Family name: Schiebout
What the company does: Delta ModTech and its subsidiaries are engineers and manufacturers of web coating, converting and packaging equipment for a variety of industries.
Type of Ownership: S corp.
Principal owners: Dave Schiebout, Ronda Schiebout, Evan Schiebout, Wendy Stromberg, Emily Allegra
Family members in the business: 5
Family members on the board: 2
“We were founded loving risk.”
Evan Schiebout, co-owner, Delta ModTech
Shortly after leaving his union job in 1978, Dave Schiebout, an electrical contractor by trade, got to talking at church with a home builder, who asked him to wire the houses he was building. Once that job was completed, it didn’t take long to find another project and then another. By 1978, Delta ModTech was born.
“No” was not in his vocabulay.Schiebout developed a reputation for trying new things and learning from failures. Customers knew he’d do just about anything to get a machine built or repaired to fulfill a customer’s needs.
“We were founded loving risk,” says his son, Evan Schiebout, who is an owner of the company. “My dad wanted to take on enough risk that others weren’t willing to do,” a philosophy that helped to distinguish Delta ModTech from the competition.
Dave Schiebout saw failure as a way to develop expertise, another value that became paramount at Delta. “If he did fail, he did it differently the next time. He always just moved, that was his method,” says his daughter, company co-owner Wendy Stromberg.
The hard-earned expertise has resulted in a clientele in nearly 30 countries and 30-year customers. Today, Delta ModTech designs and manufactures web coating, converting and packaging solutions for a variety of industries including medical, pharmaceutical, electronic, automotive, battery and fuel cell, and radio-frequency identification (RFID). To keep up with growing demand, Delta grew its staff by 30 percent in the past year to a total of 190 employees, including a “think tank” of around 100 engineers. In August 2020, Delta ModTech moved to a new 230,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Minneapolis. It also operates showrooms and service centers in Pennsylvania and Sweden.
But even as it has grown into a global enterprise, Delta ModTech prides itself on treating customers the same way Dave Schiebout did when he was starting out. “A customer comes to us with a product they want to make, and we say, ‘Here is how we would help develop this product for you and mass-produce it.’ We design that equipment and build it,” says Evan Schiebout. Delta ModTech then test-runs the equipment, ships it to its customer, and provides ongoing service—much of which can be performed online via its team in Minnesota.
Marketing is challenging, however, because, as Stromberg says, “People take our name off of our machines because it is ultimately about who gets to market first. They don’t want to tell the world about [who made their machine]. We are a best-kept secret.”
Risk and expertise are values that have garnered solid business relationships at Delta, but the most esteemed value among the owners and employees is servant leadership, a principle that Dave Schiebout embraced early on, after hearing about the idea at a Bible study. That value manifests in celebrating employee accomplishments and supporting staff members when they have health issues or other struggles. It’s also evident in gestures like building a gym in the new facility to encourage wellness.
Servant leadership extends to the family’s humble beginnings at the company. “We all did janitor work here when we were kids,” says Evan Schiebout. “We biked over and vacuumed the floors and took out the trash at night. Eventually, I started working summertimes, and when I was 16, I started building machines on the floor.” Both he and Stromberg earned degrees in mechanical engineering before joining the family business.
Stromberg has moved up to director of people and culture after starting in mechanical design A third sibling, Emily Allegra, is focused on developing the third generation.
Other employees have begun in a similar fashion. CFO Toby Fuerst’s son began by sweeping the floor of the warehouse, eventually moving into an engineering internship. Fuerst admits to “wearing many hats” at Delta in his 24-year tenure. He calls this strategy “lifting people’s lids.” He explains, “We aim at having people rise to a new level, stretching and allowing growth to happen. We want everyone to be able to stretch and think, then allow them to rise up.”
“We are relatively flat-managed,” Stromberg adds. “There are a few key positions we need some oversight in, but in general we would much rather teach people to lead up, down, sideways. Rather than saying, ‘You’re a manager,’ we find far more satisfaction in being given responsibilities to lead than being told what to do.”
With the company now fully in the hands of the second generation, Dave and Ronda Schiebout remain involved as board members. It’s important to all of them that the business remains in the family. Aware of the high percentage of companies that falter when a second generation takes control, the Schiebout siblings are actively developing leadership and skill training—for themselves and for their children.
Glenn VanHuzlen, a 13-year customer service employee, sums up what Delta ModTech represents. “The family has carried on the culture Dave started without missing a beat. The emphasis is on service. Dave brought people along, challenged them, and let them do their thing. He wanted his people to grow, so he gave them responsibility and expected them to do it right.” Now his children are determined to pass it along.
Their core values have anchored this company through the challenges and successes of a business that does more than just create custom manufacturing solutions; it has created a culture of togetherness with an eye to future generations.