Longevity & Leadership


Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

It’s a vision statement that many business owners embrace, hoping to achieve long-term success.

However, as statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show, longevity is certainly not an easy task given that roughly 20 percent of small businesses fail within their first year of opening. At the five-year mark, approximately half of companies go out of business while only about 30 percent make it to 10 years or more.

So how does a company stand the test of time? Experts believe that leadership and longevity often go hand in hand. The way a company is run — along with continued investment and innovation, among other key factors — has a big impact on its long-term success. In fact, the MBA Business Magazine recently spoke with several business owners about how they’ve approached their businesses and what they are most proud of as their operations mark milestone anniversaries in 2023.

Dedicated Professionals

At  Buseck, Barger, Bleil & Co., an accounting, auditing, tax services and consulting firm founded in Erie in 1948, the secret to its longevity is largely due to dedicated professionals working to move the firm forward from one generation to the next. “Partner and employee longevity has really been a key to our long-term success,” explains Elizabeth Sturgeon, CPA. “The current partners, myself included, started at the firm as staff accountants fresh out of college.”

Today, that leadership has been even more critical to navigating a challenging business environment and retaining top talent. “Our leadership approach is really about giving our employees a good life/ work balance, which we feel keeps our employee retention high,” Sturgeon explains.

As Buseck, Barger, Bleil & Co. marks its 75th year, Sturgeon acknowledges that the key to the firm’s future has been staying ahead of the curve. “We are really proud of the fact that we have withstood the test of time,” she says. “We have been able to keep up with technology and ever-changing markets and continued to bring the best service possible to our clients.”

Knowledge and Customer Service

For  ECONSTEEL (Erie Concrete & Steel  Supply), John McCain, the fourth generation of the McCain family to manage the company, says that industry knowledge and customer service have driven the firm since

its founding in 1913, when it was formed to complete general construction and concrete foundation work. “The key to our long-term success is a result of industry knowledge and customer service. We have over a century worth of expertise and relationships to act as a larger player in the industry, and pride ourselves on exceptional customer service at all levels,” he says.

Today, as a steel service center with headquarters in Erie and additional office location in Warren, Ohio, ECONSTEEL’s leadership team has focused on creating and maintaining an environment for its employees to grow into their careers and the organization. “We have a small team, and every single member plays a big role in our successes day in and day out,” McCain says.

As the company marks another milestone year in business, McCain adds, “I am most proud to be a longstanding partner to so many local and national businesses and seeing their successes. As a 110-year-old company, we are very proud to look back at our history and build on this framework, but also continue to look forward and innovate to better serve our customers. Our customers’ success is our success.”

Positive Work Environment

A positive work environment combined with a customer-centric approach to business has certainly helped operations, such as Erie Industrial Supply Co. in Erie, achieve long-term success. The company has been providing high quality industrial products — powder and paint spray equipment, manufacturing, machinery, cutting and grinding fluids, carbide and ceramic cutting tools, and any general supply products — since 1943.

According to Erie Industrial Supply Chief Executive Officer Vicki Boorum, longevity means creating a work environment that yields long-term employment which develops experienced employees to manage its customers’ ever-changing supply-chain needs.

“We strive to make sure our customers see us as partners in their success,” she says. Erie Industrial Supply also has a unique perspective, according to Boorum. “As we are an employee-owned company, we keep our employees involved in all of our operations with regular informational meetings to keep each employee abreast of all aspects of our operations (for example, sales, profits and overall issues related to the company’s performance),” she says.

All in all, Erie Industrial Supply is proud to be an important supplier to the Erie region of industrial supplies for 80 years. “Most of our customers are long-term customers that have relied on us for many years, and we have many great employees past and present,” Boorum says.

Hard Work and Investment

At family owned and operated Munot Plastics, the Erie-based company has been providing thermoformed packaging to businesses worldwide since it was founded in 1963.

Darcy Rees, chief financial officer and general manager, says Munot’s approach to leadership and business longevity is straightforward: “We don’t quit!”

Rees also credits hard work, evolving with technology and grit. “Chandler Rees, founder of Munot, was a very hard worker. His hard work and ethics were instilled in Chris (his son and Darcy’s husband). That hard work founded Munot Plastics and kept it in business until he passed,” she says.

When Chandler Rees passed away in 2015, Chris took the business over and continued to invest and innovate. “Chris and I made a lot of changes, a lot of improvements, a lot of upgrades and we have seen our company more than double in size, both in revenue and employees,” Darcy Rees explains.

As a family owned and operated business, Chris and Darcy Rees are very active in the day-to-day production and decisions that keep the company progressing. “We treat our employees as family. We work with our employees in every aspect of the business,” she explains. Today, Rees says she is most proud that Munot is now a third-generation business (the couple’s sons are now involved in the business) that is growing as it marks its 60th year. “We have more than doubled in size over the past four years. We are introducing new technology and machinery to improve our processes and make it a safe environment for our employees,” she says.

Unwavering Commitment

As a matter of fact, helping other businesses grow and thrive is the goal of Strategy Solutions, Inc., a business management consultant in Erie. The firm has been providing strategic planning, market research and project management services since 1998.

“Our unwavering commitment to our clients and their success has been the key to our longevity, driven by our knowledge of business best practices and willingness to take a ‘capacity building’ approach,” says President Debra Thompson, MBA. “This includes teaching and coaching our clients how to do the things that they hired us to do, so they don’t continue to need us.”

Thompson says Strategy Solutions’ highly collaborative approach to leadership enables its team members to connect their personal calling to its cause. “Our mission to ‘create healthier communities,’ provides the vehicle through which our staff and consultants can be ‘intrapreneurs,’ bringing their personal passion and commitment to support client success through their specific areas of expertise.”

When it comes to the firm’s 25th anniversary, “we are honored to have had our ‘fingerprints’ be a part of the remarkable successes that our clients have achieved.”

Among these accomplishments: a new product line for Advanced Finishing in Fairview; new market positioning and website for Decontamination Specialty Equipment in Erie; new market positioning and business process improvement for MPE Machine Tool in Corry; the first ever “gap analysis” in the state of PA looking at the disconnect between employer needs and training offerings that set the stage for early best practices in manufacturing industry partnerships; a new ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum; and, the list goes on.

“On a more personal level,” Thompson adds, “we are proud that as a woman owned business we are still around after 25 years.”

“It hasn’t always been easy; we have a lot of tenacity and have reinvented our business model several times over the years,” Thompson continues. “But we are mission driven and strive to treat every client as if they were our only one.”

It’s one of the many reasons that companies like these have achieved long-term success.