Lampson's third generation leads company
By D.Ann Shiffler01 June 2018
Elegant, poised, smart and organized, Kate Lampson is the epitome of a professional woman in the crane and transport industry. She has a profound passion for her work and a deep pride for Lampson International, founded in 1946 by her grandparents, Neil and Billie Jane Lampson.
“Although a stigma still exists that women in the construction industry are not as smart or as strong as men, I think many men are surprised by the caliber and tenacity of their female counterparts.”
“Coming from very humble beginnings, they knew the value of hard work and dedication,” Lampson said. “Although we started out as a small crane and drayage company doing work in our local region up and down the Columbia River, our small company soon grew into one of the largest crane-owning companies in the world. Today we are enjoying our 72nd year of doing business, and I am proud to say that I am part of the third generation of Lampson family members.”
Some of her earliest memories are driving through Lampson’s Pasco, WA yard checking on equipment with her father, Bill Lampson, now president and CEO of the company. She’s had her own Lampson hard hat since she was a toddler. When she was five years old her grandmother gave her a cute nickname: “chairman of the board.”
Lampson’s grandmother must have known back then that her granddaughter was destined to help run the family business.
“I knew when I was a little girl that I wanted to work in the family business,” she said. “Having grown up hosting dinners for customers in our family home, working in the office and spending time in the yard with my dad, it was never a question where I wanted to be. I started working for the family business the summer I turned 14 and continued through high school and college during summer and winter breaks.”
After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, she joined the ranks of Lampson International full time. But then at one point, she decided she needed to strike out on her own to gain outside experience and work for someone else.
“I wanted to know that I could do it on my own, challenge myself and bring something back to the table,” she said. “During that time, I worked in two different industries and gained valuable experience in management, budgeting and running an efficient business. I also learned about the type of manager that I would someday like to be.”
After proving this to herself, she went back to working for the family business. For the past 10 years she has directed the company’s public relations and communications effort.
“I am currently the director of strategic communications, but like any family business, I fill in whenever and wherever I’m needed,” she said. “In the morning I could be working on an ad or our company website, and by the afternoon I could be in a hard hat and boots conducting a route survey for a heavy haul project. Every day is different and that makes what I do both exciting and interesting.”
When your family name is emblazoned on buildings, cranes, trucks and trailers and other equipment around the world, there’s an inherent sense of responsibility. Lampson has delved into learning as much as she can about the business, and she takes great pride in representing the company at trade shows and other industry events. I’ve known her for almost all of the years I have been editor of American Cranes & Transport. I’ve always found her to be genuine and caring, knowledgeable and helpful, articulate and confident. That’s why I was so pleased when she agreed to answer our questions for this article.
What are the challenges of working in a family business?
With any family business there are challenges, but there are also opportunities. Fortunately, my father, my brother and I work very well together and agree on almost everything. I think that the biggest challenges come with generational transitioning and a changing industry. I believe that the key to success is remaining true to the roots of the family business, while staying ahead of an ever-evolving industry.
What do you like about your job?
What I like the most about my job is the variety of responsibilities that I have and that every day is different. I also like that I travel for industry related events and that I have the opportunity to see what other companies are doing and learn about how they remain successful.
What keeps you engaged in your job?
What keeps me engaged in my job is my absolute passion for the family business. Knowing where my grandparents started from and where the company is today, reminds me that anything is possible. That coupled with the opportunity that I have to help keep it successful for future generations, not just the third or fourth generations, but for many generations to come, wakes me up excited every morning and keeps me fully engaged.
What distinguishes Lampson in the markets it serves?
With offices spanning the globe and offering everything from specialized rigging and engineering services to bare rental and fully operated and maintained cranes, we set ourselves apart from the competition early on. We also have over 70 years of experience and knowledgeable personnel working with us every day. For these reasons and many others, Lampson International remains a worldwide leader in our industry.
What led to the development of the Transi-Lift Cranes?
The concept of the Lampson Transi-Lift was developed in the 1970s by my grandfather and our then Head Engineer Walt Trask. Recognizing the need for a mega lift crane in the nuclear industry, our company created the Lampson Crawler Transporters and the Lampson Transi-Lift. A fully mobile crane with the capacity to lift components directly out through the roof rather that cutting a hole in the side of the building. This became known as the “over the top” method and revolutionized the industry.
How do you characterize the crane rental market?
I would characterize the crane rental market and the heavy lift sector as constantly changing. With the demand for faster, safer and more efficient cranes, the market is constantly evolving and at a rapid pace. This creates a tremendous amount of competition and an opportunity for innovative thinking.
What are the biggest challenges in the market right now?
I think that the biggest challenge in the industry today is that the customer is requiring a more complex set of services. Instead of bare rental, they are looking more toward operated and maintained and full-service lift and transport work. At the same time, this also adds a level of excitement when the customer looks to you to solve their challenges in a safe and efficient manner to help them be successful.
As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, What are the positives and negatives?
Growing up in a male-dominated profession I learned at an early age that I would have to work harder and smarter than anyone else. Knowing that people don’t expect women to be knowledgeable about cranes, I’ve made it a priority to know what’s going on in the industry and the products and services that we offer. Although a stigma still exists that women in the construction industry are not as smart or as strong as men, I think many men are surprised by the caliber and tenacity of their female counterparts.
There is a growing labor shortage in the construction industry. How can we attract young people, and particularly women, into this field?
Any opportunity I have to conduct tours of our facilities and interact with high school or college-age students, I take it. I am encouraged by the number of women who participate in these tours and the variety of professions they are interested in. Everyone from ironworkers to operators, mechanics to engineers, I encourage all of them to get involved early and learn everything they can.
What is your business philosophy?
My business philosophy goes back to our humble beginnings and what my grandparents founded the company on: “treat your employees well and never lose a customer.” Having happy people working with you and giving your customers the best possible experience will keep your doors open and your business profitable.
What do you do in your leisure time?
I enjoy relaxing with my friends, family and animals, traveling and working out. I am currently training to climb Mount Adams in July.