Member Spotlight on Keith Zawrazky

Chicago Family Business Council: What year was Larson Forgings founded?

Keith Zawrazky: 1895

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

K.Z.: My wife’s great grandfather, Charles E. Larson, emigrated from Sweden and started his forging business downtown. It was located there until the 1930s, when he moved to our current location. Originally, the company produced basic hand forgings out of carbon and alloy steels. As time passed, we moved our focus from those grades to nickel, cobalt and titanium alloys, and shifted our attention to the aerospace industry. The majority of the parts we produce end up in small aircraft engines. We also supply quite a bit of product to the nuclear power plant industry.

CFBC: What family members work with you in the business?

K.Z.: We are a fourth generation company. There are currently five of us active in our business.  We do have a fifth generation family member (my son) working summer vacations here. It’s very important to me to introduce the next generation to our business, and develop the passion that’s necessary to keep it operating for years to come. I am one of those lucky people who really love their job.

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

K.Z.: Our president has been involved with the CFBC for quite some time and invited me to attend a function a couple of years ago. I don’t recall the subject of the event, but I was very impressed with the opportunity to meet so many great people who I had a common interest with. I've attended several programs since then and always find them beneficial.

CFBC: How has CFBC helped your company succeed?

K.Z.: The ability to network with people in similar situations. I’ve had the opportunity to utilize several CFBC members to assist us in areas where we are not strong.

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

K.Z.: About a year ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the Arete forum.  This is a wonderful group of guys that I continue to grow closer to. They provide a terrific atmosphere and beneficial shared experiences. I always look forward to our monthly meetings.

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

K.Z.: Realizing that most  family business owners go down a parallel road.  Everyone seems to experience similar triumphs and problems. You can learn a lot from people who have already experienced what you’re going through.

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

K.Z.: While I am no handyman, I like to tinker around in my garage. I get a lot of stuff started but never seem to get a lot finished.  It’s a real stress reliever for me.

CFBC: What are your plans for the future?

K.Z.: Professionally, making sure our business continues to prosper and prepare it to be passed down to the next generation.  Personally, getting ready to become an “empty nester” within the next couple years. It should allow my wife and I the opportunity to do a lot of those things that we were always planning to do.

CFBC: What was your first job?

K.Z.: I was a stock clerk at a retail department store. I worked there through high school and college. It was a great job and I had a lot of fun there. The retail business is a tough one and working with public provided me with a lot of life lessons.

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