This year marks 30 years of The Macomb Group doing business under its current majority ownership when in 1991 two childhood friends who dreamed of owning a business seized the opportunity.
Recently, CEO Bill McGivern and Executive Vice President Keith Schatko discussed the company’s beginnings, its challenges, and the outlook for the future.
“Bill and I played little league baseball together in our hometown of Harper Woods (Michigan),” Schatko recounts. “We were drafted by the same team by pure coincidence.” Years later, both Schatko and McGivern were working at what was known then as Macomb Pipe & Supply to help pay for college tuition.
“We started in the warehouse,” McGivern recalls. “Sweeping the floors, packing orders, working the sales counter, and at the same time becoming familiar with the products. Keith and I always fancied ourselves as up-and-coming businesspeople, but understood how critical warehouse operations would be in order to grow.”
It was in January 1991 that McGivern and Schatko, together with then-partner Doug Howe purchased the company through a leveraged buyout. Soon came the growing pains.
“None of us had money at the time,” McGivern notes. “The challenge we faced was to leverage the assets of the company and convince the bank that we were a good credit risk.” Schatko adds, “Our young age was also a detriment to us. We didn’t own homes and I graduated with student loan debt.”
The early years of The Macomb Group required grit and sheer perseverance. “When the bank cut our line of credit, we immediately cut our salaries to put dollars back into inventory. We came in early, stayed late, and worked weekends,” Schatko says, “Working harder than our competitors is something we continue to embrace to this day.”
Starting out with small customer orders, the young company’s big opportunity came in 1997 as plans were unveiled for the new McNamara Passenger Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport.
“We set ourselves up, determined to bid on and win business for that huge project,” says McGivern. “In 1999 we were awarded a contract for the bulk of the materials. That was the catapult that defied the competition and put us in the big leagues.”
“It eventually worked,” according to McGivern. “Slowly but surely, we kept performing and improving.” Schatko adds that a series of company mergers and acquisitions over the years plus the integration of business processes laid the path to the creation of The Macomb Group.
Looking to the future, McGivern says he’s “cautiously opportunistic,” adding “If an opportunity presents itself, we’ll look at it and, if viable, work to make it fit.” Adds Schatko, “There’s always the potential for future growth, but it has to be based on our ability to continue doing what we do better than anyone else, and that’s customer service.”
“We’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to hire and retain many skilled and dedicated longtime employees over the years,” Schatko added. McGivern notes, “We’re small enough to be nimble, and the teams of highly capable experts at all our locations offer our customers unmatched industry experience and institutional knowledge.” adding, “Technically, we’ve assembled a very talented IT and e-commerce team, and we’re well positioned to take advantage of any emerging technologies.”
Now, looking back on that childhood dream, the company’s dedicated partners proudly celebrate 30 years offering the finest products, equipment and services in a highly competitive industry that includes national leaders like The Macomb Group.