Running Shelving, Inc. for 40 years, founder Jack Schodowski has since passed on the company to three of his sonsJoe, Mike and John, as well as his son-in-law Jim Aiello.

Chatting with a few of these co-owners, we dove into their venture taking on the family business and what they’ve learned so far.

 

What do you think is the key to running a successful business?

Joe, President and CEO: Oh boy, where to begin. You need to lead by example and set the pace that you expect others to follow. Also have a clear vision and mission for the company and keep everyone in the loop. Then it’s important to put the right people in the right seats where they’ll thrive, as well as encourage feedback and constructive criticism because you don’t have all the answers.

Mike, VP of Sales: You have to be consistent, driven and have a good culture with good people. For me, playing a lot of sports at a young age taught me about discipline and focus which really helped in the long run.

Jim Aiello, Project Manager: Definitely persistence and determination. There are countless challenges along the way and you have to be prepared and have that drive to push through any difficulties with the end goal in mind.

 

How do you deal with / learn from failure?

Joe: When things don’t go as intended, you really need to take a step back, find the root cause of what went wrong and learn from it. You shouldn’t blame others but encourage a conversation about what happened, why, and what we’ll work on to fix it. That transparency is so important.

Mike: Working in sales, you deal with that on a daily basis. I choose to work smarter and listen better to the customers needs. After making a mistake, you can’t just say, “oh well, that’s how it went,” but learn from it so it doesn’t happen again.

Jim: You just do – it’s part of the process. Each time you fail, you learn ways to succeed. I’ve also always viewed failures, setbacks and problems as an opportunity to show what I’m made of. Everyone feels great when jobs are running smooth but the true test of someone’s metal is when the chips are down and things are tough. Whether internally or on customer projects, those are the times to prove that you will do whatever it takes to make things right. You will push to make each project successful and face every challenge head on.

 

Why is it important for Shelving, Inc. to donate a potion of its proceeds to The Capuchin Soup Kitchen?

Joe: As a kid it was drilled that you should do what you can to give back. We’ve come to realize that we don’t have to go very far to find people in need. It’s about respecting the dignity of others despite their economic circumstances. We’ve been given such a good opportunity and not everyone has that chance.

Mike: I think when much is given, much is expected. We’re fortunate to have this business and so we should give back in return.

Jim: We have never taken our success for granted and we’re very grateful for the blessings we have received. Because of this, we choose to share by giving to those in our community that are in need.

 

What has been your most satisfying/rewarding moment in business?

Joe: In 2011 we were recognized as one of the Edward Lowe Foundation’s Michigan 50 Companies to Watch. At first I couldn’t believe it but it was such a good affirmation that we were on the right track and we should keep doing what we’re doing.

Mike: For me it’s just been the relationships you establish with long-term customers. You get to know them on a personal level and not just as a customerabout their family and what they do and where they grew up. I’ve had a few of those friendships and it’s been great.  

Jim: This may not be the type of answer you’re looking for but it’s not one moment—it’s rather “the moment.” The moment your customer realizes you’re not just someone selling them something, but that you actually want to help. I’ve always said that you can’t fake “caring.” You cannot effectively go through the motions, provide options and complete projects on a continual basis (and keep customers) without truly caring.

 

In one word, summarize your experience as a co-owner thus far?

Joe: Enterprising; it’s given me an opportunity to try new things but stay within my zone of knowledge.

Mike: Fortunate.

Jim: Proud.

 

Lastly, why should someone choose to shop small?

Joe: Number one, the profits stay within the community. But you can also form a connection and have personal relationships with people in that company. We have customers call certain people in our group every so often. Everyone’s accessible and that won’t happen in big company.

Mike: I feel like being a small business, we have the ability to adapt and change to customers’ needs. For example, if we’re working with a customer on Friday and they need it done by Monday, we’ll come and finish it over the weekend. We can really focus on a customer’s needs and ultimately that’s what’s most important.

Jim: Because we care.  

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