Endres Manufacturing Company
Product/service: Structural steel, railings, stairs, piers
Year founded: 1926
Founding family: Lawrence M. Endres, Sr.
Current company leader: Ken Ballweg, CEO (3rd gen.), Sam Ballweg, President (4th gen.)
Sam Ballweg, the fourth generation to lead his family business, knew he had big shoes to fill when he took the reins of Endres Manufacturing in 2013.
Ballweg is now responsible for continuing a legacy of innovation, product excellence and commitment to employees and community. He believes that it’s these values that have enabled Endres to evolve over the last 90 years from a shop in a barn to a highly-respected AISC-certified steel fabricator.
As Waunakee’s oldest manufacturer, Endres is an integral part of the community – as both an employer and a landmark business. The unique, Bavarian-style architecture and well-groomed grounds, complete with a mini-park and live goats, draw the attention of passersby. Endres hosts annual community events like Wauktoberfest – the local version of Octoberfest – and welcomes community members to visit the facility and feed the goats. It also gives back to Waunakee and beyond through the EMC Foundation.
“My grandfather was very much involved with the community and giving back,” Ballweg said.
From humble beginnings, a local institution
When Lawrence Endres, Sr. started Endres Manufacturing in 1926, the business centered around his own patented inventions and provided welding services to area farmers. After serving in World War II, Larry, Jr. returned to Endres to take it over. He was still a young man, but his father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Over time, Larry, Jr. shaped the company into a respected structural steel business. Larry, Jr. married Lee Wallin in 1950, and both worked in the business alongside their two children, Diane and Ronald.
In 1968, Endres moved to its current location in downtown Waunakee. The Endres building’s unique exterior reflects the family’s German heritage and Larry, Jr.’s desire to be a visually appealing part of the community since the addition of resident goats to the property in 1980, the hoofed mascots have since become part of Endres’ brand.
In 1974, Diane Endres married Ken Ballweg, who took over as the third-generation leader in 1990. The couple had three children, Sam, Ben and Katie. Like prior generations, the Ballweg children spent the bulk of their childhood at work in the family businesses. As they grew, family discussions focused on identifying the fourth-generation leader. It was Sam who desired to be that leader.
Sam earned degrees in finance and theology at Boston College and worked in the Massachusetts state government for a year after college. He then took a job with a general contractor after moving to California with his wife, Annie. “I learned a lot about the construction industry, experiencing what their side of the business is like – seeing what a business that purchases steel from a company like mine is looking for, what they need to know.”
In 2003, he returned to Waunakee and worked at Endres for ten years before taking over as president.
Endres Manufacturing currently employs 60 people, including three family members. Sam’s father, Ken, remains involved as CEO and Diane Endres-Ballweg heads the company’s foundation. According to Ballweg, the family’s ongoing focus on the three Ps – people, product and process – has contributed greatly to its success.
In southern Wisconsin, the Endres name is synonymous with quality craftsmanship, honesty and reliability.
“You don’t stay in business for over 90 years by lying, cheating and stealing. We work hard to maintain our reputation of being the best at what we do,” said Ballweg, who noted that Endres has customers who ask them to do a project without asking the price. “Because they know we are going to treat them well, because we plan on being around for another 90 years. Our integrity is paramount because it is not just the company’s name and reputation, but our family’s name and reputation.”
Larry Endres, Jr. believed that employees were an extension of the family, and that belief remains.
“We cultivate that family culture still,” said Ballweg. “We let them know they are part of the team, part of the family.
Endres also has substantial profit-sharing for its employees.
“They see if the company is succeeding, all the employees are coming out ahead, too,” said Ballweg. “They understand that the work they do every day leads to their own success in the future.”
It’s not surprising that some Endres employees have been with the company for 40 years.
Endres Manufacturing’s steel is utilized in buildings throughout Dane County, including the Overture Center, downtown Madison Library, Dane County Airport and several buildings on the UW-Madison campus.
The Steel Plus Network, a national member association, has recognized Endres with multiple awards, including Project of the Year for its work on six structures on the Epic Systems campus in Verona, and again for its work on the Tri-North Corporate Headquarters in Fitchburg. It also named Endres Manufacturing the Fabricator of the Year in 1998 and awarded
Ken Ballweg the Bob Coffey Award in 2003 for his contributions to the steel industry. In 2010, Ken Ballweg was named Waunakee Businessman of the Year.
Endres has always been committed to improvement and growth. Sam Ballweg notes that the balance between a more conservative older generation and a more aggressive, risk-taking younger generation has resulted in processes that positively move the company forward.
“I think every generation of leadership has shown a push to take on additional risks,” said Ballweg. “My father, Ken, really pushed Grandpa Larry to take on bigger projects, and pushed the boundaries of what the company could handle on the capacity side. I think I have pushed to make strides on the technology front, to increase not only the software systems in the office, but the machinery on the shop floor to increase efficiency and throughput.”
Philanthropy – the fourth P
Philanthropy perhaps plays the biggest role in shaping the legacy of Endres Manufacturing. Formed in 1996, the EMC Foundation gives approximately $150,000 annually to nonprofits, primarily in Waunakee and Dane County.
“My parents always gave back to the community, and that was always a value in our family,” said Endres-Ballweg.
The foundation enables her to “carry out that lifelong training I had about giving back to the community.”
The EMC Foundation takes grant requests twice a year.
“We get about 30 to 40 requests every grant period,” said Endres-Ballweg. “We look at things in our local community first.”
The EMC Foundation recently gave $75,000 to the Waunakee Neighborhood Connection to kick-start a campaign to build a community resource center. Last year, a $25,000 grant helped Waunakee-based Schumacher Farms launch its fundraising efforts to construct a visitor’s center.
Whenever possible, Endres-Ballweg hand-delivers grant checks.
“So we actually get to meet and see the people we are trying to impact,” she said.
Looking back, Endres-Ballweg sometimes wishes she could have taken a larger management role in the business her grandfather started, but she attends board and management meetings and is happy to bring Endres into the community.
“Family businesses, to be honest, always have struggles, but somehow you live through it,” she said. “Doing some of the PR work and handling the foundation became a way I could carry on that family legacy.”