Meet the members of IFAI and hear about the benefits of membership in their own words. Members come from all over the world and from every market segment, and each brings a unique view on the industry.
Beyond the competition: Patty and Charly Smail, Shelter Structures Inc.
Patty and Charly Smail build their business by learning from each new customer—and finding gaps in what the competition offers.
"We feel very strongly that good customer service extends from when you first confer with a customer to design a custom product for them to after the sale is complete—almost as if we still own it. –Patty Smail We try to focus on what the client really needs, which isn’t always what they come in asking for. By working with the client on designing with an eye toward structure function, we often find that there are opportunities to generate savings. –Charly Smail "
Form & function: Maureen MacGillivray, Central Michigan University
Dr. Maureen MacGillivray uses her functional apparel expertise to design and test textiles and teach those skills to the next generation.
"Functional design is multidisciplinary, with the user at the very center of that design process."
From surviving to thriving: Dan Hooks, Party Reflections Inc.
Dan Hooks propels his organization to new heights by maximizing regional opportunities and building a management team.
"We know that we can only provide the best possible equipment and service if we make the profit necessary to maintain that equipment and pay for the services provided."
Productivity paired: Stewart and Ross Brown, Brown Sales Corp.
Father and son team Stewart and Ross Brown embrace the challenge of change by making the most of their strengths.
"There’s no harm in trying new things, and you can always go back to Plan A if Plan B isn’t working. —Stewart Brown The interesting thing about systems is that once you start organizing one piece of information, it soon has a domino effect. Soon you’re able to organize other areas because you’ve tackled that first one. —Ross Brown "
Good, Better, Best: Charles Webster, DOWCO Inc.
Charles Webster uses lean techniques to continuously improve production and efficiency.
"It’s really important to establish an integration plan when you’re opening a new facility. With a new place full of new people things can easily get off course if there’s confusion about communication."
Trendsetter: Vernon Schaefer, Glawe Awnings & Tents
Vern Schaefer is what is known as an “early adopter,” trying new equipment as soon as it’s available. As he transitions company leadership to his daughter, he’s still setting trends.
"“Before you make a significant purchase you have to start laying the groundwork with the employees. They’re the ones who are going to be using it, and if they’re not comfortable with it, it’s not going to work.”"
Rest stops on the road to success: David Snoad, Pinz Pty. Ltd.
David Snoad implements systems and empowers employees so his business can flourish—and he can take a vacation.
"When you give people new responsibilities, they’re going to make mistakes—and some of them will be costly. You have to let them know that you’re aware they’ll make mistakes and when they do you’re not going to blame them."
Everything’s connected: Mr. Sadao Izumi, Izumi Co. Ltd.
Mr. Sadao Izumi moves the tent industry forward—by keeping the big picture in mind.
"While of course your individual business is important, you have to be aware that the industry has to survive or your business will not be able to grow. You can’t only focus on being competitive."
The human factors: Aris Makris, Med-Eng
Dr. Aris Makris and his team keep their sights on the end user when developing personal protective equipment for Soldiers.
"Between the person and the threat that may endanger his or her life there is a pile of materials—and materials science. Understanding the threat, the person and what the materials can do is how we solve these problems."
Boldly genuine: Bob Jacquart, Jacquart Fabric Products Inc.
Bob Jacquart uses the “power of pluck” to expand his company and build a strong brand identity.
"But I also always made sure to have somebody around who could help pull me up to the next level. It's important to have someone who can criticize and challenge you."
Entrepreneur in action: Steve Frost, Stamford Tent & Event Services
Steve Frost advances his company by standardizing processes—and being willing to change.
"I think at some point, companies reach a level where the best move is to specialize."
Partners in leadership: Susan Shields and Mike Miller, Airtex Design Group
Susan Shields and Mike Miller foster leadership skills and personal accountability to pursue entrepreneurial excellence.
"I think at the core of this process is getting the right person in the right seat—making sure they can do their job in the best possible way, defining what that possibility is, and connecting the dots of people to make sure they’re accountable and that they understand that accountability. –Susan Shields"
Trust the process: James Gallagher, Tensile Integrity Inc.
James Gallagher manages projects from conception to completion—by paying attention to detail and practicing transparency.
"I’m very particular on this; there is a clear chain of command. I’ll communicate with anybody under the sun, but I have only one customer."
The next steps: Carol Racine, Racine Design
Carol Racine takes on one challenge after another as she and her husband build a business and make plans for a sewing school.
"There’s such a desperate need for people who know how to sew, particularly in the upholstery arena. My dream is to teach the different techniques to people who intend to make a career of it."
The structure of success: Jeremy Calhoun, Calhoun Super Structure Ltd.
Jeremy Calhoun builds strong dealer networks to support customer service.
"I spend a lot of time researching people, to find who can help me develop the business—putting together what I call the stars of my team."
Sharp focus, broad impact: Hal Lapping, Economy Tent Intl.
Hal Lapping tightens his company’s focus to make quality products affordable.
"Improving profitability while keeping pricing low is a balancing act. In order to do this we are always looking for more efficiency in the manufacturing process and for ways to reduce costs."
Positively powerful: Kisha Moldovan, Capital City Awning
Kisha Moldovan builds relationships with sincerity and enthusiasm to boost business and advance the industry.
"If I can help create an enjoyable work environment for myself and my team—that in turn makes for a more positive experience for our customers."
The failsafe questions: John Conroy, House of Canvas
John Conroy ensures project success by asking the right questions.
"It’s a very difficult thing for everyone when you walk into an existing company with your own attitudes and style—while being compassionate to the people who are experiencing the changes. You have to be careful how you infuse yourself into the company."
Solutions in motion: Andy Moon, Baraboo Tent & Awning
Andy Moon’s concern for customers is the driving force behind product design.
"We’re always looking to add equipment and technology that help us do things faster. That’s one of the ways we’ve been differentiating ourselves from the competition."