Flambeau celebrated its 65th anniversary during an event held in Madison last Thursday. Company founder W.R. Sauey and his youngest son Jason Sauey, President and CEO of Flambeau Inc., told the Madison employees that they were key to the company’s vitality.
“It’s important to have your interest and willingness to participate,” W.R. said. “It’s people who make a business run and run effectively. Our most important product is our people.”
W.R. said he built the family-oriented company with hometown people.
Jason added, “People just like you have made this company successful.”
During the celebration, W.R. shared lessons learned while Jason shared details of the company’s strategic plan.
W.R. spoke about the importance of name recognition, telling of how he once visited the Woolworth Co. in New York. Six months later he visited again and the receptionist greeted him with, “Oh, Mr. Flambeau! How are you?”
“So ultimately I decided if she could retain that name, that’s very important for selling,” he said. “And so I kept the name Flambeau and that’s how we have it today.”
As to the future of the company, W.R. said they must find reasons to grow and must make interesting things for people to buy.
“I’m always finding ways to make an honest nickel,” he said, pointing out that business opportunities have come about for them because of it.
Videos detailing the company’s history as well as a strategic plan for 2020 were shown to those in attendance.
The company, begun by W.R. and his brother Ed in 1947, boasts locations in Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin with international sites in England, China, and Mexico.
Flambeau opened its first Georgia site in Monroe in 1972, later moving to Madison in 1995. They now have 120 employees at their Madison facility.
W.R.’s future mother-in-law at the time loaned him $500 to help him start the plastics company. Their first product: a frog-shaped fishing lure. A frog, known as Capt. Hal, now serves as the company’s mascot.
Flambeau now makes Duncan Yo-yos, ArtBin art boxes, and cases and boxes for everything from “candy to chainsaws,” as Jason said.
W.R. credits his father, who raised nine children on a farm, for his sense of perseverance.
“He told us kids ‘help yourself’,” he said. And ‘help yourself’ he did as he sought out money-making opportunities even as a child.
At 10 years old he worked as a salesman and delivery boy for the Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal. He sold the most subscriptions nationwide and received a proclamation from Curtis Publishing Co.
His father and brother were in the tool business in plastics so when he grew older and looked for a business opportunity, working in plastics made sense.
“I saw an opportunity in blow molding,” he said, noting that blow molding is more of an art while injection molding is more of a science. “I knew if it was difficult, other people had the same problems and they would give up.”
Flambeau’s success comes from understanding and fulfilling customer needs, not his own needs, he said. He added that a good lawyer and accounting system were also necessary for their success.
Jason shared how proud he is of his father.
“He’s one of my heroes in my life,” he said.
Jason went on to identify qualities of entrepreneurs, saying they are creative, adaptive, and willing to take risks. W.R. advised other entrepreneurs to stick with their business, be willing to try new ideas, and to work with others.
As to the company’s strategic plan, they want to make the $500 million mark by 2020. Currently they make approximately $200 million in sales. In addition, they will develop new products and leaders as well as improve their engineering skill set.
This plan will allow them to “create an even brighter future,” he said, adding that their 6 core values are family, integrity, leadership, teamwork, knowledge, and excellence.
Flambeau employees in Madison can do their part by making full use of the equipment at their disposal.
“There’s a lot of capacity to fill,” Jason said, referring to the equipment and its production capabilities.
Jason also encouraged employees to share their ideas for new products as well as ideas on how to improve the manufacturing process for current products.
He urged each employee to consider him- or herself a leader, saying that they can set a good example for one another.
Printed in the October 4th edition.