The future has never looked brighter for Detroit-based distributor Ben B. Schwartz, says the company’s chief operating officer, Nate Stone.
And a lot of that has to do with simple demographics.
“We have a lot of good employees, and they’re all young,” Stone said. “Three of us here are 60 and over. Everybody else is in their 30s or younger. Nobody is in their 40s or 50s.”
With that much youthful enthusiasm and energy, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the future, Stone said.
“We’re poised for growth just because of the makeup of the company. These kids don’t know anything else, and they don’t want to do anything else.”
And one of those guys in his 60s, president and CEO Chris Billmeyer, doesn’t act his age, though he does have the wisdom of it, Stone said.
“His energy level at 61 is what it was when he was in his 20s. And there’s so much knowledge he’s accumulated.”
When Billmeyer does eventually decide to step down, the next generation will be waiting. His younger son, Jake, joined Ben B. Schwartz five years ago.
Jake’s older brother, Drew, came on board this summer, after a seven-year career on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Also new at Ben B. Schwartz is Steve Tucker, added to the company’s transportation department a few months ago, Stone said.
“When the right guy comes along, we’ll hire him. We just increased out transportation department because the right guy walked in the door.”
Tucker succeeds George Zumbro, a long-time employee who had worked with Chris Billmeyer for more than 40 years, Stone said.
The Billmeyer boys have adopted their father’s work ethic — a good sign for Ben B. Schwartz’s future, Stone said.
“They don’t have to be the first ones in and last ones out, but they are. And that’s motivated their dad to near-exhaustion.”
Ben B. Schwartz has long been a major player in the Michigan produce business, but the younger Billmeyers have visions of growth on an even bigger scale, Stone said.
“They’re serious when they say, ‘This could be three times as big as it is now.’”
Meanwhile, the slower but steadier growth of Ben B. Schwartz is a constantly evolving process, Stone said.
“Adding space, equipment, drivers, trailers, warehouse workers — it’s ongoing.”
Technological upgrades also are a constant, though Stone said the younger employees give the older ones a bad time about still using late 20th century technology like fax machines.
“We incorporate new technology everywhere, from top to bottom.”