TRAVERSE CITY — It was almost a year ago when our company, Kalkaska Screw Products, was nominated for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Celebration.
The event celebrates small businesses throughout the Grand Traverse region and culminates with the chamber issuing the Hagerty Small Business of the Year Award.
I remember our Chief Financial Officer Bernie Fuller asking if we should take the time to apply for the celebration. My immediate response was, “Heck yes! ... This will be good for our employees. This will give them a sense of pride in our company.”
It has since done all that and much more. There were many forms to complete, questions to answer and soul-searching to be done. But in the end, the Small Business Celebration (SBC) nomination and evaluation has been the most significant thing KSP has gone through to help us come together as a team, even more so than becoming an employee-owned company (ESOP.)
The KSP team took a “divide and conquer” approach to accomplish all of the application tasks. Fuller handled the financial data. Greg Gutowsky, our vice president of sales, answered questions about the various automotive, aerospace and related markets KSP services.
I took on the questions about the leadership of KSP: who we are and what experience do we have?
As we answered these questions, we found ourselves taking time to think about who we are as a company, what makes us tick, and what our future holds. Contemplating these questions was one of the best rewards we took away from the SBC. As a manufacturer, we were spending our days making parts to satisfy our customer, and that’s it. The SBC helped us take time to think about who we really are, what makes us different, what makes us special.
KSP was among dozens of companies selected for the Showcase Event. I recall saying if we were real lucky, perhaps we would be selected as a Top 10 finalist. I will never forget Clay Swikoski, our vice president of engineering, slamming his fist on the table and saying, “Forget that — we are winning this!” It was another benefit of going through the SBC. Our team came together.
Winning the Chamber’s 2013 Hagerty Small Business of the Year Award was rewarding. But most of all, the employee-owners of KSP received the recognition they deserve. They come to work every day, put their heads down and satisfy our customers with on-time delivery of zero-defect products. KSP is proud to provide jobs and support families of 71 employees in the area.
It was a journey we would recommend to anyone.
Kevin Schlueter is president of Kalkaska Screw Products.