Bill Schiltz is not a boastful man.
“I consider myself a bus driver sometimes,” says the mild-mannered, 59-year-old chairman and CEO of Liquid Control Corp. when asked to expound on the success of his company. “I’m the guy that points the bus, and a whole lot of other people who are very smart have gotten on the bus. They’re the ones who have really helped to make the business grow. I can’t sit here and take the credit.”
It is not surprising, then, that his keys to success “a menu of things that have to blend together” are simple, common-sense practices you don’t have to attend Harvard Business School to understand or apply. The results, however, are no less impressive. In the 25 years since Schiltz and two former partners started Liquid Control, a North Canton designer and builder of resin metering, mixing and dispensing machinery for the electronics, automotive, general assembly and composites industries, the business has spawned one new company and purchased two others. Today the company employs 165 people at facilities in North Canton, Indianapolis and Stuart, Fla.
The first item on Schiltz’s “menu of success” is “surround yourself with knowledgeable people.”
“This means affiliating yourself with people that know more about nearly everything than you do, then giving them the support to run with their ideas,” he says.
When asked why some seem to balk at hiring anyone who is as smart as or smarter than they are let alone providing them with the authority to make a decision Schiltz replies, “They’re nuts.
“If a manager of a department is hiring somebody, I tell them, ‘Try and find somebody who’s going to take your job. When they take your job, you move up. If you hire somebody who can’t take your job, you’re stuck,’” he says.
Setting goals is also crucial. Schiltz insists that anything can be accomplished by simply taking one step at a time.
“People will look at something and say that it’s just too much to do,” he says. “But it’s just amazing how, if you take that first step and accomplish something, all of a sudden things start to fall in place.”
Those precious first steps, he adds, are what many people commonly mistake for luck.
“You’re gonna have some losers, and you’re gonna have some things that don’t work right,” he says.
But the chances for success increase with the number of first steps taken.
That take-one-step-at-a-time philosophy was particularly helpful to Schiltz during Liquid Control’s early days, when he was functioning as the company’s vice president of sales, lab director, technical director and chief mechanic. He remembers a time when he’d leave for work at 6 each morning and return around 10 each night.
Saturdays were spent at the office; Sundays were spent doing paperwork at home. Any free time was devoted to his wife and children. Sacrificing personal time was (and still is) necessary to complete all the tasks on his to-do list.
“In fact, it becomes difficult to separate personal time and business time because you are generally solving problems or coming up with solutions 24 hours a day,” he says.
During his time as a technical director and chief mechanic, Schiltz learned the importance of starting every day in an orderly environment. After setting up equipment for a demonstration the next morning, he’d go home without tidying his work area a chore he was inevitably forced to quickly complete before prospective customers arrived.
“I was totally despondent at one point,” he admits. “I thought, ‘I’m going the wrong way. I’m not growing.’”
He eventually realized, however, that the mess was affecting his mood. The simple act of putting the tools in a tool box and cleaning the floor at the end of the day, no matter how late the hour, gave him a surprising sense of closure.
“When you walk in the next day, your attitude is entirely different,” he says. “You start again. Otherwise, it all runs together.”
It is tenacity, of course, that drives individuals to strive for the impossible, to work evenings and weekends, even to sweep a floor late at night. Schiltz, who earned the nickname “Bulldog” as 140-pound road-crew laborer during his sophomore year of college, still defines “done” as “when you’re successful.”
“When I see something that I think can happen, I get into it, and I won’t stop, even when other people say, ‘You can’t do it,’” he declares. “Something tells me that it’s worth pursuing.”
Is there a point, however, when Schiltz finally does give up?
“I can’t think of what it is,” he replies. How to reach: Liquid Control, (330) 494-1313
Lynne Thompson is a free-lance writer for SBN.