How Fred Koetting led Schulte Building Systems through a tough recovery

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Fred Koetting, president and CEO, Schulte Building Systems
Fred Koetting, president and CEO, Schulte Building Systems

Distribution & Manufacturing
Fred Koetting
president and CEO
Schulte Building Systems

Like many other companies in the construction industry, Schulte Building Systems reached a breaking point with the global economic downturn in 2009. The downturn was made even more challenging, both personally and professionally, with the October 2009 passing of Johnie Schulte, who co-founded the business four years earlier with Fred Koetting.
Koetting, who then became both president and CEO, faced some tough decisions, but was inspired by his employees and knew that together they could survive the downturn. He knew it would take a collective effort from all levels to recover.
The company was forced to shrink in order to survive. A newly acquired plant in Alabama was shut down, costs were trimmed to the bone, salaries were cut by up to 10 percent and investors were asked to re-invest.
Koetting then took a dramatic step. He promised all pay cuts would be treated as loans to the company to be paid back as soon as earnings allowed. By providing that transparency, Koetting allowed the employees to see the sacrifices made by everyone.
The company achieved the collective buy-in it needed and survived. While the market declined 50 percent, SBS sales only fell 35 percent.
In addition, the company did not lose a single employee through the cuts, and by 2010 all lost wages were paid back in the form of year-end bonuses. SBS was positioned for recovery.
Any true success is a team effort, Koetting believes, and he strives to surround himself with the right people to do the job. He recognized that appropriate corporate governance was critical, so the company created a board of directors including representatives of the Schulte family and the Schulte trust as well as experienced banking and commercial representatives.
Koetting is free to innovate and allow his board to make course corrections with the overall vision or provide specific guidance as needed. New ideas are welcome and encouraged whether they work or not.
How to reach: Schulte Building Systems,