- change ups
Bouwkamp Takes Charge
The business that was once destined for the sale block landed squarely in her lap following the untimely death of her husband, Bill Bouwkamp, in March 1995.
The couple had begun preparations to sell Accuform after Bill was diagnosed with a fatal disease, but he died suddenly, leaving Lupe sole owner of the custom sheet metal fabricating business.
Although she had no desire to run the business and fully intended to continue readying the company for sale, six months after taking over the company, all thoughts of selling it vanished.
“I gave myself five years. I said, ‘OK, let’s see what happens,’” she recalls.
Today she doesn’t entertain any thought of parting with the 32-year-old business that has become, she says, her life.
“This is like home. This is like family. I just love being here, and I love working with my people.”
Dominguez-Bouwkamp and her husband had purchased the original Accuform Metal Products in 1982 from Bill’s parents, Harvey and Hermine Bouwkamp, who founded the company in 1969.
In 1984 they purchased Fascias Inc., a metal roofing company, and a decade later acquired Grayfab, a company that specialized in greenhouse fixtures.
Through two separate divisions — Accuform Metal Products Inc. and Fascias Inc. —Accuform Industries specializes in sheet metal manufacturing and the construction and installation of architectural metal.
The company manufactures original equipment manufacturer components, such as brackets, fixtures and enclosures, as well as materials-handling components, such as custom hoppers, racks, shelves, carts and tanks.
Its metal products division also develops and manufactures prototypes for customers.
The architectural metal division installs custom commercial, industrial and residential metal roofing and metal wall panel systems and fabricates specialty panels and fascia trim.
The company serves a diverse customer base nationwide, from OEMs to the construction and medical equipment industries.
It also serves West Michigan greenhouse suppliers with custom fabricated greenhouse equipment.
Some of its largest architectural metal projects to date have been the Central Weslayan Church in Holland, Rockford Christian School in Rockford and Raybrook Manor in Grand Rapids.
“I believe that what sets Accuform apart from other metal fabricators is that we have one foot in the construction industry and one foot in the manufacturing industry,” Dominguez-Bouwkamp said.
“If one industry is slow, the other supports us. I feel that we’re in a real positive trend. Even in a down economy we’ve had an up year.”
For a long time Accuform did a lot of small, $200 to $300 projects, she recalled. In the early 1990s, the Fascias division began doing a lot of customer metal storefronts and the large-dollar projects began rolling in.
But Dominguez-Bouwkamp notes that the company doesn’t target projects of any particular size; it continues to tackle projects both large and small.
She credits her business acumen to training she received in prior administrative and accounting positions with Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., and the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as to business courses at St. Pious College.
Those earlier experiences, she said, prepared her for the management role she would later take on at Accuform.
Vice President Ted Callender, who has been with the company since 1984, said Dominguez-Bouwkamp has energized Accuform with her progressive, proactive management style since taking over the helm.
She has a lot of strengths, he said, particularly in staying on top of the issues and paying attention to detail.
“Also, she really promotes teamwork. She promotes a team environment and team atmosphere where no one person is more important than another. That makes a tremendous difference in attitude.
“She does a very good job of managing money. She keeps an open book policy and shares that information with everybody in the company on a regular basis.”
These days a one-for-all, all-for-one attitude and a shared vision for growing the company seem to dominate.
Dominguez-Bouwkamp proudly notes that for the first time in Accuform’s history, it will start the new year with $1 million in construction work already on the books.
Accuform will end this fiscal year in the best position it has been in since she became president.
The company is outgrowing its 16,000-square-foot facility on Broadway Avenue NW, and she’s now looking for a building twice that size to accommodate future growth. Her sights are set on a 20 percent growth rate.
Accuform recently received a grant for ISO training, which is next up on the company agenda.
Dominguez-Bouwkamp attributes the company’s success to its stable employee base and the ability of Accuform’s 14 employees and eight subcontractors to provide customers with a quality product.
She gives special kudos to Callender, Senior Project Manager Bob Moyer and Director of Sales & Marketing Diomar “Dino” Perez for boosting the bottom line.
The whole substance of running a business is having the right people, because they’re the ones doing the work, she said.
“I really believe you have to be able to develop a team with your employees. My goal has always been and continues to be that I want the very best for my employees. I believe they know that, and together we can make it happen.
“My goal is to give as much back as I can to my employees. I would like them to build a future for themselves.”
What advice does she have for other entrepreneurs?
Be honest. Be sincere. And build a team.
“All the values that you use to make a marriage work, you have to apply to making a business work because there’s almost no difference.”