Business

Best Under 40: Joe Shulfer

President of Mathews Company in Crystal Lake

BIOGRAPHY

Age: 36

Occupation: President of Mathews Company in Crystal Lake

Current residence: Woodstock

Hometown: Born in Woodstock and moved to Crystal Lake in the third grade

Family: Wife, Amy; 9-year-old child Aiden, 7-year-old Kiersten and 2-year-old Jocelyn

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Illinois University and Master's degree in Business Administration from Webster University

What was your first job? At 14, I was working for my dad’s construction business building new houses.

Favorite non-work related hobby? My interests vary on a relatively rapid scale. Now, I am running a lot in support of my wife’s marathon training and also training for a sprint-distance triathlon that I am competing in later this year. I have been spending a lot of time with my kids’ swimming and running interests, and exploring aerial photography through the use of the emerging drone technology.

Favorite book? "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

What's one word that best describes you? Focused

PROFILE QUESTIONS

What is your job and how have you found success with it?

As President of Mathews Company, my job is to deliver results not only to the shareholders, but also to our customers and employees through the accomplishment of goals and initiatives that support our 20/20 Vision – a company growth strategy that we established at the start of this year which focuses on an aggressive market share growth plan. Carrying out the requirements of my job is an ongoing collaboration between the sales, engineering, manufacturing and financial departments of our company. I have found much success ensuring that each of these elements of the business are working in harmony with one another.

How did you first get involved with your current job? Why have you kept doing it?

Despite a stable position at my previous employer, I was attracted to the new opportunities and challenges that were presented to me at Mathews Company. I felt that my strengths would fit in well with the needs that Mathews Company was looking for, and so I accepted the position of Engineering Manager in 2009. I have not looked back since. Over the last six years, my responsibilities have grown fast. The pace has directly contributed to a variety of challenges I have faced – figuring out how to overcome these hurdles through both successes and failures has kept me really enjoying what I do.

What's a recent accomplishment and innovation that you are most proud of? Why?

Within the past two years, we started to see opportunities for large areas of improvement in our 12’ tower dryer product. This particular product is one commonly used by the most influential growers in the industry – farming operations of 10,000 acres or more of land. These producers have the highest standards for performance and quality, and we know that exceeding their expectations will ensure universal success throughout the industry. Recognizing this early in 2014, we embarked on one of the most aggressive re-design projects that I’ve been a part of. By February 2014, we had a preliminary design, prototype units were sold by April, manufacturing started in May, assembly took place in June, testing began in August. The product was introduced at one of the nation’s largest trade shows in September. By October, we had six units installed. By our annual sales meeting in December, we fully launched the product to our dealers with end-users in attendance to speak about the product’s success. It truly was an amazing collaboration of all elements of our business – from sales through manufacturing. Everyone in the company was involved with this project. All are proud of their contributions that led to the successes we are experiencing.

How do you give back to the community or your profession? What drives you to volunteerism?

The volunteer activities I am currently involved with outside of work are mostly focused on my children and our church. These have included coaching for basketball and baseball, as well as different responsibilities for my children’s swim club. I look at volunteering as a way to stay close to some of the sports I enjoy but also a way to use my abilities for others’ needs, strengthen my leadership skills and help those who may be less fortunate.

What is the best career advice you have received?

There are three pieces of advice I’ve received from different mentors over the years: Number one, there is no such thing as a “free lunch” in business; number two, keep your friends close and your enemies closer; and number three, always do what you say you will do.

Do you consider yourself one of the county's Best Under 40? Why or why not?

Considering someone the best at something is pretty subjective. McHenry County is comprised of very successful entrepreneurs, athletes, business professionals, performing artists and other notable residents who are far more distinguished and accomplished than I am. So for me, it is really difficult to answer the question about whether or not I think I am one of the county’s best. What I can confirm, however, is that I have tried my best over the years and have been fortunate enough to be given great opportunities putting my skills to work. As a result, I have accomplished things in life for which I am quite proud.

BIOGRAPHY

Age: 36

Occupation: President of Mathews Company in Crystal Lake

Current residence: Woodstock

Hometown: Born in Woodstock and moved to Crystal Lake in the third grade

Family: Wife, Amy; 9-year-old child Aiden, 7-year-old Kiersten and 2-year-old Jocelyn

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Illinois University and Master's degree in Business Administration from Webster University

What was your first job? At 14, I was working for my dad’s construction business building new houses.

Favorite non-work related hobby? My interests vary on a relatively rapid scale. Now, I am running a lot in support of my wife’s marathon training and also training for a sprint-distance triathlon that I am competing in later this year. I have been spending a lot of time with my kids’ swimming and running interests, and exploring aerial photography through the use of the emerging drone technology.

Favorite book? "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

What's one word that best describes you? Focused

PROFILE QUESTIONS

What is your job and how have you found success with it?

As President of Mathews Company, my job is to deliver results not only to the shareholders, but also to our customers and employees through the accomplishment of goals and initiatives that support our 20/20 Vision – a company growth strategy that we established at the start of this year which focuses on an aggressive market share growth plan. Carrying out the requirements of my job is an ongoing collaboration between the sales, engineering, manufacturing and financial departments of our company. I have found much success ensuring that each of these elements of the business are working in harmony with one another.

How did you first get involved with your current job? Why have you kept doing it?

Despite a stable position at my previous employer, I was attracted to the new opportunities and challenges that were presented to me at Mathews Company. I felt that my strengths would fit in well with the needs that Mathews Company was looking for, and so I accepted the position of Engineering Manager in 2009. I have not looked back since. Over the last six years, my responsibilities have grown fast. The pace has directly contributed to a variety of challenges I have faced – figuring out how to overcome these hurdles through both successes and failures has kept me really enjoying what I do.

What's a recent accomplishment and innovation that you are most proud of? Why?

Within the past two years, we started to see opportunities for large areas of improvement in our 12’ tower dryer product. This particular product is one commonly used by the most influential growers in the industry – farming operations of 10,000 acres or more of land. These producers have the highest standards for performance and quality, and we know that exceeding their expectations will ensure universal success throughout the industry. Recognizing this early in 2014, we embarked on one of the most aggressive re-design projects that I’ve been a part of. By February 2014, we had a preliminary design, prototype units were sold by April, manufacturing started in May, assembly took place in June, testing began in August. The product was introduced at one of the nation’s largest trade shows in September. By October, we had six units installed. By our annual sales meeting in December, we fully launched the product to our dealers with end-users in attendance to speak about the product’s success. It truly was an amazing collaboration of all elements of our business – from sales through manufacturing. Everyone in the company was involved with this project. All are proud of their contributions that led to the successes we are experiencing.

How do you give back to the community or your profession? What drives you to volunteerism?

The volunteer activities I am currently involved with outside of work are mostly focused on my children and our church. These have included coaching for basketball and baseball, as well as different responsibilities for my children’s swim club. I look at volunteering as a way to stay close to some of the sports I enjoy but also a way to use my abilities for others’ needs, strengthen my leadership skills and help those who may be less fortunate.

What is the best career advice you have received?

There are three pieces of advice I’ve received from different mentors over the years: Number one, there is no such thing as a “free lunch” in business; number two, keep your friends close and your enemies closer; and number three, always do what you say you will do.

Do you consider yourself one of the county's Best Under 40? Why or why not?

Considering someone the best at something is pretty subjective. McHenry County is comprised of very successful entrepreneurs, athletes, business professionals, performing artists and other notable residents who are far more distinguished and accomplished than I am. So for me, it is really difficult to answer the question about whether or not I think I am one of the county’s best. What I can confirm, however, is that I have tried my best over the years and have been fortunate enough to be given great opportunities putting my skills to work. As a result, I have accomplished things in life for which I am quite proud.

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