R.J. Scheffers, spent endless hours during his childhood watching neighborhood blacksmith forge steel with flame and hammer. Every afternoon, the first grade student would walk past VanDyken's Iron Works in the corner of Paterson and Princeton streets in Kalamazoo.
"I was utterly fascinated, " he said, smiling at the memory. "On occasion, the owner would give me a nickel to sweep the shop floors." Henry VanDyken, with no sons of his own, became Scheffer's mentor. By his 14th birthday, the determined protege was already an old hand at the forge and anvil.
Scheffers, owner and president of OIK Industries, has never lost his initial fascination for steel and flame. He has also never relinquished the old-fashioned work ethic that shaped his life. "I've always tried to be a person of integrity," he said, "almost to fanatical degree. For instance, I've never let my secretaries say I wasn't in the office when, in fact, I was. When I've been in someone else's office, and I hear them instruct their secretaries to tell callers that they aren't there, my first thought is, 'How can I believe what this person is telling me now?"
Scheffers believes his sense of integrity belongs in every OIK product. "If I can't be proud of a product, I would rather throw it away and start over. That's what gives me pleasure, to make sure that everything going out that back door is a quality product." He also follows the golden rule. "I think we've gotten so far away from this rule in business," Scheffers said. "I wish a handshake still ment what it used to. We're all climbing these ladders to success, but some of the ladders are propped up against the wrong buildings."
Scheffers is not worried about sharing his business acumen with others. "I feel a sense of responsibility to help other business people whenever I can, " he said. "I've been through a lot of good and bad. And when I see someone in business who is really making a big mistake in the way they portray themselves or their business, I'll go to them and offer my advice in a non-threatening take-it-or-leave-it method. I think we would all prosper more if we helped each other, in-stead of perpetuating the dog-eat-dog atmosphere associated with business today."Next Page