A Few Words from Iowa “Presidents”

A Few Words from Iowa “Presidents”

Presidents’ Day is held every year on the third Monday in February. What started in 1885 to recognize George Washington’s birthday (Feb 22), has since blossomed into a larger celebration of US Presidents in general. Here at IASourceLink, we thought it might be fun to talk with some Iowa company ‘Presidents’ and get their take on what it means to lead a successful company.

Pete Downs, President of Waterloo Tent & Tarp Company:

President’s Day began one year after Waterloo Tent and Tarp was founded. “Since 1884”, that quote says a great deal about the success of a 129 year old business. A President’s position in today’s manufacturing environment is challenging to say the least. “It’s a perpetual motion kind of life”. You have to first find balance between marketing, sales, production, distribution, and accounting. It’s a perpetual tug of war and it takes leadership to get everyone pulling in the same direction. You maintain your infrastructure, (physical plant), continue to improve systems and put great people into those systems. Once you reach an even keel, the view from the crows nest is awesome. Presidents should invest most of their time looking out to the future, reinventing themselves and the company. We look for new products for existing markets and new markets for existing products. Everyone is challenged daily to respect authority and challenge it at the same time.

Commerce is the foothold of the American dream. Consumers vote daily with their dollars and we are challenged to present a high quality product at a reasonable price, backed by great customer service. Congress could take a page from that book. The challenges of the future are coming from within. Affordable healthcare has caused our health insurance rates to double in the last four years. The attack on small business and the middle class is unprecedented. We have a new competitor, the U.S. Congress. We can’t afford affordable healthcare, the 2% social security tax increase stripped $31,000 annually from our employees and $860,000 from Blackhawk, Bremer, and Grundy counties combined and on a state level we have been stripped over $900 million that will not be spent here at home. For $100 million we could have provided healthcare insurance for all uninsured Iowans.

But I digress, it’s America, it’s Iowa, we are still a resilient culture and we will face our challenges, deal with them, and move on, “it’s a perpetual motion kind of life”!

Joseph Papp, P.E., CEO Systems Equipment Corporation:

My role at Systems Equipment is to build on the values and direction that has led to the success of Systems over the years. Systems Equipment Corp is a typical entrepreneurial organization that now faces new challenges. Some of these challenges lie in the very elements that enabled Systems to be successful in the first place. This includes informal communications, activities driven by immediate customer feedback, and founders focused on making and selling new products – there was little time for management activities. There are also new challenges such as improving process efficiencies for larger production runs and updating of procedures and software for financial and operational control. Yes, there are challenges but we are making good progress. We used Hoshin Planning (Policy Deployment) to establish overall direction and to set immediate priorities. We practice a more participatory management approach and involve employees in decision-making. Seeing our people successfully make these changes gives all of us a lot of satisfaction and pride.

As part of this series, in the next couple of weeks we will post a longer article from Kevin Lentz, President of Performance Marketing (a company that won the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s award for best workplace for young professionals) and be featuring a webinar with Mike Wagner of White Rabbit Group on February 28th.

Do you serve as President for an established Iowa company?  What are the keys to success as you see it?  Please feel free to use our commenting system down below to share your thoughts.

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