BLISSFIELD, Mich. -- Michael Uckele can count himself among the businessmen who have thrived despite the turbulent economy.
Mr. Uckele has grown his business by about 25 percent each year since he bought it from his father and his uncle in 2005. The chief executive officer of Uckele Health & Nutrition Inc. said the key to his success is simple: He hired a great staff and allowed them to run with their ideas.
"Honestly, this is a group of now about 100 employees. There's far more than just me here; I've got great people," he said. "As a business owner doing a lot of great things, my focus needs to be on the vision of the business and looking at the opportunities for the business. I try to surround myself with great people."
Uckele -- it's pronounced YOU-kuh-lee -- makes supplements for humans, horses, and dogs. The company added a 15,000-square-foot addition onto its 33,000-square-foot facility and hired about 20 people this year. The company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, also rebranded itself and is sporting a new logo.
"The numbers say a lot," said Susan Maxwell, a spokesman for Uckele. "I also think it's a lot about the company culture that flows in there. The company has grown so fast in the time that [Mr. Uckele] has owned it."
Inc. magazine put the company on its list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in 2009 and 2010, and the magazine said the company had revenue of $10 million in 2009 and $13.2 million in 2010.
Uckele makes a variety of nutritional supplements for people. Its array of products for animals includes supplements that can help horses with digestive or hoof issues and dogs with allergies, joint issues, and other problems. The products are available in some retail stores and also through the company's Web site (www.uckele.com).
Uckele's success helped Mr. Uckele become one of 36 semifinalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in Michigan and northwest Ohio. Mr. Uckele said he's honored to be nominated but attributes his success to the people he works with.
Uckele's lifeblood is the equine industry, and the company specializes in making supplements that can improve a horse's appetite, performance, and mood. The expansions and innovation at Uckele are things that helped Mr. Uckele qualify for the award, said Lisa Bower, a program manager for the award.
"One of the things that jumps out to me about his story is how he was able to differentiate his product base," Ms. Bower said. "When you meet him in person, he's relatively young for the success he's achieved."
Mr. Uckele, whose grandfather started the company in 1962, said he's happy to move the family business forward.
"It's a great feeling, actually," he said. "When you think about how many small, family businesses start and fail so early ... most of the family businesses don't get off the ground. To make it 10 years is a pretty hefty feat, and to make it 50 years is such a small percentage."
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Business owner Michael Uckele credits employees for his success.