From his first exposure to the industry in 1962 working for a German international exporter of woodworking technology, Peter Kleinschmidt, president of Grand Rapids, MI-based Stiles Machinery, has always looked at the big picture.
“We did this work on behalf of the machine manufacturers, who were highly skilled at creating technology but not prepared to market it effectively,” says Kleinschmidt. “It was during this time, half a century ago, that I began to envision what was possible.”
In 1975, Kleinschmidt came to the United States, and on behalf of his employer at the time, purchased Stiles Machinery. Kleinschmidt says it was just a small company then, but with a great deal of potential.
“Early on at Stiles, we enjoyed the strong and helpful support of professional advisors,” says Kleinschmidt. “We were also fortunate to find outstanding people right here to help lead and expand Stiles over the decades. In fact, many of our employees have been with the company 25 years or more. Our supplier relationships with trusted machinery brands are equally enduring.”
Kleinschmidt is proud of Stile’s commitment to maintaining knowledgeable staff through the recession, even though the company’s business volume declined during those years.
“The pains we took to hold together a disproportionately large team paid off, and when the economy recovered we found ourselves fortunate to have kept our best and brightest,” Kleinschmidt says. “We were well prepared to respond to our customers’ increased demands – and grow with them during this time of rebuilding. It is always our aim to take the long-term view. What is in the best interest of our customers is, consequently, in the best interest of Stiles.”
Kleinschmidt sees significance in industry relationships, be it with customers, business partners or suppliers, and says it is important that everybody can find an equal exchange of values in these relationships. He believes that everything he has achieved has come with the help of friends and colleagues.
“I was deeply involved in the creation of the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association (WMIA) and enjoyed the cooperative spirit between major industry players involved in this effort,” says Kleinschmidt. “Together we created what became eventually the unified International Woodworking Fair (IWF) held in Atlanta – one of the most important industry events in the world. I was also humbled when my industry peers made me honorary president of the Combois e.V., an international organization of companies like Stiles that span 20 different countries.”
• Education: Economics School in Bremen, Germany
• Number of years at the company: 38
• Number of years in the industry: 51
• Who is the one person you’ve tried to emulate in business and why? No individual person. I have known and learned to respect so many people along the way, and I think that my internal compass, my work and my focus reflects their good influence.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.