Ronald Beebe had the opportunity of a lifetime for any business person — he was able to retire at the age of 50. However, it didn’t take Beebe long to figure out that he was miserable as an early retiree.
“I still had a need to make decisions,” says Beebe. “And it’s hard to make decisions when you’re no longer running things.”
After nearly 50 years of entrepreneurship and dedicating his life to manufacturing and philanthropy, Beebe is currently the Chairman & CEO of Euclid Industries, a multi-faceted manufacturing, design, assembly and fulfillment company that has been in business for over 42 years.
After helping launch the company in 1978, Beebe came out of retirement to buy Euclid Industries in 2002. Prior to that, Beebe was involved with getting industrial gas distributor Airgas off the ground. He helped grow the company from $3 million in annual sales to over $2.5 billion.
Over the years, Beebe has been able to implement the lessons and processes he has learned through a lifetime of experience. At Euclid, they practice “decentralized management,” which allows the company to make strategic decisions as close to the customer as possible.
“That means we teach our people what to do and expect them to perform. We don’t micro-manage them and we don’t provide direct supervision,” says Beebe. “We have working team leaders and, we tell our people, if you have a problem, go to the person whom you think is best suited to fix it for you.”
At the heart of any process or product is always people. The human asset is the most significant when it comes to the success of any company, according to Beebe.
“We think about companies having machines and computer processing and great ideas and wonderful products, but it’s really the human capital that controls success in my opinion, and how you manage that,” says Beebe.
Among colleagues, Beebe is known as a bit of a risk-taker. Patrick Curry, President of Fullerton Tool Company, attributes his openness to change and willingness to embrace new ideas and technology as another important piece to Beebe’s success.
“Ron is a very innovative thinker — a risk taker,” says Curry. “He’s willing to invest in companies that may not be headed in the right direction, he has been willing to re-invest in the people involved in those companies.”
Curry is part of a regional business leaders’ group with Beebe and has always felt welcome to engage his advice and guidance. Beebe’s influence on the manufacturing industry around the Bay City and Saginaw areas is a tangible presence. He is described as somebody always willing to jump in and help his fellow colleagues.
“He’s been an enormous support to me on a personal level and especially in the business world,” says Curry. “He’s been a great influence on me and a lot of our other colleagues…he has helped us out with some great challenging questions and making sure that we’re making the right decisions.”
Equal to Beebe’s passion for business, is his passion for giving back. Euclid and Beebe are heavily involved in supporting the children’s literacy both through philanthropy and through programming. Improving literacy in children is a passion project for Beebe. He believes that addressing literacy in the public schools will address broader, systemic issues such as unemployment and crime.
“To be a successful person, you have to do more with your life than just be in business,” says Beebe. “I think it’s wonderful that we have a business that allows us to economically do those kinds of things. That’s part of real success.”
Kurt Cormier, Executive Assistant and Human Resources Director for Euclid, says Beebe and his wife, Gaye, are two of the most generous people he knows. About two years ago, Beebe launched the Children’s Choice Initiative which incorporates targeted public school curriculum to increase reading proficiency in all students, especially those that may have some form of Dyslexia.
“What we have found out is that one in five children in this country have some form of dyslexia,” says Cormier. “Children’s Choice Initiative basically takes the model of teaching a child with dyslexia one on-one and scales it to a whole classroom setting.”
So after nearly a lifetime in the manufacturing business, what advice would Beebe give to the younger generation of business hopefuls?
“I don’t think it much matters what it is that you make to sell. In other words, I don’t believe you have to have the perfect product,” says Beebe. “I would share with young people to understand what your costs are. Understand pricing theory. And be persistent as all get out.”
And of course, you must be passionate.
“Success is doing something that you’re passionate about and improve the world in some way. Success is when other people see you and can’t tell whether you’re working or playing — and neither can you.”