Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 31

crystal clear, while for others a bit of vision
correction provides career clarity.

FAMILY TIES
In his fifth decade working at his family's
business, Craig Hess had a vision as a 10-yearold, looking from across the street at the
company's single building and the potential of
what could be for the company his great-great
grandfather founded nearly a century ago. That
company has grown to be an industry-leading
supplier of blades and plates for grinding,
chopping and cutting meat products.
"I remember thinking someday I wanted
to grow that business to occupy the three
buildings between it and the corner," said
the third-generation owner and president of
Speco Inc., based in Schiller Park, Ill. The
company now occupies five buildings, he
adds. Bob Grote, chief executive officer of
Columbus, Ohio-based Grote Co., recalled his
entry into the business his uncle founded in
1972 was not exactly a childhood dream. In
fact, working with the family's slicing and food
assembly manufacturing company wasn't on
his radar until about 2000, after working with
an industrial equipment supplier in Ohio for
several years.
"At the turn of the millennium I decided I
needed to change career and industry as I felt
like I plateaued," Bob said. "Given my Uncle
Jim was such a successful businessman, I met
him for lunch to seek his advice and thoughts
on what I might pursue. At the time, he had
just bought out his long-time business partner
at Grote."
The new owner quickly realized he needed
to fill some sales positions, which was perfect
timing for Bob.
"Jim asked me at lunch if I might have
interest in being part of a rebuilt sales team at
Grote," he said.
After a couple of months of contemplation
and negotiation, he took the leap.
"I joined Grote as an outside salesman in
July of 2000."
For Kelly Green, her entry into the business
her grandparents founded in their garage in
Ogden, Utah, was in many ways by default.
After her grandfather, a chemist, died in 1977,
Green was strongly encouraged to run Birko,
a provider of industrial cleaning solutions -
alongside her convincing grandmother - despite

her status as a recent college graduate with no
experience in the family's growing chemical
supply company. Green, the third-generation
owner, president and chairwoman of Birko,
which is now based in Henderson, Colo., said
learning from the founder early in her career
was invaluable and gave her an opportunity to
carry on the family tradition.
"I had the opportunity to work directly
under my grandmother who was the president
and majority owner of the company," she said.
Green recalled the words of her
grandmother back when she said, "This is a
great entity and a great opportunity for Birko
to continue on."
She said it was a daunting challenge that
she decided to take on.
"I had a huge, huge learning curve as a
family member coming in," she said. "I had to
dog paddle pretty darn quickly."

LEARNING THE HARD WAY
Hess said he was exposed to the family
business early, but when it came time to
commit, he paused.
"I guess I was brainwashed as a very young
child. I would work summers and spring
breaks, packing blades as a kid," he said.
However, after graduating from college in
the early '70s, Hess wasn't absolutely sure he
wanted to join the family business and took a
year to soul search and explore his options.
"Somehow I negotiated a one-year-off deal
to decide. That year was probably one of the
best lessons I could have learned - traveling,
working bad jobs for other people. I was
realizing that maybe owning your own business
and working for yourself might not be so bad,"
he said. "I also had this revelation that there is
always a back door or fire escape; if you don't
like it, you can just simply leave. That was over
46 years ago, and I never looked back."
Like any entrepreneur, Hess struggled early
in his career and goals were modest at best.
When he first started with his family's business,
success was often gauged on whether the
company could make payroll each week and
pay the bills to keep the lights on and keep its
vendors happy.
"No kidding," Hess said, "we were one step
ahead of the sheriff."
But hard knocks can be a very effective
learning tool, he added.

"I think one
of the biggest
challenges
in a family
business is that
slow, delicate
succession
dance you do
with your father,
or whoever is
passing the
business down
to you."
- CRAIG HESS

www.meatpoultry.com | 09.20 | MEAT+ POULTRY

31


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Meat+Poultry - September 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - September 2020

Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 2
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Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - VDG1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - VDG2
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