NASSCO president grooming next generation

Gene Melzer, president of New Berlin-based NASSCO Inc., looks at the current economy as an opportunity to seize new business and gain market share. Gene, the second generation Melzer in the company, has three of his sons also working for him to assist in the quest for that market share.

NASSCO also relies on the direction of an outside three-person advisory council to help make some of the company’s decisions, including succession planning, transitions and to help with communication, Gene said.

“It’s a huge advantage to have them help steer and direct our decisions,” he said. “I’ve known (the members of the advisory council) for the last five years or so. They all are familiar with family business and have helped us in our transitions.”

According to Gene, the big advantage of the advisory council is their assistance in helping to make decisions for the company.

Oscar Melzer, started the company in 1955 out of his family’s home. The company specialized mostly in packaging supplies, and was known as National Shippers Supply Company.

Today the company is a leading distributor of janitorial, sanitary and packaging supplies. It also carries and services floor care and cleaning equipment.

Gene joined the company full time in 1967. Ten years later the company moved into its present facility in New Berlin.

The New Berlin facility was the first building that NASSCO actually got to design and build for itself. Gene asked for input from his managers when planning the design of the facility. The original building contained 56,000 square feet of space, and a 44,000-square-foot addition was added in 2000.

“I have other siblings, but none of them were ever involved in the company,” Gene said. “I just viewed it as a good opportunity for the future. I liked the idea of being independent and running my own business. My intention is for the business to pass on.”

Gene has three sons working in the business right now. His oldest son, Mark, is vice president of operations. He has been in the business the longest and has positioned himself to eventually take over.

Paul Melzer, Gene’s second oldest son, serves as special products manager. Gene’s youngest son, Kurt, joined the company last July as a sales representative.

The Melzers, including Gene, have had to work themselves up in the company. Family members do not immediately assume high-ranking positions.

Mark started as a driver for the company in the customer service department, then moved into purchasing in sales, and now is in charge of the warehouse and logistic operations.

“Mark has been with the company for many years,” Gene said. “All of us play a role in the company though and share many responsibilities.”

“The advantage with having three siblings in our business is that we all bring different things to the table, but feel very passionately about a common goal,” Kurt said. “Our skill sets are complementary, our points of view are different, and there is a level of trust that allows candid and frank discussions about the business that might otherwise go unsaid in a normal business.”

Besides the family business advantage of being able to stay local as they grow and develop, Gene is proud to be able to look at the company as something the family has built together, a legacy to continue on, he said.

According to Kurt, who worked for eight years in other companies, there is a greater level of commitment and dedication when working for a business his family owns.

“(Being in a family business) takes continuously working on making sure you are successful in your role within the business, making sure your family dynamics are healthy, and also keeping the big picture in mind ensure the success of the business itself,” Kurt said.

“I’m really very proud of where we have been and where we are heading as a company,” Gene said. “I’m looking forward for the next generation to take over. We are making great strides towards this goal. All three of my sons are involved and interested in our company’s success.”

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