Still time to apply for Family Business Awards

As in past years, the 15th annual edition of this awards program will celebrate the accomplishments and impact of resilient, creative family owned businesses around the state.

Tom Flesch, president and CEO of Gordon Flesch Co., says its allows a family business to find out things about company history that management doesn’t often think about.

He was referring to the simple process of self-nominating for the annual Wisconsin Family Business Awards. Thanks to the time the Madison-based office technology business took to fill out the nomination form, it received a special “Wired for Success” award for excelling in technology.

Charles Crave called it an incredible affirmation of not only the family farm business, but particularly the Crave family and the effort that generations have put forth toward Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese in Waterloo.

He was referring to Crave Brothers taking home a 2017 Family Business Grand Award in the medium size category.

Harriet Statz of Qual Line Fence Corp., Waunakee, says the application forced her to define the company’s core values and unique characteristics. As a result of applying, Qual Line took home a special “Heart of Steel” award in 2017.

“Since we have such a long and continuous history, lots of funny stories emerged,” Statz notes. “Those brought us together even more.”

There is still ample time — more than one week — to submit a nomination for the 2018 Wisconsin Family Business Awards, as the deadline for nominations is Friday, March 30. As in past years, the 15th annual edition of this awards program will celebrate the accomplishments and impact of resilient, creative family owned businesses around the state.

Winners will be announced during an awards banquet on Thursday, May 3, at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, but in truth every family business that goes through the nomination process emerges as a winner in one sense — the self-reflection that’s required to complete the nomination form basically forces management and staff to ponder what has made their business special.

“To ensure the accuracy of my statements, I went through our financial and other records for 35 years, which revealed pretty steady progress,” Statz notes, “and that was encouraging. In fact, 2017 was our best-ever year financially. There were a lot of contributing factors such as the economy, but the award reinforced the public perception of the company, our confidence, and focus.”

Her in-depth review of company history added to her sense of security and future optimism. “We notified our local newspaper and the World Fence News, both of which published extensive articles about the award,” Statz says. “That brought congratulations from around the country. We’ve used the award and photos to create print ads in several publications.”

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Okay to be selfish

In this award program, self-nominations are encouraged. The award program presents three grand awards in three size categories: large (200-plus employees); medium (100–199 employees); and small (under 100 employees), plus several special awards for exemplary businesses. The qualifications are simple — you must be a Wisconsin-based, family owned company and intend to pass ownership to the next generation.

A panel of independent business leaders will judge this year’s nominations — winners will be determined largely on the quality of completed nominations — and they consider factors such as contributions to community and industry, business performance, innovative practices, and how the enterprise has overcome challenges. While self-nominations are encouraged, business advisors such as bankers, accountants, or lawyers also can submit nominations.

In 2017, a total of 31 family owned companies were nominated and eight were honored, including Wiedenbeck Inc., a 123-year-old, Monona-based distributor of metals and industrial hardware that’s now in its fourth generation of ownership. Wiedenbeck was the Grand Award winner in the Small Company category.

Other Dane County winners in 2017 were Central Storage & Warehouse Co. Inc., Madison, which earned the “Service and Quality … Down Cold” award; Stoughton Trailers LLC, a Stoughton-based truck and trailer business, winner of the “Pulling for Success” award; and Reynolds Transfer & Storage Inc., Madison, which took home the “Moving for the Generations” award.

Qual Line Fence’s Harriet Statz says her company’s award-winning experience inspired the organization to nominate a couple of family businesses it admires for this year’s award. “We hope to attend the 2018 award ceremony,” she says, “to hear more stories and support the nominees.”

For Gordon Flesch Co., discovering and in some cases rediscovering company history resulted some artistic expression in the form of a timeline poster, copies of which now hang in the lobby of every Gordon Flesch location. It’s a collection of images and narratives that capture company history, beginning with founding father Gordon Flesch.

Tom Flesch, one of Gordon’s three sons who run the business their father launched in 1956, believes the poster yields benefits in staff morale and appreciation for longevity among its roughly 20,000 customers. “We know the history, we know a lot of the details because we’ve been with the business for such a long time — 50-plus years,” he adds. “You know the history and by going through the application, you can inform a lot of people, especially newer staff members, about the history and some of the events that took place, and that’s enlightening to them.”

For more information about the awards program and for nomination materials, click here.

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