WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

Family Business Awards -- Large Companies: More than 150 employees

Lisa Wogan, Sarah Dewey and Steve Wehrly |   December 2011   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Hotstart CEO Terry Judge, left, with retired CEO Rick Robinson.

WINNER: Hotstart

Location: Spokane
Employees: 170

In March 2011, the family-owned and -led Hotstart Inc. surprised many employees and customers by selecting a nonfamily member as CEO for the first time in the company’s 69-year history.

“It was a surprise and a bit of a shock,” says Terry Judge about his promotion from sales and marketing manager to the top spot. “But I think it’s liberating and motivating that anyone can be CEO. It improves our integrity.”

Spokane-based Hotstart designs and manufactures engine preheaters for generators, locomotives, large trucks, ships, heavy equipment and industrial engines. The device keeps oil warm so it can more effectively lubricate when machinery begins operating, thereby improving reliability, as well as reducing engine wear, emissions and fuel consumption.

The company was established in 1942, when former print-shop-owner-turned-engine-heater-manufacturer Stanley Power bought out his partner. He was general manager until his death in 1958. Power’s daughters, Loie Robinson and Colleen Randall, assumed ownership of the company, and Colleen’s husband, Hube Randall, became president and general manager until 1988, when his nephew, Rick Robinson, became CEO. Robinson retired earlier this year.

Maintaining an exclusive focus on engine heating, the business grew steadily, earning its first $20 million in sales during the course of 63 years, but taking only six years to double those revenues to $40 million.

Judge says the company’s growth stems from the family’s commitment to always move forward—most recently by opening offices in Texas, Germany and Japan as well as expanding its Spokane manufacturing facility by 44,000 square feet.

Thirteen family members are shareholders and six serve on the board of directors, an arrangement that is a huge asset. They know the firm inside and out and are supportive and responsive, allowing Hotstart to react quickly—a significant competitive advantage. — L.W.

 

Runner-Up: The Bartell Drug Company

Location: Seattle
Employees: 500+ 

Holding the distinction of being the oldest family-owned drugstore chain in the nation, Bartell Drugs has weathered the last 121 years by “sticking to [its] knitting” and offering locally made products in all 57 Puget Sound region locations. While the company keeps its bright and airy store layouts standard and its branding traditional, it has deftly adapted by engaging customers with social media, offering speedy photo processing and assembling a board of directors with several outside advisers to propel the business into its next century. — S.D.

 

Runner-Up: Sprague Pest Solutions

Location: Tacoma 
Employees: 168 

Five years after W.B. Sprague founded his pest control company in Pierce County in 1926, A.H. Treleven Sr. bought the company and soon brought in his son, A.H. Treleven Jr. Now operating out of nine service centers in eight Western states, privately owned Sprague Pest Solutions was named a Best Company to Work For in 2011 by Seattle Business magazine and continues to grow and prosper under the third-generation management of brothers Larry and Alfie Treleven. To celebrate its 85th anniversary, Sprague entered a new market—Denver, Colorado—and initiated work on creating a succession plan. — S.W.   

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