A lifetime succession for Ideal Group

It may have been out of necessity, but Frank Venegas Jr. began the succession process for daughter Linzie and son Jesse at a young age. Linzie said she was in a playpen in her father’s office because they didn’t have money for babysitters and her parents worked late.

It may have been a necessity then, but it’s paying off now that both Linzie and Jesse have taken the reins of the company.

Frank Venegas was a wise businessman from the start. While working for a company that sold steel in the 1970s, Frank wanted to attend the Livingston County Builders Ball, where he knew many of his customers would attend; However, the price of the ticket to the party was well over $100 and his company would not foot the bill. So Frank spoke to his wife, Loren Venegas, about it, and she encouraged him to buy the ticket and use the networking.

Part of the ticket price included a raffle ticket for a 1979 Cadillac Coup DeVille.

“He gave my mother the lot and she was eight months pregnant with me,” says Linzie. “She put the raffle ticket on her stomach, they ended up winning the raffle and he drove home that night.”

He kept it for nine days, then sold it and used the proceeds as seed capital to start his own steel company.

This company is now part of the Ideal Group, which consists of seven companies employing more than 600 people on the site of Cadillac’s old Clark Street plant. where the Cadillac that started it all was built. Ideal Group makes products you see everywhere; from covering bollards at a local ATM and constructing buildings throughout the Midwest to managing inventory at major manufacturing facilities.

Linzie said success comes from treating employees well, nurturing talent from within, and making its customers and community a priority.

“I think that really was one of the key factors in my father’s success, but it’s really the backbone of our culture as we carry the businesses forward into the next generation,” says Linzie.

And because Ideal Group was the family daycare center, the kids needed something to do. The older they got, the more responsibility they took on. It would start with opening mail and stuffing envelopes for Linzie, and Jesse would be out at the store.

“And my dad said, ‘Okay, now you can start having a job and make some money,’ and I enjoyed making money,” says Linzie. “So I started my first job posting and also sent out mailings to different people in the area to try and promote our business.”

Frank handed Jesse a broom and told him to sweep the floor.

“It was a really good opportunity for both of us because we both basically went into different areas of the business and got to work there and meet other people,” says Linzie. “And our family motto is, ‘You’re doing a great job, you can get a better job.'”

Jesse later learned to drive a forklift and then completed his degree to go to job sites as an ironworker, learning the design side and the fabrication side.

“My path was a bit different from stuffing the envelopes, but then learning how to use the Microsoft suite, how to do accounts receivable and accounts payable, how to do customer service, and really understand the insides of the business,” says Linzie. “And that’s how our path went, and it was very good because we both have different skillsets and we both have respect for the two different areas of the business.”

There was a window of opportunity when Frank expected to hand over control of the business, but that was accelerated when he suffered a stroke and was unable to work for almost eight months. He was in the process of acquiring a business when the stroke struck, and Linzie and Jesse had to handle the entire process.

“It was definitely a fast track, but it was a great experience for both me and my brother,” she says.

Linzie Venegas tells how her father prepared the siblings to take over the business. Press play to follow the entire conversation.

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