Member Spotlight on Jeff Miller

Chicago Family Business Council: What year was Miller Industrial founded?

Jeff Miller: 1928

CFBC: Tell us a little bit of the history behind the company?

JM: Miller Industrial was founded in 1928 as Vincennes Hardware by Sam Miller, a Russian immigrant. In 1969 Bob Miller opened an Ace Hardware location in Elk Grove. In 1986, Miller Ace Industrial a commercial/industrial store was opened in the Elk Grove Industrial Park with products, services and hours that catered to the various nearby businesses.  In 1991 the C/I store was growing so well that we built a store double in size to support our customers’ needs.  Jeff bought the business in 1995 and changed the name to Miller Industrial.  In 2008 we expanded by adding another 50% in retail, warehouse and office space.

Today, we have an extensive inventory that assures our clients the convenience of one-stop shopping and a single point of service for all their industrial hardware and MRO needs. If we do not have what you are looking for in inventory, we can custom order anything you need with access to over 600,000 MRO products.

CFBC: What family members work with you in the business (if any)?

JM: Jeff Miller – President

Sally Schumann (sister) – Director of Sales / Marketing

Michelle Miller (wife) – Sales Coordinator

CFBC: How did you hear about the CFBC and what motivated you to join?

JM: Long time CFBC member Dan Falotico is a customer and personal friend who encouraged me to look at CFBC in the fall of 2007 as we were beginning our expansion.  I met with 2 forums and it seemed TAU was the best fit and have been an active member since February 2008 including being both chairman and moderator each year.

CFBC: How has CFBC helped your company succeed?

JM: Monthly forum meetings have helped me become a better leader by interacting with and learning from other family business leaders.  They hold me accountable to follow through on my plans.

I try to attend as many of the quarterly events and seminars because they provide valuable educational information I have used continuously while offering networking opportunities.   Some of the more memorable ones include: Business Killers, Negotiating, M&A’s and Casino Christmas Party.

CFBC: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your experience with your forum and the CFBC?

JM: The relationships I have developed with both my forum mates and other CFBC members have been incredible personally and professionally.

CFBC: Is there one thing you have learned from being a member of CFBC that has impacted your business or your life the most?

JM: I have learned to be a business that has family members working in it vs. a family business.

CFBC: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

JM: Vacations to new places, Bike riding, coaching kids’ sports, and attending sporting events both professionals and my kids!

CFBC: What one book would you recommend to your fellow CFBC members?

JM: Patrick Lencioni - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

CFBC: Name one person who had the biggest impact on you as a leader?

JM: My dad taught me several things:  how to treat team members, customers, vendors and people you meet with respect and to ask questions to learn about them.  In business he always questioned if things could be done better and was willing to try new things.

CFBC: Describe your ideal customer?

JM: Small to medium sized businesses, who value outstanding service, enjoy a comfortable fun shopping experience, and appreciate win-win partnerships.

90% of our customers are located within 20 miles of O’Hare while manufactures account for over 50%.

CFBC: How does your Company celebrate successes?

JM: We have been using the Great Game of Business as our bonus plan since 2005.  We reward everyone on the team when the company is successful which annually has ranged from 97-196 hours of extra pay.  We also will buy team clothing when we win the game each quarter.  Finally we have numerous food parties along the way when we have successful days, weeks or months.

CFBC: What are your plans for the future?

JM: Continue to grow our business especially through our Miller On-Site Trusted Inventory Management program where our dedicated team will work with the customer to establish minimum and maximum levels for MRO supplies. Then our inventory specialist will visit weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to replenish stock and keep your tool crib, storeroom or other point-of-use areas organized.

CFBC: What was your first job?

JM: Working in the hardware store for dad while in junior high doing carry outs, putting stock away, putting flyers on cars in the shopping center parking lot, etc.  Anything that needed to be done.

After college I worked for Ace Hardware Corporation and after my MBA worked for Schwinn Bicycle.  We always felt it was important to get experience outside of the family business.

CFBC: Do you have a favorite song?

JM: Subdudes – “It’s been known to touch me” Listen to the lyrics its great!

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