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How One Concrete Company Plans to Pass the Family Business to its Fifth Generation

MILWAUKEE – Chances are, if you’ve ever plied theexpressways within a couple hours’ drive of Chicago, you’ve seen one of OzingaBros.’ trademark red-and-white candy-striped cement trucks. Ozinga trucks havebeen carrying materials to and from homes and job sites since the company wasfounded in 1928, and today has two thousand employees helping contractors outfrom Southeast Wisconsin, Central Illinois, all across northern Indiana, andnow in and around Miami.

What some may find mostsurprising, however, is that Ozinga has been led by Ozingas ever since thebeginning. Justin Ozinga, now the fourth generation family member to beappointed president of the business, talked to Missy Sherber, host ofCONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio, aboutthe challenge of keeping a family business a family business, and how he isworking already to move the company to its fifth generation.

“When my grandfather and his two brothers took over thebusiness, World War II started, and they actually had to close the business fora couple of years while they all joined the military. They opened up shortlythereafter and got into the ready-mix concrete business,” Ozinga told Sherber.“My grandfather told my dad, ‘Let me know if you’re interested in thisready-mix business, otherwise I’m going to sell it.’ My dad was in college atthe time, and he said ‘Yes, for sure, I’m interested.’ I think he was only 22years old, and he took over as the general manager of the ready-mix concretebusiness, otherwise it was going to be sold!”

The challenge the Ozinga family and business faced as eachgeneration prepared to step away from their own experience in the business, andthose challenges are not unique. Keeping a business afloat and in thefamily is a challenge that has been studied and written about extensively fordecades, including in this1976 piece on change management from the Harvard Business Review, andmore recently in another 2020piece by Forbes. The passing of a company from one generation toanother even threatened to fell one of the world’s most famous family-ownedcompanies, Ford Motor Company, as legendary automotive journalist Brock Yateswrote about in the January 1988 issue of Car and Driver.

Ozinga joked with Sherber that when his dad and dad’scousins passed the company down to him and his brothers, the previousgeneration of the family “breathed a sigh of relief.”

“We took that very serious, and that’s a burden we carry, ina good way, that we definitely want to pass it on down to the fifth generationourselves,” Ozinga said. “There are 32 kids in the fifth generation that are 18and under. That’s all the children of my five brothers, myself, and my cousinJeff.”

Ozinga explains that, already, three of thosefifth-generation kids have received Ozinga paychecks from work in the summer,and all the family members are excited about the interest so far. 

One of the reasons Justin Ozinga attributes to the longevityof the Ozinga business across multiple generations now is a family-long outlookof not owning the business but being stewards of the business.

“That’s how we really feel about it, that it’s ours for atime, we’ve been given this enormous blessing, and we want to make the most ofit and do the most with it,” Ozinga said on CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio. “When wehave that mentality, it’s easy not to get wrapped up in the hype of how muchwork you accomplish, or how much money you’re making or not making, or how manyemployees you have. None of that really matters. All that matters is the peopleand the impact you’re really having on them.”

Another strategy Ozinga describes has less to do withmanaging the business and planning succession there, and much more to do withmanaging the family itself.

“With all the nephews and nieces, we try to get them alltogether at least once a month, just so they can grow up getting to know eachother and learn how to handle different emotions from their cousins,” Ozingaexplained to Sherber. “That’s all intentional. We want to keep them close incase any of them want to join the business. It’s so there’s a lot of historythere, and they’re not just meeting each other for the first time.”

About CONEXPO-CON/AGG

Held every three years, CONEXPO-CON/AGG is the must-attend eventfor construction industry professionals. The show features the latestequipment, products, services and technologies for the construction industry,as well as industry-leading education. The next CONEXPO-CON/AGG will be heldMarch 14-18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information onCONEXPO-CON/AGG, visit https://www.conexpoconagg.com.

About the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)

AEM is the NorthAmerica-based international trade group representing off-road equipmentmanufacturers and suppliers with more than 1,000 companies and more than 200product lines in the agriculture and construction-related industry sectorsworldwide. The equipment manufacturing industry in the United States supports 2.8million jobs and contributes roughly $288 billion to the economy every year. AEMis a co-owner and operator of CONEXPO-CON/AGG.


Media Contact: Justin A. Metzger, MA 

Manager of Public Relations

Association of EquipmentManufacturers

414-274-0677

jmetzger@aem.org

 

 


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