Mike: (00:09) Thank you.
Diana: (00:10) We always like to start by getting a brief background of the business, so with that, can you tell us a little bit about Fettig and the services that you provide?
Mike: (00:16) Currently Fettig is a recruiting and staffing firm serving West Michigan, primarily in the spaces of manufacturing but also some professional staffing professions as well. Our business partners with companies and helps them find the talent that they need starting at the most entry-level positions through some management level positions. So, we have the recruiting in-house, in most cases, we are finding the people for the business, and then the person works for us for a period of time before the customers choose to hire those people in. It’s been an exciting few years to see that develop.
Diana: (00:54) Who is your standard customer? Is it a larger company, or smaller, or do you do both?
Mike: (00:58) We do staff some of the local billion-dollar companies, [but] the main customer is what we would consider mid to small. So, that would be somebody who employs from 50 people up to 500 employees. That space tends to be a little bit more aligned with our services where they are looking for a quality level individual that they can develop year after year and hire onto their teams. That is typically the size company. They usually have recruiting teams or an HR team, but they don’t necessarily have the in-house recruiting talent to go out and find those people on a regular basis.
Diana: (01:32) Ok. Can you tell us a little bit about the history [of Fettig] and how you started with the company?
Mike: (01:35) So our family business dynamic is a little bit different in this business than in some of the other stories. I was actually in this industry before our family bought this company. I kind of fell into the industry, I was a teacher and knew I loved people and wanted to work with people but didn’t know where that would take me. I got into the recruiting industry and then my dad got an opportunity where he ended up buying a company that at that time was called AmeriTemp staffing.
That was in ’07, so about 12 years ago. [I] came over to the company shortly after and have been a part of it ever since. The organization was pretty small, it was just a couple person recruiting firm then. Now we have a few offices and employ nearly 1,000 people daily around West Michigan. So, we’ve seen some major changes through the years, but we kind of stuck to the core which was finding companies that cared about people to partner with and to help them find new great people available in their space.
Diana: (02:31) So, how many years have you owned Fettig then?
Mike: (02:33) So, it’s been 12 years.
Diana: (02:34) 12 years.
Mike: (02:34) Yeah. Yup, since 2007. So, actually, [in] February we just passed the 12-year mark.
Diana: (02:41) And what are some of the challenges that you have had with the business since you started?
Mike: (02:45) Well, one of the largest challenges was pretty much straight out of the gates, a year and a half after the purchase you have the ’08 recession. Which was quite a challenge, because businesses didn’t need people at that period of time. It’s kind of like buying luxury yachts where nobody is interested in our product at that moment, or very few companies were. We saw our local day-to-day business drop by about 80% overnight. That was a pretty big eye-opener. [Laughs] And not an easy challenge to overcome.
We found ourselves going after business that was outside of West Michigan. So, we were staffing in other states overnight, which was challenging to figure out and to get started. But, we launched that. We also started focusing on different industries, different industry segments. We retained some of those focuses since then, and we would have never gotten into those spaces as heavy as we did, but we were able to find who was still hiring and went after those markets. We made it through ’08 and were still able to be profitable, which was a pretty incredible thing. I mean, our team members did a lot to make it through that.
Diana: (04:00) Well, now you are facing kind of the opposite challenge. I see that you have had growth of about 20% in the last couple of years. How do you deal with that? It’s exciting, but I am sure that there are challenges that come with that as well.
Mike: (04:11) Yeah it is. I think the businesses that are growing face challenges related to their own internal talent. Their people. Staff is, for us, the most important part of our business. You are asking for more out of people sooner than they might be able to deliver on those types of things, and you are also looking for and adding new people regularly to our team. As our team and our company grow, talent is probably one of our biggest factors, and we look to really quickly develop people and to focus on their growth. So, that’s been a challenge. I think the other thing is just working with a good strategic plan and continuing to focus on that and look at those things quarterly and focus on those initiatives because things are changing so quickly in our business with the growth. That’s been a couple of the largest challenges because of the growth.
Diana: (05:03) Well, I know West Michigan, in general, is just thriving and there is a real demand for talent. How do you keep up with those recruiting needs?
Mike: (05:11) It is difficult. Today, we are working and closely partnering with our customers to help them decide which directions they want to go, where do they want to spend money? Are they considering raises in certain departments or with different shifts? Things like that. Some of those discussions need to be happening on a regular basis today because it is getting harder, and it continues to be. We are also helping those customers to market themselves and to highlight what their strengths are to those employees so that the employees that they have they can retain and the new ones that we are onboarding can feel that they are valued and have some great opportunities. So, it’s just working closely with customers and trying to help them in an advisory role with understanding what the market is doing and how it is changing, and how quickly it is changing.
Diana: (06:01) Right, right, yeah. Well, let’s switch gears a little. I want to talk a little about the family because I know you have some other family members that you work with. Can you talk a little bit about who’s involved in the business today?
Mike: (06:12) So, my brother and I, we lead the company. He joined the family business I believe about six years ago, a little over six years ago. Our dad is less active, he is around, but he is focused on another career segment for himself and doing some other things. He is still able to give us some added insight and some value through the years that he has spent in the business community in West Michigan.
Diana: (06:36) What are some [of] the challenges that come up working with family members?
Mike: (06:41) I think family or even those that you have been close to for a long time, the challenges are, you know those people’s strengths and weaknesses and buttons to push a little more intimately than you do with others. You’re more open, so it’s easier to escalate situations with family than it could be with employees or customers, etcetera. I think the challenge is knowing when to treat family like family and to treat family like partners and having a balance in that space.
Diana: (07:15) How do you do that? I know you do a lot of hunting, we’ve talked about hunting and how as a family you do a lot of outside activities. What are other things that you do to kind of have family time versus work time?
Mike: (07:25) So, our family is really intentional about spending time together outside of work. We are big into sporting events, we cheer for Michigan State and go to games together. Also, we take hunting trips together. As it relates to business, we have to have ways that we communicate regularly. We do have meetings weekly together. Also, [we have meetings] with our leadership team, weekly as well. We have to have ways to be able to exit those meetings if things aren’t going well, and also ways to connect with outside support. So, specific advisors to each of us to help us as we work together.
The beginning stages I think are harder. If you are looking to partner with a sibling, knowing that the first couple of years will probably be the most challenging. It was for us. Today it is a very different world. Our strengths and weaknesses balance each other out and it’s a great partnership, where, in the beginning, when your strengths and weaknesses are different, you don’t necessarily value each other’s strengths and weaknesses in the same way. But, as you learn those things, you can realize that, for us, it has made a pretty strong partnership.
Diana: (08:34) Are there formal resources that you have used to sort of work with that relationship with your father and your brother? Do you work with any outside coaches or anything like that that has helped with increasing that communication?
Mike: (08:46) Yeah. So, for us, one of the primary sources has been the Family Business Alliance. That’s been great. We have each been a part of a forum group where we meet with our peers, who are going through similar like things, we are able to discuss what we are dealing with. That has been an amazing part of each one of our growth and development and how we can work on the family business.
And that also, for us, and outside advisory board has been really helpful. You know these people understand your business, they care about it, and you can grab lunches or meetings or phone calls, and they can help you to understand the bigger picture. It’s just nice to have outside opinions on that. I would say that Family Business Alliance and our outside advisory board would probably be the biggest things that have helped us, but we have probably also used other forms of outside help along the way as well.
Diana: (09:33) Good, good. So, I want to talk a little bit about the next gen. I know that you and Carla have five children and Jay and his wife have two, what are you thinking about the next generation and their role in Fettig?
Mike: (09:44) It excites me. I think some people today get concerned and there are challenges that present. I have no idea what tomorrow brings, or if any of my children or any of Jay’s kids would be interested. I love one of my nephews, well both of them. But one of them is hilarious! He is just a little guy, a super smart little kid. I think it would be amazing to end up being able to work with him and my own children.
My wife and I, Carla, we talk about the kids, what they need, and what their strengths are, and what those opportunities might look like, whether it be in the family business or outside of it. Just trying to teach each kid in the way that they need to be taught I think is really important. So, who knows what that might be! I’m not opposed to it, and I’m not saying they have to do it, it’s just going to be a balance of what works for them and what works for the business.
Diana: (10:34) I know they’re still quite young, but have you introduced them to the business by just coming here and meeting people, and just learning more about what you do? How have you done that?
Mike: (10:42) Yeah! They do. They’ve seen the business, I have some routines for when I go see other offices, I’ll even bring one of my youngest daughters along with me and let her be able to meet team members. They have some exposure. I use a lot of the business leadership challenges and discussions to help them understand why their school is important and why it matters with how they treat people as it relates with their success in business and life. So, we use those examples all the time, around the dinner table and just in one on one conversations.
Diana: (11:22) Yeah. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that, with being a family business owner. There’s a lot of responsibility to the employees and the people you work with. It’s good for them to understand that.
Mike: (11:32) Yeah, absolutely.
Diana: (11:34) So, I know that you also had a grandfather who started a family business. How did growing up around a family business impact what you do today?
Mike: (11:42) My grandfather started a business in the late ’60s, and then my dad ended up purchasing that and ran that, I think together both of them over 35+ years in West Michigan. I think it really shapes me or, as the children growing up in the business. For me, I think it helps with business acumen and understanding of how business works, the values and some of those responsibilities related to taking care of your employees and your customers. Also, helping with work ethic and understanding balance and some of those types of things.
I think that business, my dad sold that in 2004, and I think that experience also helped [in] creating a bit of a debt adversity. We treat debt differently today in this business. We make decisions somewhat differently, you learn from those past experiences. I think how my dad and I act together and how we work together is helped by my grandfather and my dad’s relationship. I’m kind of a weird balance of generation one because I have been a primary part of the growth and growing the current business we have, but I’m also kind of G2 and kind of G3 in a lot of ways. I think you use all of your experiences to help build on the future I guess.
Diana: (13:09) Yeah, yeah, I agree. Well, any last words of wisdom that you have to offer to our listeners about working with family?
Mike: (13:16) I think, for us, the idea has been that the business is important, and family is too. You have to figure out those balances for your own family business and for your own family and focus on those. Figure out when you are going to focus more on the business, and when you are going to focus more on the family and keep them both as very important parts of your life. I think then you’ll be able to be more successful.
Diana: (13:43) Well, wonderful. Great advice to end on. Thank you so much, Mike, we really appreciate you joining us today.
Mike: (13:47) Thank you.