For 100 years, IDEAL INDUSTRIES has developed a successful formula, committing to develop new innovations and fostering relationships with customers, employees, business partners and the community.
This fourth-generation family-run companyhas been led by the values instilled by their founder, J. Walter Becker, who started the company in Chicago. Dave Juday, grandson of Becker who served as chairman over 40 years, said his grandfather chose the company’s name not because he thought it was an ideal company.
“What he learned was that if he was going to be successful in business, the key was going to be an ideal set of relationships, with his customers, with his suppliers and with his community. If he had those relationships, then he would be successful,” he said.
In 1924, the company made the move to Sycamore because Becker believed in the importance of building these relationships and felt a small town provided a better environment for the company to realize its vision.
Jim James, who currently serves as IDEAL Industries’ chairman and CEO, said there are several factors that continue to make Sycamore an attractive location. The first is an intimate relationship with the education system. Because IDEAL is such a prominent business within the community and has such a global footprint, James said IDEAL is attractive to area college and high school students. IDEAL works with these schools to give them opportunities, James said; last year, 31 students served internships.
When building new facilities, the company has received support from the City to complete the work in a timely manner. And, the access to recruit quality individuals, whether it’s for production positions or management has been incredible, James said. Currently, IDEAL INDUSTRIES employees 600 individuals in the area.
“The traits they possess, being located in that area, their work ethic is just incredible,” he said.
Juday said there are fundamentals in Sycamore, and if they can build that, they can have a symbiotic relationship between the company and the community that will be good for everyone. That led to his action to create a 238-acre business park, which has attracted additional companies to come to Sycamore and has brought 1,000 jobs to the village.
“His foresight to attract other companies to the community has brought in quality jobs,” James added.
Known as a premier manufacturer of products that serve professional tradesmen including electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics and general maintenance mechanics, Ideal’s mission is to build quality products and services for those customers. While IDEALhas grown to feature operations in 27 countries, about 80 percent of products they sell are manufactured in the United States, James added.
IDEALmay best be known for their wire connectors, but their innovations also can be found on nearly every commercial jet, which has been constructed using IDEALbrand tools to connect and secure their electrical systems. Their products also are part of the critical equipment on NASA missions. Their Audacy advanced wireless lighting system is installed at major league ballparks, college campuses and airports. The company is now working to develop an innovation that will change the way individuals charge devices, such as tablets, phones and computers.
“We think this idea will go into the personal homes with the way they plug their lights in and they charge their devices and power their TVs and computers. These are things we see are big opportunities,” he said.
Innovation is not only about designing new products, but also developing best practices to improve efficiency, find new customers, and keep employee retention rates up. The family reinvests 90 cents of every dollar to fund innovation projects and develop programs for its employees. The company contributes to educational expenses for those who wish to pursue advanced degrees, a benefits package and more.
Operating a family-run company for 100 years is not common as less than three percent of these companies make it to the fourth generation. But Juday admits he does not think about reachingthis milestone. What is important is remembering every individual generation will need to solve new problems, and there is no solution or model that will serve every time.
But what continues to serve the company well and will always be a focus among the family and its employees is living the values, such as to treat others fairly, that every generation has understood and demonstrated. This will provide them the opportunities to succeed.
“Do I think about living our values and the answer is yes, every day. The thing we have to be careful is that we don’t think 100 years is a proxy for success,” he said.
James said reaching this milestone says they’re doing a lot of things right.
“The family is doing a lot of things right, and if we see another 100 years, it means we’re doing things right. I think we’re more focused on doing things right and the milestones will come,” he said.