I've had a lot of favorite winners of this publication's annual Rubber Industry Executive of the Year Award, from tire company barons to owner-operators of industrial product businesses, to bold and smart CEOs of medium-to-small rubber goods makers.
None were “more favorite” than Ric Selip of Grand River Rubber & Plastics Co. in Ashtabula, Ohio.
When Selip was selected by the Rubber & Plastics News editors for the honor in 1997, we assigned a hard-working rookie reporter to write the story about him. We expected a feature of about 30 inches in length. He gave us an article that I swear was 10 times longer.
I remember asking him, is this a rubber company president or Mother Teresa. He leaned toward the Good Mother. While editing the story down to a reasonable level, I could see why.
The guy was an outstanding leader, respected by competitors and suppliers, loved by his employees. His business philosophy was to serve customers, be profitable and treat employees well. Rather than just words, he lived it.
My only regret was that Joe Misinec didn't share the award. We didn't know when the nomination was made that this was a team, Selip as the financial/sales guy, Misinec as the engineer/machinery specialist.
It was great to see the RPN editors corrected that mistake when they selected the Grand River pair to share this year's award.
Grand River Rubber is a real success story, and an unusual one at that. After Selip and two partners bought the maker of lathe-cut gaskets in 1976, its first-year sales reached $600,000. For 2014, revenues are expected to reach $47 million.
Grand River Rubber entered a new market in 1987 with five-gallon pail gaskets that today is a $21 million business. The growth of a business always has been a factor for the editors when selecting the Executive of the Year. It's far from the only factor, though.
When I voted for Selip years ago, it was his exemplary relationship with Grand River Rubber employees that especially impressed me. That apparently hasn't changed.
Often rubber company owners will cash out late in their careers, selling the business. Twice the Grand River Rubber executives considered, and rejected, sales offers, not wanting to put the employees' jobs at risk. Instead, they went the ESOP route, which makes the employees the company's owners.
That's what you'd expect from Selip and Misinec.
Noga is a contributing editor to RPN and its former editor. He can be reached at [email protected].