Bits and Pieces: Employees Hit 50-Year Mark
If there's one thing that printers pride themselves on when it comes to their employee base, it's having a staff that boasts an average of 10-15 years or more. That tells the printer's customers that this company takes care of its people.
A cynical person might irreverently point out, "Or maybe the employees have given up on trying to find a better job." And we would frown at such a remark, because everyone we know takes pride in their work. Your professional legacy is carved into the products and services you provide on a daily basis. If you want to give up on life, go work for the Division of Motor Vehicles. We have no place for you here.
All joking aside, print buyers do take notice of companies that have long-tenured employees. It may not be the No. 1 reason to go with a print provider, but when two similar companies are vying for a job and one of them has a reputation for keeping its people, it could be the tipping point for the buyer.
So what does it say to you that Schiele Group, the pride of Elk Grove Village, IL, and a direct mail specialist, has not one but two—count 'em—two employees who are celebrating their 50th anniversaries with the company this fall? John Kontek Sr. (started Sept. 25, 1964) and Ron Bartel (Oct. 1, 1964) have the impressive and rare distinction of giving one company 50 years of service…and, incredibly, their start dates at Schiele fall within a week of one another.
Bartel was initially hired as a messenger/delivery driver, shuttling samples and proofs. Over the years, he worked in shipping and in the bindery as a production operator. It was in sales where Bartel found his true passion. He rose through the ranks as sales manager, vice president and, eventually, president.
Bartel toiled in sales back when salespeople got their hands dirty, doing all of his own estimating, prospecting and billing. "Without e-mails or even faxes, communication with customers wasn't nearly as easy as it is today," he recalls. "Before cell phones, I'd find myself arriving back at the office, only to find a message (saying) the customer I just left needed to see me again."
Among his treasured memories was the antics of Ted Gottman, the former plant manager who kept everyone loose and laughing with his humorous observations. No mistake would slip past without a patented "Did you take an extra dose of stupid pills this morning?" inquiry from Gottman.
As a 50-year printing veteran, Bartel relies on time-tested philosophies in his approach to work and recommends employees give total commitment to the task at hand. Bone up on the latest and greatest technologies, he admonishes, adding this gem of wisdom: "You are only as valuable of an employee as you make yourself."
John Kontek Sr. was attending junior college when a buddy who worked in Schiele's bindery recommended he give the printing industry a shot. Half a century later, Kontek had certainly bought into the notion that Schiele Group is a family: he convinced two brothers and his son, John Jr., to join the firm. John Jr., incidentally, has logged 16 years and counting.
"Pops" Kontek has held many positions at Schiele, from pressroom to bindery, shipping and receiving. He's been a plant foreman and plant manager. These days, he's in charge of directing all purchasing for printing, and manages building maintenance and compliance with the city and municipalities.
Not only a technical virtuoso, the elder Kontek is a bit of a cutup and carries a ray of sunshine on his back w herever he goes. It's not unusual to hear him break into song or whistle his way through a tune as he splits time between the Repro Graphics and Schiele Graphics buildings.
How much of a family atmosphere exists at Schiele Group? Kontek was in current President and CEO John Schiele's wedding. Founder Henry Schiele was like a father to Kontek and always pushed him to succeed.
"Even though we may not all be related by blood, we work in a family-oriented culture. We're all pretty tight here at Schiele," Kontek says. PI