You may never have thought about the machine that stamps out the pots and pans you use every day. That press may have been so big it had to arrive at the factory loaded onto several semi trucks and be assembled over weeks—even months. Big Red Machinery Movers makes manufacturing processes possible, by moving industrial equipment for clients including municipalities, private industry, and the military. Services include moving and erecting, rigging, storage, precision leveling, and anchoring. “Moving the big bad ugly stuff—that’s what we do,” said Dawn Kochanik, president of Big Red Machinery Movers.
Unplanned succession and recession
Dawn’s father had founded Big Red Machinery Movers in 1981 with a partner. Her father managed the equipment moving operation while the partner handled marketing and management. Dawn always knew she would someday have a role in the family business, but first, she pursued a degree in Mechanical Design and gained experience working for other companies.
Dawn’s moment to step into Big Red Machinery Movers arrived in 2008 when her father (who had become the sole owner in 2003) died unexpectedly. “I took on running Big Red in the worst economy the business had ever seen,” said Dawn. “Long story short, we received a crash course in business.”
Financing the way forward
Dawn needed to buy the company from her father’s estate. She found Securant Bank willing to work with her to consolidate the company’s debts, but she struggled with the technical aspects of the application process. Dawn’s lender introduced her to the small business development center at UW-Milwaukee, where she began working with SBDC consultant Rick Gorko. Due to the estate, there was a lot of paperwork to be done, and Rick helped me get all that in line,” Dawn said.
“I asked her to draft a preliminary plan, which she did,” Rick remembered. Through several rounds of revision, “Dawn was very willing to accept my guidance and the feedback.” Preparing financial projections was a moving target because the company was in negotiations to secure a large defense contract, “which made a big difference in the financials—we had to revise the projections, factoring in the additional revenue that would be generated under that contract,” Rick said. The loan was approved, which enabled Big Red to consolidate its debts, reduce interest expense, and thereby increase its profitability.
Accomplishments with the SBDC at UW-Milwaukee
- Business planning
- Financial projections
- Workforce and market development counseling
Next challenge: tomorrow’s workforce
The industrial moving industry can thrive in both up and down markets: “In a good economy, companies are buying new machinery or expanding, and in a bad economy businesses are moving out or consolidating”—both circumstances that require industrial moving services, Dawn explained. To continue to thrive, Big Red needs to retain a highly skilled workforce. It takes months of training before a new employee is able to operate equipment on a job site. “It’s a different site every day. You might not see the same machine in 15 years,” Dawn said. She has discovered that it is tough to get a younger generation of employees into the company. “It’s neat what we do, but if we don’t have a willing, skilled workforce—“ the future of the company could become increasingly uncertain. Rick recommended that Dawn work with Employ Milwaukee to recruit, hire, develop and train her workforce through its no-cost services.
Dawn is now pursuing certification as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise, a designation that is expected to increase the number of government contracting bid opportunities for the business, and working on a strategy to get the next generation of employees in place who can be the future of Big Red.