Steve Anton literally has grown up in the rubber industry. He was just 24 years old in 1976 when his father, Bill Anton, asked him to come run Rahco Rubber Inc., a Chicago-area rubber products firm his father and two partners had started just four years earlier.
At first Steve resisted, not wanting to take the job, but he quickly relented and came aboard. Back then, Bill Anton must have seen that Steve had all the attributes needed to become a good leader.
He's outgoing, yet humble, intelligent, understands how to run a business and loves the company he owns with his two brothers, Jim and Jack. He cares about his employees, customers, the quality of products his company produces. Rahco Rubber is a family owned business that operates in a family atmosphere, thanks mainly to Anton.
That concept works. Rahco has many that have been business partners for over 35 years. And more than 30 percent of its employees have remained with the company for 20 years or more.
Most importantly, he is comfortable working with his brothers as a team to oversee all aspects of the business in Des Plaines, Ill. They are second generation owners of the firm, but Steve Anton is actually the only person that has run the operation since his father asked him to take the reins. Steve, however, said with he and his brothers, titles don't really mean anything. They're partners and share the duties.
Rahco is like many of the mid-sized companies that populate the U.S. rubber product manufacturing landscape. It had four employees operating out of a small plant when he came aboard in the mid-1970s. Slowly but steadily he guided the tiny business to new heights each year. It chose to grow organically, rather than make splashes with acquisitions.
Today, Rahco is a solid business with a growing customer base and product portfolio. In fact, it's a one-stop vertically integrated company. Rahco operates out of a 65,000-sq.-ft. plant in Des Plaines, Ill., and boasts sales in the $60 million range.
Steve Anton also draws praise from those outside the company. Rep Corp. President Tim Graham, a machinery supplier to the molded goods firm, said he is impressed with how Anton avoids making snap decisions. Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturers Association said Anton treats everybody like family and has been active in promoting manufacturing in schools throughout Illinois.
These are just some of the reasons that led Rubber & Plastics News to select Steve Anton as its 2016 Rubber Industry Executive of the Year.
It's clear that his father's faith in him paid off.