Schaefer Brush Manufacturing Company has thrived for more than a century in Waukesha, Wis., making brushes for many purposes—from painting houses to plumbing, chimney cleanings and many other industrial uses. Over the years, Schaefer Brush has been successful in separating itself from the competition. Unfortunately, the company finds itself in the same boat as other S-corporation manufacturers, trying to navigate rough economic seas without a compass or a weather forecast.
Schaefer Brush Owner and CEO Harold Schaefer says, “I’ve been in this business for 47 years, and I thought I’d seen it all—but this is the most uncertain environment I’ve ever been through. Our family has been manufacturing brushes for 107 years. I’m looking to ensure that the next generation of leadership is set to grow, but that’s impossible to do right now. What manufacturer is going to stick their neck out when we don’t know what’s going to come out of Washington?”
Schaefer Brush has taken a cautious approach in planning for its future—delaying plans for growth, purchases of new equipment (including upgrades to key machines integral to production) and hiring. Mr. Schaefer says that the best-case scenario for the next year is simply keeping pace with 2012 performance. However, his pragmatic take has business sliding backward. Mr. Schaefer doesn’t pull any punches with his feelings about the situation his company finds itself in. “It’s pathetic. We were set to grow, expand and hire new people, but the failures of Washington have forced us to slam on the brakes for all of those goals.”
He goes on to say, “I’m as patriotic as any American, but this isn’t the country I know and certainly isn’t the America we can be. I try to have a positive attitude, but that’s tough to do when there is a real threat of losing business, growth opportunities and employees. And if you walk down the streets of my town, every business is feeling the same way.”