April 21 2008 12:00 AM



When you find yourself digging a hole, quit digging.? Simple, yet sound advice from a man who has learned that balance is the key to success in both your business and personal life.

In 1988, Bob Babcock joined NDS, a manufacturer of plastic products, (i.e. valve boxes, drainage products, drip irrigation and root barriers) as general manager. Two years later he became president. When he came on board, NDS was a small, struggling company with branches primarily on the West Coast. Today, NDS is at least twenty times the size it was then.

"Many things can be attributed to making this happen," says Babcock. "Acquisitions, new products, providing good customer service, being responsive to the needs of the customer are all a part of it. But the one thing that stands out above all else is that great people have surrounded me. I am incapable of accomplishing this on my own."

The modesty of the president of NDS could be the reason that the employees consider it a 'fun place to be.' Babcock describes his work environment as a great culture, where people smile at each other. His philosophy is that when you develop good talent around you in the right kind of culture, you will be successful. He considers maintaining this culture one of his primary responsibilities, to make sure that the train of thought stays in the right direction. "Quality people are what make a quality company, and it doesn't hurt to have a good product line in a great industry," he says, the pride in his voice unmasked.

Babcock's wife, Pam, is a schoolteacher, holding a master's degree in deaf education. As he described her work with the children, once again his pride was shining through his voice. "Many of the kids she has picked up at three or four years of age have been able to go into regular first grade when they turn 6, because they could read lips, speak and integrate into society."

The couple loves to travel together, and Pam goes on as many business trips with Babcock as her work will permit. Among his travels, Babcock enjoys going out into the field, having contact with customers and contractors. "I'd like to do more of it. I've met some nice people and had great contact with them. You have to be able to put everything into perspective, to know what's important to your customer and what's important to their customer. If you don't spend time with them, then I don't know how you can make decisions in business. It's a feeling you get from being around people enough.?"

Babcock grew up in central California, and has a bachelor of science degree from Fresno State and a MBA from Pepperdine University. He worked in Ag machinery for about twelve years as an engineer, and later as general manager of that company before joining NDS.

He served in the Coast Guard, retiring from the reserve as Commander. "I learned a lot through the military," he said. "Sometimes it was what not to do, but I did learn a lot going through the ranks. I worked for Sperry Rand, a wonderfully run company, and when you look at what was successful and what was not in those two areas, you start to create your own opinion on what works and what doesn't. Then, throughout your life, you begin to refine it.?"

He puts as much exuberance into his hobbies as he does into his work. "I have a lot of hobbies and toys. I am so into things like that, that I sometimes get too wound up in it, but I do enjoy them!"

"I don't sit in a corner office at work red-faced, with a tie tied too tight, and steam coming out of my ears. I don't live my life that way, and don't want my employees to either. I feel like all of us spend too much time at work not to enjoy it; it shouldn't be something you hate to get up to in the morning. Our customers see us as a team and they want to join our team."

Babcock finished with this last bit of wisdom. "With everything you do, remember you are adding more things to your toolbox that lets you face new things in life."

The Babcocks have two children, Scott, 27, and Janelle, 23.