Marc Schupan, CEO of Schupan & Sons, Inc., thought he’d be a retired basketball coach or an attorney by this point in his life, but his career plans changed drastically when his father Nelson passed away unexpectedly in 1974. In this edition of Faces of ISRI, Schupan discusses the lessons he learned from his father, his approach to running a successful business, and what the prestigious award he recently received says about the family company.

You took over the family business after your father Nelson unexpectedly passed away; what were your original career plans, and how did those plans change when he passed?

I earned a degree in political science from Michigan State University. I ended up working for a high school where I taught numerous subjects and coached the football, basketball, and baseball teams. My long-term goal was to be a college basketball coach or go to law school. By now, I think I would’ve been retired and either in someone’s Hall of Fame or Hall of Shame [laughs].

My father bought the business in 1968. I never really had an interest in working for it long-term, but when he passed unexpectedly in 1974 at the age of 53, I knew what I had to do. I had a younger brother, two younger sisters, and a mother who were all depending on me. Failure was never an option for me. I did whatever needed to be done, and it’s worked out. We’ve grown from six employees to over 650, and we operate all over the U.S. We buy and sell materials all over the world and have diversified greatly. I am excited about our future growth. I enjoy what I do each day to support and coach our Schupan & Sons team.

What lessons did you learn from your father that you applied when you took over the company?

Mainly how to treat people. He didn’t care if you were the president of the company or a driver, he treated everyone with the same respect. He always ran the business by the mantra, “there’s nothing as clever as honesty and sincerity,” and that’s how we operate. You’re not here to outsmart anybody. You treat your employees and customers well and do whatever you can to help out your community, which is something my mother instilled in all of her children.

My goal has never been to be the richest guy in the graveyard. I lost a son nearly 20 years ago, and that helped change my outlook on a lot of things and helped me be more understanding and compassionate. Don’t get me wrong, I get upset from time to time over things surrounding the business, but it’s not life or death.

On your website, it says your formula for success is to treat your customers, employees, and consumers as you wish to be treated. Did your people-first approach to business success come from your father? 

To an extent. I observed him and watched how he dealt with employees as well as customers. I wish I had more time with him, but I learned a lot from the time we did have together and am appreciative of everything he showed me.

How were you introduced to ISRI, and can you tell us about your involvement with the association over the years?

I attended many of the local and national conferences and events when I was younger, where I got to meet a lot of members. There was a gentleman named Rick Mandel of Mandel Metals, he was a tremendous help after my father died. I met him for the first time at my father’s funeral, and he gave me some great advice. We’ve done a lot of business over the years, so he and his team were extremely helpful.

Over the years I’ve participated in various committees, and I’ve been able to develop some special relationships. I’ve always had a great respect and appreciation for ISRI and all it’s done to help recyclers on various issues.

What was your reaction when you learned you were named the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2022 Michigan and Northwest Ohio Award winner?

It’s a nice honor. It’s a reflection of our company and our people, not just one person. It speaks to everything our people have done, and the reputation we’ve built. Our reputation is beyond Michigan, it’s national.

How do you enjoy working with your children and son-in-law?

It’s an overwhelmingly positive experience. My wife Jeanne and I instilled them with important core values, and it shows. They all pull their weight, they want to do well and continue our culture.

My daughter Shayna is the director of legislative affairs for the business.. Her husband John is president of our aluminum distribution and manufacturing division of the business, and he’s responsible for our Kalamazoo, Mich., Dayton, Ohio, and Toledo, Ohio, facilities. My oldest son Jacob helps lead our electronics division. And my youngest son Jordan is the president of our international trading division. They’re all doing a great job and I’m really proud of them.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?

I’m a big sports fan, I bleed green and white for Michigan State. Every year we do a big tailgate for the football games, which is always really fun, especially when we win!

I enjoy education. Once a year I go to Harvard University for a week with 160 other CEOs from around the world. They work your tail off but it’s always a great time. We also helped start a public charter school called Kalamazoo Covenant Academy for non-traditional high school students and young adults struggling in life. It’s always an amazing feeling seeing them graduate. And I enjoy reading. Jordan always sends book suggestions, and I have books I read on my own.

I love traveling. Once a year I go to Canada with a group of friends and some customers for a fishing trip in the wilderness. I’ve also been to Alaska several times to fish. I am fortunate to have traveled all over the world with Jeanne.

Finally, I have three grandchildren that live close by, so I love watching them grow and spending time with them at Lake Michigan in the summer. Family is everything. Jeanne has been extremely supportive for the last 46 years and a wonderful example to our children.

Photo courtesy of Marc Schupan.