This article begins bluntly: Marian is not for sale. Marian has no plans or intentions to change the business from a family-owned private company. Each point that is explored in this article will further demonstrate the reasons behind the plan and strategy of the company.
A Family Affair
Mr. Hugh Knoll started Marian in 1954. After Mr. Knoll’s untimely death in 1971, Eugene S. Witchger, a friend of the Knoll family, purchased the company. For the past 45 years, Marian has been operated and owned by members of the Witchger Family in combination with other non-family Executives. (To read more about the company’s history, check out the company history page on Marian’s website.)
The outline below displays positions the Witchger Family Members have held and currently hold within the company.
As reflected in the outline above, majority of the Witchger Family are shareholders. In addition, there are other non-family Marian Executive shareholders. Buying Marian would require a suitor to convince all of the Witchger shareholders and Marian Executive shareholders to sell their stakes in Marian Inc.
Tom Sr., Gene, Brian, Holton, William and Bill Witchger pose for a picture at the 2015 Christmas party.
Motivation Provided by Legacy
Marian leaders and shareholders have a passion for the business that goes far beyond a paycheck or a job title. Members of the Witchger family have a passion to expand and improve what they have inherited before passing it onto the next generation. This desire leads the Witchgers to put corporate interests before personal ones. Their hearts are engaged in what they’re doing. The Witchger passion trickles through the entire organization and lives in all the Marian leaders and employees – whether part of the family or not. With a legacy to live up to and pass on, leaders at Marian are motivated to work harder than a hired executive. In addition, the Marian companies are all structured so that the President at each Marian location owns a portion of the business. This further drives the personal investment that has been key to the company’s success.
An Intimate Knowledge of the Business
Many of the Witchgers worked at Marian as a summer job while students where they took on maintenance jobs, worked in production, and completed engineering or sales internships. It is a “Witchger family rule” that family members must work outside of the company to gain knowledge of other businesses prior to working at Marian, and many have made the decision to rejoin the company. Given their long-term exposure to the company, the leading members of the Witchger Family have gained an intimate knowledge of business that far outweighs that of an outsider. This has given and will continue to give Marian a competitive edge in developing cutting edge manufacturing technologies and successful business strategies.
Long-Term Strategy and Growth
Top executives and board members of publicly held companies are often focused on boosting share value and quick returns for shareholders. In contrast, Marian has continued to focus on and invest in long-term strategies. Marian leaders have structured the company financially so that it has the ability to take on long-term risks. For example, in 2016 Marian received its first order on a project they began heavily investing in 2010. The decisions behind acquisitions and opening new locations have all been motivated by long-term strategy and expectations.
As a privately held company, Marian has also continued to reinvest in the business. The motivations for this are two-fold: In growing the business, both in locations and technologies, Marian will continue to provide highest-quality parts and excellent service to customers. This has given Marian an excellent reputation in the industry. Additionally, the Witchgers know that their family is in it for the long haul, which motivates them to continue to build-up the company to leave a thriving enterprise for future generations.
Family run businesses can move far faster than corporate bureaucracies. Time and time again, Marian has exercised its ability to make quick decisions, even risky in nature, in order to fulfill a customer need. This often gives Marian an edge over competition in its ability to respond quickly to customer requests.
Marian leaders have structured the company financially and culturally to do business ethically. At Marian, ethical business comes first. “We can afford to do things the right way; we don’t cut corners,” says Chairman, Bill Witchger.
Customers asked Marian to open a facility in China so that Marian could better support the growth and expansion of their facilities in Asia. In 2003 Marian decided to open a manufacturing facility in Suzhou, China. Suzhou was chosen because of its central location in the fast-developing eastern part of China as well as its foreign business friendly culture. Marian had concerns about starting up a China operation because they were not willing to lower their ethical standards in order to be successful. If sacrificing the Marian values was the only way to succeed in China, then the Marian leadership was willing to close the business and bring the executives home. Marian believed from the very beginning of the China start-up that the core values that created success in the U.S. were the same core values that would ensure success in China. This recipe for success has proven to be true as the Marian Suzhou business has flourished and has become a valued partner for our customers in China. Marian Suzhou continues to follow these founding ethical business practices that all Marian locations follow.
Marian Indianapolis Employees at the 2016 Summer Picnic
Breeding Employee Loyalty
Marian leaders demand a lot of their employees and they give plenty back in return. Marian offers employees a quarterly bonus in which the total payout is based on the profitability of the company. The Witchgers treat employees like they are a part of the family. They hold monthly employee appreciation days where they provide lunch and recognize employee achievements. Additional employee gatherings held throughout the year include the Fiscal Year-End Corporate Dinner, Summer Picnic, Thanksgiving pitch-in, and Christmas Party. The extremely long tenure of many Marian employees is proof of their loyalty. For example, at Marian Indianapolis 10% of the employees have worked at the company over 25 years, 15% have worked at the company for over 20 years and 30% have worked at the company for over 15 years. Similar employee tenure statistics can be found at all Marian locations. To put this in perspective, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median tenure of 4.2 years for salary employees in the US in 2016.
Coping is in the Blood
Marian has structured their company to be able to weather difficult economic conditions. For example, during the 2008 economic downturn, all leaders cut their pay 20% in order to maintain employees – including the President, Bill Witchger. Such actions by the leadership add to employee loyalty. During difficult times, Marian’s ability to be nimble and innovative has aided in surviving troubling times, and it has enabled the company to experience strong growth in the times since.
Beyond the Business
In addition to cultivating a successful business, the passions of the Witchger Family reach far outside of the company. Social responsibility and corporate philanthropy are qualities that are highly valued and practiced by Marian Leaders. Marian supports a multitude of charitable organizations through donations of event space, financial contributions, and dedication of time. A recent example is the launch of Marian’s Guided Gifting Program. This program allowed each employee to choose a charity in which Marian would donate $1,000. Through this program, employees held an active role in giving back to organizations within their communities, an experience that matters deeply to the Witchgers. In 2016, Marian donated over $500,000 to non-profit organizations.
Many studies show that family owned and privately owned businesses out-perform similar sized competitors. Each point in this article supports this finding. It should be clear why Marian has no intention of selling or to modify its current ownership structure. Selling is not part of the company’s long-term strategy. This is not in-line with the company culture that has led the company to success over the past 60+ years.
1011 E. Saint Clair Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202