How Al Capone Inspired the Launch of a 95-Year-Old Family-Run Company

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Creating our show The CEO Series has allowed me to sit down with some of the most innovative and inspiring business leaders in the world to get their insights on what it takes to launch, grow and sustain a meaningful business.

This episode took us to Ozinga, the concrete and building material powerhouse. They’re based in Chicago and if you’re in the area, you’re surely familiar with their iconic red and white trucks. They have approximately 2,500 employees and I got to have an amazing chat with the guy who oversees it all, Marty Ozinga, the fourth-generation CEO of this 95-year-old company.

Below are some highlights of that conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity. Watch the full video above.

His approach to leadership

“It’s not the people are working for you, they’re working with you. That’s the way I was mentored and taught. We all need each other. We all have different roles and responsibilities, but we’re working with each other.”

Related: Why Notre Dame’s Football Coach Tells His Team to “Choose Hard”

Ozinga’s 95-year history

“Our family came from the Netherlands in 1893, the year of the World’s Fair here in Chicago. The family was always in the delivery business. Then in 1928, my great-grandfather was working with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department during Prohibition and dealing with the hazards of Al Capone and all of that. He had five kids at home and decided, “You know what? I don’t want to fight Al Capone anymore.” So he started a coal delivery business. And then around 1950, ready mix concrete became the era’s disruptive technology. Ready mixed means that it is batched for delivery from a central plant instead of being mixed on the job site. And so Ozinga became one of the first ready mix providers in the region.”

Related: This Entrepreneur Started Making Short Videos to Share Her Passion for Cooking. Now Her Food Company Is a Global Powerhouse.

On their iconic trucks

“We’ve supplied concrete to iconic Chicago landmarks like Soldier Field and Wrigley Field, so it’s fun to be connected to places like that. And we’re really proud of our trucks’ red and white stripes. I think it was a combination of this keen sense of marketing, but also of national pride. But there’s also some joke that they were Dutch and very frugal and those were the two paint buckets in the garage. So I like both those stories.”

The power of peacefulness

“Our dispatch office is the nerve center of the business. It’s where all the orders come in from our customers, and then where we dispatch the trucks. It is intentionally very quiet inside. We’ve tried to get it as quiet and peaceful as possible because historically the dispatch office is a very intense, chaotic, loud and crazy place.”

Building and sustaining a legacy

“There’s an emotional connection for my family and this company. We’ve been really fortunate that we get to embed ourselves in communities throughout the Midwest. We’re committed to our employees and our customers — we want to be here for the next hundred years and longer. That’s our intention. And while change is necessary so you don’t get disrupted and die and go out of business, there are certain things that you shouldn’t meddle with. Our core principles are the foundation for who we are and why we do what we do — that should never change.”

Related: How Personal Passions Fuel Business Success for the CEO of Vivid Seats

Check out more profiles of innovative and impactful leaders by visiting The CEO Series archives.

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