Family Business Owner Recommends Planning and Perseverance
Have a plan. Be patient. Don’t give up. Those were the messages emphasized by Richard C. Kirk, who served as a College of Business Visiting Executive on March 19, in his public address, “The Art of Business.”
Kirk is the owner of Kirk Corporation, an umbrella company for which he is the CEO of Kirk Bros. Co., Inc.; president of ACI Construction Co. Inc. and Kirk Properties; and vice president of U.S. 23 and 224 Plaza, a Marathon fuel station. All of the businesses, which employ more than 240 people, originated with his family.
In classes and other meetings with students throughout the day, Kirk shared his wisdom gained from a 35-year career in managing and administrating family companies, which include environmental construction, civil construction and general construction.
His father, Robert Kirk, founded Kirk Bros Co. Inc., a general construction company, in 1969, and Richard Kirk began working after school and summers with his father and three older brothers. In addition, his father started Ohio Hazardous Materials (OHM) in 1972 in the same year as the Environmental Protection Act was passed. OHM grew to $800 million in sales per year and was sold in the 1990s. These two companies formed the foundation for the family businesses, Kirk said.
Along with having a good plan, Kirk stressed the need to hire and retain good employees for the long term, who become invested in the company’s success. He also said it is critical to have good advisers – attorneys, accountants and bankers – who understand your business.
One of the biggest challenges of being a business owner is going through economic ups and downs, Kirk noted. “You put plans together and have good success, and then something you can’t control changes and you have to respond quickly.”
Kirk advised students that starting a business “will take five years of hard work and dedication, and you don’t have a lot of employees to back you up. Don’t give up. Have a plan. Change it if you have to.”
One of a family of six children, Kirk has three brothers and two sisters. He is married and has five children and four grandchildren. The Kirk family has strong connections to The University of Findlay. Robert Kirk, who recently passed away on Feb. 27, served on the UF Board of Trustees from 1987 until 1994.
In addition, members of the management team at OHM were instrumental in helping The University of Findlay launch the hazardous waste management (later called hazardous materials management and now, environmental, safety and occupational health management) program in 1986.
Alvada Construction (part of ACI Construction Co. Inc.) has made a big impact on the UF campus. Alvada built the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion and the Edward and Joyce Brewer Center for the Health Sciences and assisted with the Koehler Fitness and Recreation Complex. The company renovated the Alumni Memorial Union, the John and Hester Powell Grimm Theatre, the original Davis Street building and constructed parking lots and athletic fields, among other projects.
“I very much enjoyed all the young students I came in contact with,” Kirk said of his day as a Visiting Executive.
He remarked that Ohio is in a good position for business growth with inexpensive energy available, a labor force that is imbued with a good Midwest work ethic and is located at the crossroads of various transportation routes. “It’s an exciting time to get a business degree,” Kirk asserted.