re not willing to take advantage of people,” Allen Worst said.
The underpinnings of the business are extremely technical in nature.
“A real quick and dirty way to describe what we do is water and wastewater systems,” Allen Worst said. “That covers the mechanical and electrical sides.”
When a customer calls, the Worst brothers are confident in their experience and knowledge, as well as their highly trained staff. “The values of the company carry through the technical nature of product lines,” Ken Worst said. “We try to break things down technically. We pride ourselves on having more knowledge than anyone in the area.”
“We have the knowledge so we don’t guess,” added Allen Worst.
In the Worst tradition, a man acts upon his words.
“We have a high level of trust with each other. We know that we will do what we say. And we make decisions with the business in mind, and not ourselves. We have employees that rely on the business and we think of that when we make decisions.”
Customers come first, business and employees second, owners third. That’s the Worst way.
“It rings a bell and people remember us because we’re R.C. Worst on Best Avenue,” Ken Worst said. “Business is picking up. We’re not in it to get a ton of money out of people. We’re in it for them to get what they need, and they do.”