Eric Shiffer says family-owned businesses play an important part in the fabric of America.
But he worries that influence is fading away as more and more businesses come under the control of big corporations and private equity firms.
“We're missing that special touch that I think family businesses can bring to industry. There's fewer of them today. Sometimes it's more than just about shareholder profits. It's about family and people and the environment. Things that are bigger than ourselves,” said the president of family-owned Tech II Inc.
The Springfield, Ohio-area company is a second generation firm that uses injection molding and thermoforming for lids and containers, employing about 350 at two sites.
Shiffer believes family ownership means that innovation can be embraced and decisions come quickly when necessary.
“We don't have shareholders to answer to, so we might want to develop products that are speculative,” he said.
The company is in the process of developing about 25 or so new products that will help Tech II continue to grow.
“I think being family owned, we can go and develop the products that we think will be successful,” he said, without the politics found at a bigger corporation.
Tech II makes most of its money injection molding lids, and with that long-standing and firm foundation, the company has branched out into a process called thermoformed in-mold labeling.
Most in-mold labeling uses injection molding, and Shiffer said his is the only company in North America at this point using T-IML, importing the technology from Europe.
“Innovation is overused. Everybody thinks they are innovative and Tech II truly is. I think that's what makes us different than a lot of companies,” he said.
The company, with both plants located in German Township near Springfield, faced a crisis a decade ago when founder and patriarch Jerry Shiffer died in a plane crash.
“The family pulled together. There was no doubt that we would continue. I'd like to think my father prepared each of us properly,” Eric Shiffer said. “He allowed us to be the best we could be which allowed us to continue.”
But he said the company culture of empowering employees and treating them like family also helped his own family pull through.
“They [employees] really pulled together despite — a sense of loss. They pulled together, sent the message to us that they were all going to continue and make Jerry Shiffer proud,” he remembered.
These days, ownership of the firm involves siblings Eric, Dave Shiffer and Andrea Tullis as well as their mother Leah Shiffer. Just the brothers, Dave as chairman, are involved in the day-to-day operation of the company.
“In our family, there is a certain amount of respect we have for one another. We value each other. What that does — that sense of value and respect we have for one another — it allows us to be open and honest with our opinions and what that allows us to do is move very quickly,” Eric Shiffer said.
Talk to Jamie Roach, manager of the company's Upper Valley Pike plant, and he'll tell you all about the opportunity to work for a family-owned company. He worked at Tech II 25 years ago and then came back three years ago.
“It's feeling a part of a winning team. I worked at several other places. It was something you had that you didn't know until you don't have it,” he said. “Here you get the feeling of what it's like to be an important player on a winning team.”
Roach said he still remembers how he was treated, and the responsibilities given to him, by Jerry Shiffer when he was a young man. “It was a talent that Jerry had, He had the ability to make you want to do the right thing,” Roach remembered.
These days, he said, the family-owned business continues Jerry Shiffer's legacy of treating its employees like more than just employees, the plant manager said.