When you hear the words “Made in America,” you may think of Budweiser, Harley Davidson, Levi’s and singer Toby Keith. But another name that comes to mind is Jeff Steiner, co-owner of Bigfoot Construction Equipment.
“I know Americans want to work and build great things for the world to see and take pride in themselves and their family. It has never been about profit margin or marketing catch words, but safety for the hard-working personnel around the world.” Jeff Steiner, Co-owner, Bigfoot Construction Equipment
Steiner is a man who bleeds red, white and blue. With an unmatched work ethic, he has never been afraid to get his hands dirty. A U.S. veteran with 17-plus years of experience as a lineman working with cranes and stacking steel and in a man basket, Steiner had been constructing outrigger pads for the family owned business for more than 20 years.
The company was started by his late father, Bill Steiner – infamously known as Bigfoot Bill – while he was working in the concrete business. Today Bigfoot is a true-blue collar, family run business, manufacturing and distributing both wooden and composite outrigger pads the only way they know how, using American-made products for hardworking American people to use, Steiner said.
Every time I see Jeff Steiner, whether at SC&RA events or when I visited the Bigfoot facility in Woodstock, IL, I am blown away by his industry knowledge and experience. He is not just a business owner, but a man who has been out in the field learning how to do things first hand. A quick thinking, hardworking man, Steiner is the American dream, personified. After the passing of their father in 2017, Steiner and his brother Scott have taken over Bigfoot Construction Equipment and continue to live out the legacy of their “old man,” as Steiner affectionately refers to him.
Steiner’s unprecedented passion for Bigfoot products is evident through his responses to our questions. I think you’ll be enthralled with what he has to say and the principles he lives by.
What is the history of the company?
Bigfoot Bill was a concrete pump operator and started building outrigger pads to local companies in the Chicagoland area. He first started building wood outrigger pads in 1991 out of our car and half garage with a wood-burning stove. The Steiner family garages were never to park cars, but always to build something. My old man was an old greaser and gearhead who could out-build anyone, anywhere. Using the best materials and building it right was not asked but demanded. Working with engineers and understanding real field conditions and the wide range of variables to work safe is key.
So, you and your brother are following in the footsteps of your father ‘Bigfoot Bill.’ Those must be pretty big shoes to fill (forgive the pun)?
My brother Scott and myself now carry the legacy of this American family business. The torch that has been passed is an honor with personal attachments to our customers and our bloodline. Growing up in the world’s largest industrial park has been a big influence with work ethic and using American materials. As a veteran, and seeing the American jobs getting pulled out of the country, and with my friends and family out of jobs in the mid-1990s, using American materials and employees has not always been easy, but it has always been the right thing to do. Bigfoot will not deviate from who or what we are, an American family manufacturer.
Safe use of outrigger pads requires knowledge and experience. How does Bigfoot help its customers understand how to use your products?
Working in the field and being a crane operator, as well as working with critical picks, is experience you need to learn hands-on, not just by reading in a book from a marketing point of view. My friends and now their kids are working in the field for their families and working safe with Bigfoot outrigger pads. We know this day-in and day-out for decades, not just hearsay, but living it and building them. Bigfoot also works with an exceptional local engineering company [to determine] safe ground-bearing capacities.
Bigfoot offers wood and plastic outrigger pads. Why do you offer both?
Wood and composite outrigger pads both have their place in the field, depending on where and what kind of equipment is being used. We custom-build what the customer needs to work safely. [We do not] offer inaccurate information to push product for better profit margins. Bigfoot builds for the blue-collar personnel, because we are blue collar and safety matters to [our customers] and their families.
What distinguishes the design of your composite/plastic outrigger pads?
Bigfoot’s custom composite has the highest load ratings and has been third-party tested. We were the first to use and make safety orange to address the needs of high visibility. Bigfoot custom builds outrigger pads, as well as standard stock sizes. There is no one anywhere in the world that builds stronger custom composite outrigger pads to date. We have had a lot of compliments from our customers about how these pads are indestructible, as well as competitors trying to match or use the same materials my old man has been using for a long time. Bigfoot has been private labeling outrigger pads for some of the largest crane/bucket/digger derrick companies in the world. Because of our product, customer service and personal attention to every outrigger pad we build, customers look to Bigfoot for safety on all their set-ups.
When does a customer choose a wooden pad?
Bigfoot’s wood outrigger pads have been used since 1991 with exceptional success in the hardest field conditions, as well as private labeling for some of the world’s biggest manufacturers of cranes and concrete. There are a lot of crane companies that will only use wood outrigger pads; they have worked for decades. The concrete guys have always been strong supporters of the wood pads as well. The concrete pumps have different vibration than cranes and bucket trucks.
Why is it important to assure that the birch and OTHER products are sourced in the U.S.A?
Growing up in the world’s largest industrial park, Elk Grove Village, IL, and going to high school in the early 1990s, I watched a lot of good American jobs disappear, including my father in-law’s. They were not retiring but went out of business and needed a job to feed their family. As a veteran and a trade school
guy for line work (ALBAT), I know Americans want to work and build great things for the world to see and take pride in themselves and their family. It has never been about profit margin or marketing catch words, but safety for the hard-working personnel around the world. Helping to create American jobs along with it is an honor. Building it for the right reasons with the right material in the right place is our back bone. [It’s] strength, stability and safety.
What is about this industry that keeps you engaged?
I have lived it and I know how hard and dangerous these industries are, whether it is being a lineman, crane operator, concrete pump operator or tree trimmer. These workers, they do it for a better quality of life for their families. Bigfoot will help them do it safely, so they can go home to them and see their children smile, laugh and grow up. It is what we do it for, no questions or grey area about it.
What is your business philosophy?
Hard work, self-accountability and the customer always comes first. Let’s roll up our sleeves and build the world’s greatest outrigger pads every day.