Most jobs are formed out of necessity. A problem is recognized, a solution surmised and the day-to-day work is simply what is required to put things in motion. But a career takes a different perspective. Careers are based on ideas, something that is crafted over time. They start as jobs but often take shape whether you realize it or not once the word ‘job’ is the last answer given to the question “what do you do?” And while it’s easier to trace ‘where you’ve been’ as opposed to ‘where you’re going,’ a successful career is built on the ability to look back while purposefully moving forward. Every path is unique, yet all share one common connection as well – every successful career is always growing its foundation, realizing that today’s challenge will soon be yesterday’s gained experience. Scott Fishfader, founder and President of Associated Wire Rope & Rigging, Inc., has blended both his personal and professional experiences to form what has become a very successful career.
Armed with culinary training as a chef, Fishfader began his career in the lifting and rigging industry when he joined Coordinated Equipment in Wilmington, CA in 1971. He made the decision to join the family-owned business, a radical departure from his culinary training, but one that ultimately proved to be a smart move. Today, Fishfader and his partners oversee a vibrant business that supplies critical items to riggers, crane dealers and distributors throughout North America.
In the beginning, Fishfader was tasked to revive and grow a part of Coordinated’s business that had suffered in recent years. A lack of formal training in the lifting and rigging industry meant that he would perform almost every conceivable job at Coordinated Equipment in order to learn the business from the ground up. Scott found out that he loved to get his hands dirty and enjoyed his time splicing wire, making slings, personally delivering items, and doing odd jobs in the yard. He installed new crane cables on offshore oil platforms as well as marine derrick barges and container cranes off the coast of Southern California. One project that still stands out in his mind is when he was flown out to a rig 75 miles off the Louisiana coast to spool 6,500 feet of 3 inch wire on a winch while also working with the team to recover and re-spool wire that was accidentally lost in the Gulf. It was an experience that he will never forget.
Fishfader then did various jobs in the office, such as purchasing, which enabled him to develop good relationships with his vendors. The experiences learned in the yard proved valuable when buying for the company. He went on to leverage all of his extensive product knowledge while working in sales for Coordinated Equipment. He realized that superior customer service and selling great products make a good recipe for long lasting customer relationships and success. The result of his ‘hands on’ approach to running the business was the creation of Coordinated Wire Rope & Rigging in 1978, which he served as President. He was also instrumental in opening offices in Northern California and Ventura, California, to explore new areas of growth for the company. Coordinated’s revenue in the wire rope and sling portion of their business grew by 400% during Fishfader’s time with the company.
Fishfader advanced his career once again when he left Coordinated Wire Rope in 1994 to start his own company, Associated Wire Rope & Rigging. This move allowed him to follow his passion of buying and trading swaging presses, reeling machines, test beds, in addition to wire rope and fittings. He was a regular attendee at government auctions nationwide, looking for valuable equipment and parts to re-build and resell.
During the early years of Associated Wire Rope, he developed a strong relationship with Waterman Supply Company in Wilmington, CA. Waterman Supply specializes in the distribution of marine and industrial equipment and has been an industry leader for over fifty years. Fishfader partnered with Seymour Waterman and Max Mougan at Waterman Supply on many of their auction purchases and, eventually, they bolstered their inventory by successfully purchasing the inventory and equipment of businesses that were closing their doors. Together, they bought the inventory and equipment from Cal Rope in Los Angeles, the entire rigging loft at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, and all the inventory at Cal Wire Stranding in nearby Vernon, California, to name a few. This gave them a large inventory base and really helped Fishfader establish Associated’s reputation as a company that has an extensive inventory of equipment and rigging supplies.
Looking for other areas of growth, Fishfader made contact with a Dutch company, RopeBlock BV, while working with a customer that was looking for crane blocks. Although Associated was not awarded the deal, Fishfader was impressed with the RopeBlock product and wanted to learn more about the company. In 2001, Fishfader and Waterman traveled to Holland to visit RopeBlock as a formal introduction and to see their operation. Their meetings went well as evidenced when one of the owners of RopeBlock reciprocated with a trip to Los Angeles for a follow up visit. The result of these meetings was the first stock order for crane blocks to test the market.
The test proved to be a success. Fishfader was quick to promote the RopeBlock name in North America. A long time member of AWRF, he enjoyed talking to people at meetings about RopeBlock products in addition to the other items he had to offer. A booth at ConExpo in Las Vegas in 2002 went a long way to introduce RopeBlock to crane dealers and rigging companies. RopeBlock was so pleased with the progress that they added their socket line to qualified products for distribution in North America through Associated. Subsequent ConExpos in 2005 and 2008 also proved extremely beneficial to the growth of the company and solidified RopeBlock as a player in the North American market. Associated Wire Rope joined the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA) and began attending their annual conferences and rigging workshops as another way to introduce RopeBlock to an even greater audience.
RopeBlock has experienced phenomenal growth in Europe for some time. In addition to their contracts to supply OEM crane blocks for Manitowoc/Grove and Terex/Demag cranes delivered in Europe, RopeBlock supplies OEM products for one of the world’s largest provider of land and offshore mechanical components, makes specialty products for projects around the world, and has an established network of global distributors. They are currently in production on a 3,200 Metric Ton Capacity crane block for one of the largest land-based crane in the world.
The venture with RopeBlock continues to grow. Fishfader supports a large network of crane dealers, rigging shops and parts distributors throughout North America who have also added RopeBlock to their list of products they sell. What began as a chance meeting to support one customer has turned into a successful venture that has grown to represent a majority of Associated’s current business.
While Scott’s career was taking shape, his personal life was about to change in a big way. Scott would occasionally sell swaging presses and other rigging equipment in South America. He developed business relationships and friendships with people in Chile, traveling there frequently. In 2001 one of his Chilean friends introduced Scott to Patty Bareda. Patty is Peruvian and lived in a suburb of Lima, where she was a medical doctor. Patty and Scott first communicated via email, then phone, followed by a trip by Patty to Los Angeles. They hit it off and a romance blossomed, with them marrying in 2002. Patty moved to the United States and is currently in her anesthesiology residency at UCLA.
During Scott’s many trips to Peru in 2001 and 2002, he decided to pursue new business opportunities there as well. Peru maintains the world’s largest fishing industry that is supported with local factories that produce marine rigging products. Scott approached these companies and created agreements to build various marine blocks and rigging products that are marketed in North America under the Sea-Link name, partnering with Associated Wire and Waterman Supply on the agreements. Produced under the Sea-Link name is a wide array of wood and steel shell blocks for synthetic rope, wire rope construction blocks of varying sizes and shapes, cargo hoisting blocks, rigger’s vises, and thimbles. These products complement the RopeBlock product line and help Associated Wire provide a more comprehensive line of new products to serve the lifting and rigging community.
From chef to CEO, Scott Fishfader has worn many hats over forty years that have flourished into a long and successful career in the lifting and rigging industry. From working in the shop to running a multi-million dollar business, Fishfader is the first to realize that his varied personal and professional experiences that have led him to where he is today will be the same recipe that will move things forward in the future as well.