When asked "the secret" of operating such a smooth-running company as Showmen Supplies, Co-owner Scott Siefker replied, "Our goals from a business standpoint are always very much in alignment. It's not about what I or my brother Mark personally thinks - it's about what's in the best interest of our company. Maintaining that perspective is really important in a family business."
He added, "The level of service we provide is another key element. With unforeseen breakages and the like, people need that service quickly so it's the right thing at the right time. We've always seen our business being built on service. It's not just the products themselves, but the familiarity with the products, plus the follow-up in taking care of the customer's needs."
At Showmen Supplies, customers reign supreme. Marketing Director Brad Garza explained, "Despite providing such a wide diversity of products and services, we have still remained small enough to be on a first-name basis with much of the amusement industry. When customers call, they typically ask to speak to their personal customer-service representative. Though they may have never met face-to-face, they can always recognize a helpful friendly voice."
The office staff includes Alex, Becky, and Sondra - all of whom act as technical support on a variety of products. Brian and Rick also handle calls, as well as inventory management and truck routing. An outside sales team - Bill, Daren, Greg and Jeff - helps to keep mobile warehouses moving about in order to service customers on location throughout the country.
These dedicated company representatives do their best to stay up-to-date on industry needs. They even attend NAARSO seminars in order to focus in on equipment and current safety regulations. Their operational recommendations therefore stem from a solid knowledge base.
Brad Garza gave these examples of Showmen Supplies products: "The brunt of our business involves lighting and electrical products. We supply a wide variety of LEDs, area lighting, specialty lighting, and complete ride/concession lighting packages. Commonly-used products are generally in stock, and we go out of our way to obtain new or rare items."
LED lighting is very popular these days because of its reliability and cost-saving features. After innovatively teaming up with LED manufacturers, Showman Supplies now has its own line of pre-programmed RGB LED bulbs. Its intelliLED series produces an extensive array of visual effects without being controller dependent, and without requiring additional equipment or costs beyond the bulbs themselves.
Efforts are made to supply every piece in the power distribution chain. This includes power generator trailers, generator connection panels, distribution boxes, cam connectors, bulk cable, and a variety of plugs.
Location, Location, Location
Scott Siefker explained that La Porte, Indiana has been an ideal base for Showmen Supplies, Inc. He stated, "We've always felt that our location here in the Upper Midwest has been an advantage for us - particularly in the summer when so many fairs and carnivals are in the heart of the agricultural Midwest. We're right here where our customers need us at the time of year when they most need us."
The company website also reports: "La Porte is situated just 60 miles east of Chicago... Geographically, this puts us within a short 2-day delivery window for customers in Northern Minnesota, the Gulf Coast, Upstate New York and South Carolina."
Scott graciously emphasized, "Mark and I stepped into a business that was already established, which doesn't compare to what my parents had done in getting something going from the ground up - building those relationships for the first time..."
Back in the 1960s when many were dropping out, Eugene Siefker (Scott's and Mark's father) was dropping in on one jobber after another. While working his "day job" at Wirekraft Industries of Rolling Prairie, Indiana - Gene had noticed that short lengths of small wire were being routinely discarded.
With permission from Wirekraft, Gene began a side business of collecting and peddling these cast-off wires. He skillfully developed relationships with jobbers in the nearby Chicago area, especially those who were connected to the wire and electrical tap industries.
As this part-time business grew, so did the Siefker family. Gene and his wife Elizabeth had seven children altogether: two boys and five girls. By the late 1960s, the Siefkers' fledgling business seemed ready to fly. With a leap of faith, Gene left his position at Wirekraft Industries. The Siefker family business had now been fully launched.
Betty Siefker's creativity and foresight has also played a huge role in the company legacy. According to the company, it was she who urged that the Showmen Supplies trucks be painted bright red. Because this was "long before anyone saw red on the highways," people knew just how to find Gene when he pulled onto a lot.
Betty's recent retirement was handled as smoothly as all other aspects of company business. Scott Siefker explained, "It's been an ongoing process. She wound down her role somewhat slowly so that it wasn't as big a change as, say, someone working 40 or 60 hours a week who suddenly wasn't there anymore."
He continued, "Before leaving, she helped us to devise policies and procedures that made it relatively easy to bring in staff to take on sensitive areas that she used to handle herself. We've looked at it as a process, rather than as one door closing and another door opening."
"After two to three years of that incremental changeover, we all felt very confident about it. She did a wonderful job with that transition."
Scott concluded, "Retirement has taken a tremendous mental weight off of my mother. She was raised in an era when delegating key responsibilities, especially financial ones, was not in vogue. Now she no longer has to pore over account books and think about what's due next week, next month, and so on... She's more than earned that rest and that opportunity to visit with our five sisters, read books, attend Red Hat meetings, and enjoy a relaxed life."
Showmen Supplies 2014 Team headed by Scott & Mark Siefker (Front left) and Brion Ison