The Amazing Mill Steel



Last week the Michigan Business & Professional Association held its “West Michigan’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies” awards luncheon and seminar.  I walked around at the beginning of the session, asking one of my favorite questions, “How’s your business?”  There was no need to brace myself.  The VP for Communications at Herman Miller said that after contraction in the early part of the decade things are really going well there; the president of Harold Ziegler Auto Group told me that their 22 dealerships (18 domestic brands) have had a great quarter; and Mill Steel presented and discussed the secret of their 10-15% annual growth.  It struck me, as it does somewhat often, that some days we can’t see the successes in Michigan through the gloom we generate around ourselves.  It’s so vital that we keep learning from those who are having success.

Mill Steel is an amazing story.  For two years in a row they have won the “best of the best” in West Michigan, meaning that of the 101 winners, they were overall best.  That in itself is amazing.  But it’s also a third generation family business; and it’s challenging to generate change when family dynamics are at play; many third generation businesses don’t thrive but dwindle.  And, it’s a manufacturing company – far from the easiest industry in which to win a “great company to work for” award.  Finally, Mill Steel defies the conventional wisdom because its plants are unionized – the Canadian Auto Workers in Ontario, and the United Steel Workers here in the U.S., represent their workers.  So, you want to know HOW, right?

Here is what struck me:  Their leadership has high expectations.  CEO Andrew Samrick wants his company to be the best by constantly “getting the customer what they want when they want it.”   AND he wants it to be the best company to work for.  He exudes passion about both, and he articulates them clearly.  He says he hasn’t changed from his grandfather and father; they all shared this philosophy:  “Find great people.  Make sure everybody knows what the goal is and get out of the way.  They’re going to do a great job for you.”  He has about 150 employees in two states and two countries, and he can reel off the names, and importantly, tell you who has lost a parent, or who is struggling with cancer in the family.  (Today’s RFL comes with a bonus; click here for a 12-minute interview with Andrew Samrick, CEO of Mill Steel.)

If we could all sustain equal passion about wowing our customers and helping our people to flourish, how good would we be?  Take out your gauge:  How passionate are you about satisfying your customers, and how committed are you to the wellbeing of the people who can generate your organization’s success?  Do those two things, and you will . . .

Lead with your best self,