If we could harness the smiles of joy from the children and their families who attended the 26th Annual Homeless Children’s Party and convert it to electricity, we could light many future nights no matter how dark some of those nights may be.
On a snowy, blustery Saturday morning, a record number of children and their families were transported from their temporary residences at seven Chicago-area homeless shelters to the James Jordan Boys & Girls Club in Chicago. In all, more than 250 children and 100 family members were treated to a festive Christmas party sponsored by the Chicago Electrical Industry (CEI). The girls and boys ranged in age from newborns to 16 and older. Most of the children were under 10-years old.
Each child received a gift from Santa, ably assisted by Mrs. Claus and a record number of volunteer elves. The gifts were collected during the annual Steiner Electric Toy Drive, and similar toy drives at other CEI companies. In addition to getting gifts and meeting Santa, the children and their family enjoyed a holiday meal of turkey with all the trimmings.
After every child received a gift, Santa and Mrs. Claus exited the hall with a trail of happy, but exhausted, children in their wake. As the families departed, volunteers thanked them for coming and gave them a goodie bag to take with them as they were transported back to the shelters.
Through donations from CEI members, all the day’s expenses were covered. Excess funds will be used to buy much needed items for the shelters whose residents attended the party. In year’s past, the CEI has provided computers, printers, mattresses, and linens to these facilities. Additionally, the remaining gifts were donated to the Hesed House in Aurora. The shelter provides food, housing and other necessities to those in need.
Imagine you’re sitting in your office, and your corporate headquarters contacts you and tells you they’ve had an emergency shutdown and they need you to get them some critical parts by the next day. But, you realize that you don’t have the parts in stock and besides, corporate headquarters is on the other side of the world more than 6,000 miles away.
What do you do?
The first thing you do is call your sales representative at Steiner Electric and ask for help. In this case, Matt Piekarczyk and Rich Meagher, both inside sales representatives, went into emergency order mode and ascertained that we had the needed parts. They then turned to Jose Gonzalez and Rigoberto Gonzalez in the warehouse department and Jim Boss in shipping to locate, box and prepare the parts for shipping. In all, 3 boxes of much-needed parts were transported.
“From sales to shipping to the customer, it was a group effort,” says Boss, “Even the customer had to create original labels and get them to us so that they could be shipped via FedEx for next day shipping to Japan.”
It is this type of effort, this desire to help a customer—no matter the challenging circumstances—that sets Steiner apart from other distributors. And, it is this effort, this willingness to go that extra mile (or in this case 6,000 miles), that keeps customers coming back to Steiner to help them with their business and supply needs.
In fact, a few days later, the customer, a reseller of industrial machinery and related equipment, placed another overseas order with us. This time, the deadline was not as immediate, but that doesn’t mean that the Steiner team didn’t go above and beyond again.
“Without being asked, we made sure that this order was shipped to Japan on heat-treated skids,” says Boss. Heat treated-skids are heated to a core temperature of 140 degrees for a minimum of 30 minutes to kill off any insects or larva that might be in the pallet. “The use of heat-treated skids should be routine for any company that ships out of the country, but some companies don’t do it,” he adds. “I know about it because of all the freight that I have shipped out of the country over the years.”
For help with any order a Steiner representative is always just a phone call away. If you are in need of emergency services call the 24-hour service line at 1-800-STEINER (783-4637).
In many ways, Steiner’s Will Call Counters are the face of our renowned, 100-year-old company, and many area contractors, industrial electricians, maintenance workers and others depend on us as a trusted, reliable resource, much as they would a handy tool in their toolbox.
And that, the Will Call Counters are…reliable and trustworthy…and a whole lot more.
In fact, in the last several months, customers who visited our Will Call Counters have had the opportunity to partake in a variety of special offers from big-named brands such as SqD, Hubbell, Ideal, Lutron, Milwaukee, Panduit, Carhartt, and more. Customers have had a chance to see new products hauled to our facilities on specially designed trucks, displaying tuggers and benders, lighting and gear, while eating burgers or hot dogs grilled fresh on the back of the rolling product display.
In addition, everyone has had the opportunity to view great deals, participate in product giveaways, and some customers even won a prize or two along the way.
If you missed out on those special offers, don’t fear. More special deals are coming down the pike. Stop in and see what’s new. Check out our digital display boards that can be found just outside the doors of our Will Call Counters. Look for flyers on our countertops; posters on our shelves or checkout our website at www.steinerelectric.com.
Shopping may even be easier with modern electronics. You can order
products from our website or on your phone using the free Steiner Smartphone App. Using these devices, you can also manage your account, check on product availability and price, view order history, reorder frequently purchased products, and more.
Steiner represents the leading manufacturers in the electrical industry. However, it is the knowledgeable sales team that makes the difference.
It goes without saying that having access to the right product, service, or tool needed for a job, as well as the ability to pick the brain of an experienced staff member, are driving forces for a Will Call customer. But that may not be the only reasons. Often, our Will Call Counters will have some benefits that just might make a customer’s day a little nicer.
For instance, Steiner Will Call Counters offer cold water bottles to our customers, and all offer coffee. Some branches offer popcorn while others have the occasional donuts on hand for when you need a recharge. Several facilities offer USB charging stations to give your phones a power boost, and some offer electric car vehicle charging stations to keep your vehicle in operation.
So, stop in for something cold, or hot, to drink, but don’t forget to bring your list of materials. While you’re there, keep an eye out for any last-minute sales and promotions.
These hallowed words, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur reflected, is not only the motto of the West Point Military Academy, it is the heart and soul, the strength and the goodness, of those sons and daughters who serve in the United States military to protect our freedom and way of life.
On this special day, let us pause and salute all who serve in war and in peace. We pay homage to your efforts and wish you our best.
We especially honor the 30 current Steiner Electric employees who served in the cause of liberty. Steiner also salutes the mothers, fathers, and family members of those who have served this nation at posts around the world.
Of the nearly 1-million organizations certified globally to the ISO 9001 quality standard, only an estimated 20 percent have successfully transitioned to the revised 2015 standard. Steiner Electric is one of them.
Through a series of grueling auditing sessions at Steiner Electric facilities, the 101-year old distribution house was certified to the new standard in October 2017 almost a full year ahead of the required deadline.
“The Elk Grove Village facility underwent a 2-person, 3-½ day audit of our Quality Management system (QMS) and the certification body approved our QMS to the new ISO9001: 2015 Standard,” says Rich Hamer, company senior vice president and chief information officer.
Steiner Electric was one of the first distribution houses to become certified when it did so in 1994, and has once again led the industry in preparing for re-certification to the newly revised ISO 9001:2015 standard. In addition to the Elk Grove facility, the St. Charles and Chicago facilities also underwent the rigorous audit process so that the company could achieve this honor.
The ISO 9001 standard, and its multiple components, sets out the requirements for a quality management system. It requires Steiner to take a process approach view of the business with the goal of improving the way work gets done.
This effort, which is an ongoing, continual-improvement endeavor, helps Steiner Electric be more efficient, better understand our customers and deliver the products, services and solutions they need to grow their business.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) updated its ISO 9001: 2008 version to the 2015 version in September 2015. Companies such as Steiner who were certified to the 2008 version had until September 2018 to transition to the new version.
“The new standard is far more rigorous and demands that we manage our processes at a much higher level than ever before,” says Hamer. “We largely have a new system, even after being an ISO registered firm for over 22 years. I am very excited about how the changes we have made to our QMS will support our goals for continuous improvement and exceptional customer experience.”
ISO 9001:2015 Benefits
• Puts greater emphasis on leadership engagement
• Helps address organizational risks and opportunities in a structured manner
• Uses simplified language and a common structure and terms
• Addresses supply chain management more effectively
• Is more user-friendly for service and knowledge-based organizations
There are certain times in life when a young person needs a helping hand, a nod, a show of faith from someone outside their immediate family. One of the more challenging times is the transition from the safety net of high school to the world of college.
For a group of young students, including children of Steiner Electric employees, this affirmation came in the way of scholarships from the Steiner Kerman Education Foundation.
For example, Amanda Chapman, daughter of Steiner Electric Will Call sales representative Paul Chapman and graduate of Glenbard East High School, responded to the news of her scholarship with a thank you note.
“Thank you for sponsoring this generous scholarship,” she wrote. “This scholarship will immensely help my financial obligations and help further my higher education … thank you so much for believing in my future at the college of DuPage by awarding me the Steiner Kerman Foundation Scholarship.”
Chapman was one of three winners of scholarships earmarked for children of employees. The other winners included Nicole Cermak, daughter of John Cermak, who works inside sales at the company’s St Charles facility. Nicole graduated from Hampshire High School in May and will be attending Illinois State University in the fall. “I will be studying Business in Accounting as I hope to get my masters in professional accountancy,” she said.
The third winner is Catherine Genevieve Goebel, daughter of Chris Goebel, applications engineer in the Power Systems Division. Goebel is a graduate of Metea High School where she had a 4.0 GPA. She will attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she will play piccolo in the Marching Illini Band.
The Foundation also has programs geared for students who are not children of employees.
This year, for instance, April Dzik from Hobart (Ind.) High School won a scholarship. The athlete and volunteer at her church and with local community groups will enter Indiana University Northwest (Gary) as a second semester first-year student having taking dual credit classes. She will be studying psychology and elementary education.
Another winner was Marc Clay, a 2017 graduate from Elk Grove High School. Marc will be attending Harper College where he will be studying in the nursing degree program. Nursing became a passion for Marc a couple years ago when an injury put him in the hospital and in contact with medical health professionals. That was a turning point, as he turned away from business, which had been an interest, and toward health care. He has already become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), and is working in the health field while going to to school.
These students have more in common than similar ages and graduation dates. From their applications, it is evident that they embody the respect and initiative that represent the values on which the Foundation was created,says Carol Kerman, president of The
Steiner Kerman Education Foundation.
The Foundation was established in 2007 by Harold Kerman, who was at the time the company’s CEO, and over the last decade it has awarded more than $450,000 in scholarship monies. This includes scholarships awarded to Steiner employee children ($290,000), and scholarships presented to high schools and colleges in the municipalities near Steiner Electric locations as well as the Chicago Electric Association Education Foundation ($160,350). The Fund, which was established from Kerman’s personal holdings and is not funded by company profits, was started “as a way to give back and in appreciation for opportunities given to him,” Carol Kerman says.
In his younger days, Harold Kerman got a hand up from his aunt. She gave the 1937 graduate of Von Steuben High School, a public high school on Chicago’s North Side, money to attend Wright Junior College. This helping hand led to night school at Northwestern University where he graduated in 1941. After graduation, he served in the armed forces during WWII and upon his return he passed the CPA exam in 1946.
“The Steiner Kerman Education Foundation bases scholarships on an individual’s need and goals,” explained Carol Kerman. “Careful consideration is given to the prospects ability to view the world, ‘As if your glass is half full.’
“High School students are in a delicate phase of life,” she added. “The Steiner Kerman Education foundation focuses on fostering positive impact that continues the student’s path to fulfillment.”
For more information on the scholarship program, click here.
Steiner Electric might be 100+ years old, but it is still growing and isn’t too old to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of its newest facility–the Hubbard Street Branch in Chicago–with a week-long event featuring food, giveaways, and some of the newest products available from Steiner and its leading vendors.
Come out to the July 24 to July 28 event and see products from vendors including Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems, Fluke, Burndy, RAB Lighting, Lutron, 3M, and Lake Michigan Sales. Each day, vendors will sponsor free food ranging from tacos to ice cream sundaes and culminating in a cookout with food grilled by Chef, and Steiner Electric district branch manager, Brent Stack.
Other days will feature giveaways and raffle prizes, product demonstrations, and rolling showrooms known as the RAB Van and the Burndy Van. Also, each day, you can enter a Steiner Electric raffle to win tickets to a White Sox baseball game. The drawing for the tickets will be held on Friday, July 28. Winners need not be present.
During the celebration, the Will Call Counter will remain open. Any order of more than $100 that is placed at the Hubbard Street Will Call counter will earn a $5 certificate that can be used at nearby Tortorice’s Pizza,1746 W. Grand Ave., or at any of its other locations.
Please note that while the Branch, located at 2225 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, will open for regular hours at 6am to 5pm on those days, vendors plan to set up their displays later in the morning. For instance, on Monday, Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems, who is sponsoring a free breakfast, is scheduled to set up at 7am. While on Tuesday through Thursday, vendors are scheduled to set up displays around 11am. And, on Friday, Brent Stack will don his apron and grab his spatula and begin grilling about 11:30am.
Steiner Electric opened the 26,000-sq.-ft. location in March 2016 to showcase its wide-ranging product line. The facility features a Will Call counter that was designed for the professional electrician, facility, engineer and maintenance person, and an innovative Lighting and Control Technical Center, highlighting commercial and industrial products from leading lighting manufacturers.
Last March, Richard Kerman, or Rick as he is known in the halls and cubicles of Steiner Electric, gave a speech to a group of first-year college students enrolled in the business program of Champlain College, a small college in Burlington, Vt.
Kerman explained the concept of the wholesale distribution channel and how material and services flow from the factory to contractors, original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s), and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO’s) and, ultimately, to the public.
But, the open discussion evolved into much more and received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the students.
The dialogue was about family and community, history and hard work. He told stories of an 11-year-old sweeping warehouse floors and washing winter’s grime from company trucks, and of multiple generations of family working to sustain and grow a business, and of those that came before him, and those that will succeed him. It was in the articulating of those ideas that kept the attention of 24 young adults who otherwise might be checking Facebook pages or Instagram accounts.
Robert Bloch, adjunct faculty member at Champlain, says he asked the students about what they thought about the presentation, and he was met with “an outburst of ‘yeahs,’ ‘greats,’ ‘awesomes,’ and “generally positive vibes.”
“They appreciated getting an inside look at an industry to which they normally are not exposed,” Bloch says. “They felt that [Rick] shared a unique perspective as a CEO and family member. [He gave] a multi-dimensional view. They liked the personal stories and felt that he was a CEO at a big firm that [they] could relate to as a person. They appreciated his candor about the challenges the company faces, and the obvious pride he takes in the company.”
While Kerman is a successful businessman, well-practiced at giving presentations in front of groups, he found it was especially easy to talk to these students about something he knows so well, something that he grew up with, something that is in his Steiner-blue blood.
The lecture started with an overview of what is distribution. He explained about distributors and how independent organizations such as Steiner act as the conduit between manufacturers of products and services to the consumers of these goods. He discussed the challenges a company in this industry faces that include the traditional electrical distributor, and newer competitors such as massive home improvement stores, and the Goliath’s of the e-commerce world such as Amazon. While he focused on the electrical products distribution industry, he discussed how the broader industry works to get goods and services into the hands of those who need them. Eventually, however, the discussion transitioned into the history of the company, and the role of family in its success.
Steiner and Family
Steiner Electric is many things. It is a 100-year-old distribution business that over the years has grown to become one of the top 40 electrical supply businesses in the country, with more than 1,000 vendors, and operating 9 facilities throughout the Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana area. It operates five business units under the Steiner name, including electrical supplies, lighting and controls, generator power systems, automation products and metalworking supplies. Steiner Electric is, indeed, many things. But, at its heart, it is a family business. Rick is just the 4th president and third generation of the company his grandfather founded in 1916. The company is proud that the next generation has already began making their individual contributions in various capacities throughout the company.
For instance, Adam Kerman, Rick’s oldest son, worked summers at the business, and now has worked full-time for five years calling on the property managers at major commercial buildings in downtown Chicago and the surrounding area. His middle brother, Jason, a graduate of the University of Colorado-Denver’s film school, has worked in the marketing department during summers from school and after graduation before taking position as an assistant flame artist at a local production company. A flame artist utilizes Flame software primarily in the video postproduction industry to create visual effects for video and film production.
Family is a common theme when speaking with Rick, but that does not mean that family always equates to blood lines. In fact, there was a period of 40 years when the only family members at Steiner were Rick and his father, Harold Kerman.
Today, the company employs nearly 430 co-workers who average 12 years with the company. Many of them have cross trained jobs; some currently do jobs vastly different from when they were hired. Rick points to the men and women who gave most of their working lives to the company. Literally decades spent in the Steiner “family.” Recently, five members of the team retired and their length of service ranged from 21 to 50 years.
The company must always look at succession planning and making sure the right people are in the right position doing the right things. As Steiner honors its past, it must stay focused on the changing demands required for future growth. One of the newest members of the staff is Josh Kerman, Rick’s youngest son, who recently graduated from Champlain, and now has begun working on a part-time basis in the social media department at Steiner while continuing to operate a successful DJ music business in Burlington.
Josh, like his father, swept the Steiner warehouse floor as a child, dodging forklifts, and was, according to Rick, always an entrepreneur at heart. At one point, he gathered scrap wood, trimmed and finished them and then toured the neighborhood, pushing an old, squeaky TV cart to sell his “Kid Made Music.” Later, to satisfy his Boy Scout Eagle project requirement, he collected gently used sporting goods that he donated to a homeless shelter.
It was Josh Kerman who asked his father to speak at the college, some 900 miles from the company’s typical customer. It wasn’t to make a sale, but it was a chance to impart some knowledge to young, business-minded men and women about an industry that might not have been at the forefront of their thinking.
Rick says “the unique program of Champlain College allows students to start in 101 business classes, not prerequisites. “It gets them excited about business and helps them discover what they want to do,” he says. “They learn the practical aspects of running a business allowing them to better relate to the concepts of what they want to do. The program is designed for creative minds.”
Bloch calls Champlain a professionally oriented college. “We teach a solid chunk of liberal arts, but we emphasize professional preparation,” he says. “We believe in an educational philosophy known as experiential learning, which we value very highly … The more we can offer real-world experience to the students tends to be good.”
Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. Not just hands-on experience, but in the reflection, critical analysis and synthesis of the experience. One method to deliver an “experiential learning experience” is by inviting people from the real world to come into the classroom to talk in depth, not only about what they do, but about their lives and how they got there, Bloch added. “This is why I jumped at the chance to have Rick speak.”
For instance, when discussing Kerman’s speech, the question of the company’s worth was broached, which led to a discussion on how companies are valued in general: cash-flow multiples; underlying assets, both hard and soft (e.g. customer and supplier relationships); growth potential. “It was a nice, bonus learning moment,” Bloch says.
“So much of what kids are exposed to today tells them that business sucks, and that business people are all a bunch of money-grubbers, but I believe business is one of the most creative forces we have in society for good, and so, it was great to have a guy like Rick come into the classroom and exude his passion for his business. A 20-year-old might not think the industry is glamorous, but they were able to see someone like Rick who was able to make wholesale distribution stimulating and fun.”
While Bloch understands that with Josh graduating, there might be less incentive to visit the school that is situated on the shores of Lake Champlain near Canada, “but if he does,” says Bloch, “I would love to have him give the presentation again, and this time in front of a larger audience.”