Family comes up a lot with Charles and Steve Sukup, of Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield.
Which isn't a surprise. It leads off the half-century-old business' mission statement: "Sukup Manufacturing Co. is a family-owned manufacturer of grain bins and dryers, material-handling equipment and pre-engineered metal buildings."
But they both see it in so much of what they do and discuss it whenever possible.
Three generations of Sukups have worked at the company. Charles still lives in the family home he grew up in. His mother, Mary, will still do secretary work for Sukup.
Even when discussing his recently announced decision to transition from President and CEO to Chairman of the Board, Charles brings it up: his dad, his brother, who will be taking over, and the multiple generations of Sukups that have helped make the company what it is today.
"Three generations involved," as Charles is quick to point out. And he argues that's part of what has made the company so successful. He said that it allows them to "be more nimble and have closer relationships."
For Charles, as well as Steve, to a large extent, there was never serious thought about getting involved in another line of work for another company.
"We were raised in the business and we half-jokingly say dad thought it would be cheaper to raise an engineer than hire one," Charles shared. Steve said that he did spend a short bit of time driving a truck as soon as he turned 18 but he had other, more prevailing, interests. "I always enjoyed the manufacturing process where you could start with something raw and see a finished product," he remembered.
From a young age, their dad, Eugene Sukup, helped foster an interest in the type of metal work that's now crucial to the grain bins and grain dryers the company produces.
"We had a little weld shop about a mile from us, so it was always fun to go down and watch sparks fly," Steve recalled. By sixth grade, he could weld and run a torch. And around that time, he made a metal sculpture for Mary.
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Despite growing up and thriving in the same industry for decades, Charles and Steve aren't carbon copies of one another.
They both admit that Charles is the more cautious and analytical one, while Steve is eager to take big swings and wants to survey entire landscapes. Or as Charles puts it: "I'm more detailed, he likes the bigger picture."
Illustrative of that difference is the push Steve made to get Sukup involved in so-called "Safe T Homes" that are based on a highly modified Sukup grain bin. They were first made in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which killed at least 100,000 people, to provide more durable, sustainable homes for Haitians.
After Hurricane Matthew hit the island in 2016, the Eagle Grove-based GoServ Global reported that none of Sukup's 200 Safe T Homes received major damage, which helped to validate their uncharted foray.
Though the two have different ways of doing things, both Charles and Steve were on the same page when the discussion came up about Charles taking a reduced role in Sukup in February 2020. That, too, was influenced by family and family history.
Charles said that he decided age 65 would be an ideal time to retire because that's when his dad also stepped back from his role as president. So there was some meaningful synchronicity there.
As for the conversation with Steve, Charles characterized it as an easy one because of how often him and Steve have worked together. Steve himself took it in stride.
"I was very eager to go," Steve said.
He went further and recognized that still having Charles on the board to contribute ideas will be a boon to the way things are done at Sukup.
"It’s one that we all contribute, we look at it from different directions. Charles and I want to end up at the same place, but we might take different routes to get there."
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