The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Schupan & Sons family of companies.
In reaching this milestone, President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Schupan credits the company operations, which he compares to how hockey great Wayne Gretzky skated on the ice. “We ‘skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,’” Marc says.
Now some argue that quote is more attributable to Gretzky’s father offering advice to his young son. And this potentially paternal advice seems fitting for Marc, who took over company leadership when his own father passed away.
“The company was only six years old when my father passed away when I was 26. [My dad gave] it a start, and the thing is that it was nothing I ever wanted to do. It was in the recycling business only at that time. I had just come back to work for him for one year after I’d been teaching for three years. Then, I was either going to go to law school or try to coach college basketball,” explains Schupan.
“To me, it’s been exciting over the years to be able to grow in different areas of business and to be able to surround myself with talented people who have been dedicated and loyal. That’s the secret of our success.”
What began as a non-ferrous industrial scrap processor in 1974 has become a three-tiered business operating on a national and international level with locations in four states.
Schupan credits his company’s culture for growing the business from six to 600 employees. He quotes Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Schupan says, “Culture is basically asking yourself, ‘Do you have the right people? Are they motivated?’ If you have a problem, they’ll solve it. If [your company’s way of doing things focuses on] strategy [only] and you don’t have the right people, it doesn’t matter what the strategy is. If you have faith in your people, you’ll be able to solve the problems.
“We’re not successful necessarily because of me. It isn’t me. It’s what we all do together. And, we do have what I would call still a bit of an old-style patrilineal attitude. It’s important [to who we are].”
Indeed, Schupan & Sons is now a third-generation company. Marc’s son Jacob works in the electronics recycling division, while another son, Jordan, divides his time between the industrial scrap and beverage recycling brokerage areas. His daughter, Shayna, represents the beverage division with legislators, and her husband, John Barry, is president of Schupan Aluminum & Plastic Sales. Marc’s brother, Dan, has been involved, too, since 1974 in the scrap division’s success. Dan’s son, Shay, manages the Rescued Metals & Equipment store on Miller Road in Kalamazoo.
But to Marc and his family, the real Schupan & Sons’ family has grown beyond the Schupan name itself to now be 600 strong. At an ideas conference, Marc once heard New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman address the concept of commitment by using the phrase: “No one washes a rented car.” Schupan brought that idea back to his company. “We don’t want anyone to have a job at Schupan & Sons that’s a rental. We want them to own their job. If they own it, they’ll take care of it, and it’ll make a huge difference.”
And own it they do. The Schupan & Sons’ culture spreads beyond the company walls to the greater community. “One thing I’m really proud of our company for is our 94 percent contribution rate to the United Way [in Kalamazoo], our work with Kalamazoo Big Brothers Big Sisters, the annual Rich Holtz Golf Outing, and more,” says Marc.
“We’ve been successful by being accountable and responsible for establishing trust and respect while providing products and services that exceed our customers’ expectations. Our success is owed to our continuous improvement and our honest relationships with our employees, customers, suppliers, environment, and community. That’s really what we’re about.”
1. Michigan State University
Marc graduated from MSU with a B.A. in political science. “I bleed green and white, but now we do a lot with Western Michigan University and are beginning to build a good relationship with Kalamazoo College.”
2. Hockey Photo
Marc and his family are sports enthusiasts. Marc played football and basketball growing up, and says, “I had two sons that played college hockey and my daughter played college tennis.”
This is the 40-year anniversary for the Michigan Beverage Container Act, which put a 10-cent deposit on beer, carbonated soft drinks, and mineral water. “We handle pretty much all of Michigan here and have become nationally the largest independent recycler of aluminum containers in the U.S.”
4. Wooden Cross
The song “Three Wooden Crosses” by Randy Travis has special meaning for Marc. There are several references to the song, mostly gifts from his employees, around his office.
“We shared these 50-year medallions with our employees at our summer outing at the AirZoo. Over 1,200 people came—employees and their families.”
6. Nelson Mandela Quote
“I saw this quote on the wall where Nelson Mandela lived in South Africa.”
“I’ve always stressed the difference between success and significance. A lot of people judge success on where they think you are personally or financially. Significance is ‘Do you make a difference in others’ lives?’ The community service awards are really important to me and what this company has achieved.”