VPCS is thrilled and humbled to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year. We’ve kicked off the festivities with an updated company logo and a spruced-up website, now expanded to include rich details on our portfolio, our team and more. Please take a tour to see all the new content.
We also wanted to hear from our founders, Mark and Mike Van Pelt, and ask them to reflect on the firm’s first quarter-century. Here are some highlights from that conversation:
How does it feel to hit this milestone?
Mike: I do sometimes wonder how we went from being just the two of us scrambling for work to becoming a fairly well known and well respected entity. We broke into an industry that was sort of new and unknown when we started and now we’ve got more than 50 employees and we’re one of the firms that people are really talking about.
Mark: I agree. It’s weird when your name becomes a thing; when you sit in a meeting and people are talking about Van Pelt as an entity and you realize, “Hey, that’s us!” It’s amazing to think how fast all of it has gone by.
What have been the keys to the firm’s success?
Mark: It’s all been about staying true to what we did from the very beginning – doing things the right way, delivering quality products and bending over backwards for clients. Then training each new employee to honor those same commitments. We’ve started calling it “The VPCS Way,” which is about getting to the heart of what sets us apart. It’s our secret sauce. Mike and I aren’t running projects anymore; we’re overseeing our people. So it’s up to them to maintain the company’s reputation and they’re doing a great job with that.
Did you ever imagine the firm would get this far?
Mike: I hoped it would, but I’m not sure I assumed it would. One advantage we have is that Mark and I have always gotten along really well and made decisions together. We’ve also always done things the way our dad used to – using common sense and not rushing to judgment. Back in 1996 when we were meeting with an attorney about forming the company, she warned us that family businesses don’t always work out. I took a piece of paper and drew two intersecting lines and said, “I’m the horizontal line and Mark’s the vertical line. We always work together and that’s why we can make this work.” That seemed to make sense to her. As for us, we never had a doubt.
Mark: I always knew we’d make it, but I never imagined we’d get this big. Together, Mike and I had no fear. Neither one of us could have done what we’ve done without each other. We just wanted to make a living. But to reach the point of having 50 employees and pondering growing even further? Never.
Was it tough starting out as small fish in a big pond?
Mark: There’s a funny story I like to tell from back when we were a young company. We’d done well enough to buy a few trucks; we got four little Ford Rangers and had our logos painted on the sides. But we were always going up against national firms that would come into interviews with big teams of people; they looked like they came with their own horn sections! So we decided to number those trucks, but not with 1, 2, 3 and 4. Nope. We numbered them something like 101, 748, 359 and 238. A sly little trick, but it must have worked. Now we go up against those big firms all the time and we’re often the ones to beat.
What do you envision for the next 25 years of VPCS?
Mike: I foresee the kids [Kelli Van Pelt Jurgenson and Eric Van Pelt] taking it over and continuing the legacy. They learned the way from Mark and me, and we now see them teaching others how to do things that way. There’s no reason why that can’t continue on while Mark and I go bass fishing and play a bit more golf and take the grandkids to Disneyland. The goal is to keep it going so the legacy of the company will continue on.
Mark: Absolutely. One of the things that Kelli and Eric bring to the company is enthusiasm and an interest in making the company and our product even better with innovation and new technologies. It’s fun for us to watch the younger Van Pelts taking on the tasks that we did when we started. I want to see this thing go on for 100 years, even though I won’t be around to watch it. It’s fun to think that maybe our grandkids end up getting involved.
What are you most proud of when you look back?
Mike: Our people. They’re such hard workers and they do things the Van Pelt way and that’s why we’re as successful as we are. At every one of our company holiday parties, I always tell our employees that they make it so much easier for Mark and me to sleep at night. They’re just great at their jobs and they’re great to have on our team.
Mark: I agree 100%. Plus, being able to put something together from scratch that’s provided good livings for so many people. I also really enjoy what I do, and that’s pretty fun.