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Character, leadership define RPN Executive of the Year

From RubberNews.com: DES PLAINES, Ill.—There’s an old saying: Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because reputation is what others think you are.

Either way, Steve Anton doesn’t have to be too concerned.

One of the many differentiating factors in Rubber & Plastics News naming Anton—president of Rahco Rubber Inc.—the 2016 Rubber Industry Executive of the Year was what others thought of him. Specifically, the three individuals within the industry that took time to voice why Anton was worthy of the award.

For starters, he’s a strong leader.

“He instills a sense of confidence based on his experience,” said Dennis Askew, Rahco’s business development manager who nominated Anton. “Everything from formulating, engineering and design, operations, and customer service. He’s captured that experience because they did start out in a very humble, small operation. Money amplifies people, if you’re a good person you’ll be a better person. Steve is a humble guy, an experienced guy, but it’s not doing it because I say so, it’s let’s do this together the right way and here are the reasons why.”

Part of leadership is navigating a company through ups and downs, but right now it certainly seems Rahco is looking up. It’s grown to about 100 people and nearly $60 million in sales from its humble roots as a one to five person operation. It now occupies a 65,000-sq.-ft. building, 13 times bigger than the one it started in, Askew said.

But the praise doesn’t just come from inside the company. Rep Corp. President Tim Graham said he can tell he has a very loyal group of people working for him and is impressed with the way Anton reaches out for information and avoids making snap decisions.

“He’s not afraid to ask the questions or have the conversation. He’s very hands on with the decision making of what goes on in the company,” said Graham, who also nominated Anton.

“Being a supplier of Rahco is nice. The interaction that Steve and I have over potential ways of doing things, he relies on our input to start the decision making of whether it’s a tool design or a process, so we have a very open dialogue. And it may or may not lead to a sale, but when it does he knows that we as a supplier will support whatever he needs.”

Anton also supports the community in a variety of ways, most notably in helping develop the next generation of rubber manufacturers. Mark Denzler—vice president and chief operating officer of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, a group that represents about 4,000 member companies throughout the state—said Anton has been instrumental in helping the IMA promote manufacturing in schools throughout Illinois.

Denzler said Anton has spoken to students, participated in community outreach programs, bringing people into the facilities, participating in other events and hosting school tours.

“He’s actively promoting manufacturing,” said Denzler, who also nominated Anton.

“He treats everybody like family. It doesn’t matter whether it’s someone from the IMA staff or his employees, he just has this sense of loyalty and family. He wants to help everybody, he’s a friend to everybody and would go out of his way to help everybody. He’s the true embodiment of leadership.”

One example of the next generation is Billy Anton, Steve Anton’s nephew. The 26 year old joined the firm as a part time associate in January 2010, while he was still in college. Once he graduated in 2014, he came to the firm full time.

“Rubber manufacturing is not the most sexy thing,” Billy Anton said. “But when I got here, I realized that this was a family environment. We all have great respect and appreciation for one another. It just felt like the right environment to be in.

“He’s definitely taken me under his wing and brought me in on projects. He’s been a constant support during my time here.”

Askew can relate as Steve, and the Anton family, was a big reason he came to Rahco.

“Steve has given his life to the rubber industry,” Askew said. “One of the reasons I joined Rahco just under a year ago was the complete dedication that the Antons have to their business, to their employees as a family and to the future.”

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