April 21 2008 12:00 AM

E-Z Trench


Perhaps the saying, “Out of chaos comes order,” should be the credo for Roger and Gail Porter, though they prefer Winston Churchill’s quote, “Never, never, never give up!” Maybe it’s a combination of the two. In the early 1980s, with the boom of cable television, and long before independently owned ten-to-twelve foot wide satellite dishes dotted our landscapes, the Porters started Transworld Satellites. From a small room in Loris, South Carolina, they operated their start-up business, intent on being part of the promising satellite antennae industry.

While Gail ran the administrative end, Roger was in the field, closing the sales and doing the installations. It wasn’t long before he felt there had to be a better way to cut time and sweat from digging the trenches needed to run the necessary wire and cable to and from the dishes. But the right equipment to dig through the variety of tough soils and tree roots didn’t exist. So, with necessity always being the mother of invention, Roger designed a trenching machine to excavate a seven-inch deep, two-inch wide trench needed to run the cables, which made his job easier, while considerably cutting the time. Not only did the machine do the task better than expected, it quickly and easily provided a name for their new product’s offshoot company, started in 1983: E-Z Trench. Initially manufactured and marketed for the cable and satellite antennae industry, they took their machine to an industry trade show.

The interest they received, along with the sales they made, brought the realization that this little invention may have other applications they had never thought of. His belief paid off, as the 124 lb, 5hp machine quickly found itself being a life-preserver for the Porters when the satellite antennae industry came to a crashing demise almost as fast as it started. Finding themselves in debt and stocked with a near-worthless inventory, Roger and Gail had to do some quick thinking. After all, they had two small sons, Monty and Scotty, to care for. They teamed up with an engineer, and made the second generation of their original machine. Now they had a machine that could dig deeper and wider. So, while Gail ran the household, Roger put the new machine in the pick-up truck and headed for Florida. Once there, he grabbed a phone book and looked for irrigation dealers that he thought might be interested in the unit.

He didn’t call them. He showed up at their door and presented the machine that he said would be “the answer to your dreams!” With the utmost professional sales bravado, Roger told each dealer that he had offers pending from other dealers, and they needed to make their decision quickly. Once they tried the machine, it wasn’t long before Gail’s phone was ringing with orders. Overnight, she became the receptionist, the accounts payable and receiving department, and the packing and shipping department . . . while still raising their two sons. Along with the machine’s sudden success in the irrigation industry, it quickly became a favorite of the LP gas industry. Things then seemed to fall into place, and the Porters found that the world was their oyster. Their machines are ordered by rental companies, landscape contractors and outdoor power companies. As their company prospered, two more products were developed by the mid ’90s to complement their line of equipment. Today, the company is indeed a family affair.

Both their children, who are now grown, came into the company, but not before learning the business from (literally) the ground up. Monty manages shipping, coordinates sales personnel, and acts as information director to the national accounts.

Scotty works as the network administrator, and director of customer service and marketing. After all those years of hard work, things have calmed down some and Gail now has more time to relax. She enjoys planting flowers and caring for her rose garden. Roger finds that three-hour afternoon fishing “escapes” on a shady and close-by winding river, where he fishes for bream and bass, does it for him.

As for the future, the Porters plan to expand their distributor and dealer network. With their company going strong, their belief in the quality of their products is as fervent as ever. “I would say that we strive to be innovative in our design efforts to manufacture not only the best working machines of their kind, but also the most durable,” says Roger about the quality of their products. “We still have many customers that use our early models they purchased in the early ’80s,” says Gail. “Planned obsolescence is not in our dictionary.”