Lozon Keeps Corporate History

September 6, 2005
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HOLLAND — Fiction never meant much to Holland resident Mike Lozon; reality was just too interesting.

Lozon, the owner of The Write Way, has made a name for himself capturing that interesting reality for corporations in West Michigan. The former newspaper editor and journalist said he sees himself as expanding the writing he did as a journalist to books. Lozon, who has written six corporate histories and one local history book, said he uses the same skills and methods to record history and events as he used in journalism — but with more depth.

His first book, “Vision on Main Street: Downtown Holland’s Resurgence as the Heart of the Community,” was a 1994 account of the history and revitalization of Holland’s downtown. Lozon wrote the book after he was approached by Prince Corp. founder Edgar Prince and his wife, Elsa Prince, who ran the company after her husband’s death until it was sold to Johnson Controls in 1996, about documenting the renovations. When it grew into a book, Lozon said it opened doors for him as a writer.

“As a writer, I said, ‘Wow, What a great opportunity,’” he said. “That really was the catalyst for what I’m doing today.”

That opportunity was soon followed by a request to write the history of Bil Mar Foods. The book, “Mr. Turkey: A Biography of Bil Mar Foods Co-Founder Marvin DeWitt,” took on a different twist as Lozon focused on DeWitt as well as the history of the company.

Lozon, 57, was born in Grand Haven and grew up in Alpena. He aspired to be a history and English teacher, but stumbled into journalism when he took a magazine feature writing class to fulfill a requirement at Central Michigan University. He subsequently dropped out of college and returned home. There he found a job as a reporter at the Alpena News where he worked as a feature writer and police reporter. After five years of 3 a.m. wake-up calls to go out and cover accidents, Lozon said he decided it was time to go back to school.

He returned to Central Michigan University and graduated with a

bachelor’s degree in journalism after taking a year of journalism classes. He then moved to the west side of the state to work at several weekly newspapers in northern Kent County before covering Ottawa County for Advance Newspapers.

After marrying his wife, Jan, and moving to Holland, Lozon went to work for the Holland Sentinel, where he was given the choice of becoming the business editor or continuing to cover Ottawa County. Lozon decided to try business, which gave him the contacts that led to writing corporate histories.

“It was my wife who vetoed the idea,” he said of continuing to cover Ottawa County. Jan Lozon told him that he should try something different instead of going back to the beat that he knew.

“I could have taken the easy road and gone back to Ottawa County,” he said. “Oh, it would have been so easy, but I tried something different. You look back on your life and you always see those little twists and turns.”

After working as the Holland Sentinel business editor, he moved on to The Grand Rapids Press Lakeshore Bureau to work as a business reporter. He eventually returned to the Sentinel as a freelance writer in 1990, which was about the same time he began working on his first book.

He continued to freelance until 1998 and then became a columnist for the Sentinel to keep his writing fresh.

“You’re not perfecting and honing your craft like you are in a newspaper,” he said of writing books.

Lozon said that while he was a business writer, he specifically enjoy writing profiles of the people in business.

“That brought me the greatest satisfaction,” he said.

Lozon does all the research and writing for his books, preferring to interview sources face to face whenever possible. He said there are three phases to his projects: gathering information, organizing the information and synthesis.

“Then you have to decide what to leave in and what you leave out,” he said.

Leaving out the hard times in a company’s history is not an option for his clients, Lozon said. If they want an incomplete history, he is not the author to work with.

“I am a journalist/historian and I want to tell the whole story,” he said. “I will not sign on for a business that is looking for fluff.”

Lozon said staying true to the history of the company is important to him.

“I really try to maintain a journalistic integrity that I feel I’ve developed after nearly 20 years of working for newspapers,” he said. “I want it to be a fairly complete history of that business that includes the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Lozon works with freelance transcriptionists, a photographer, designer and editor. The editor will take the draft and make sure it is clear and understandable, even to someone who has little to no knowledge of the company.

That team effort is one of the aspects of his business that makes it unique, he said. Although the business technically includes only him, Lozon said it is one-stop shopping for a company that wants to get the history written and the story told. While others may write the history and then expect the company to find a publisher, Lozon said he takes care of all the details and the company only has to finance the project and commit time for interviews.

While the depth of the books depends on the preference of the client, Lozon said there is a wide range of time put into the books depending on book length and the number of interviews. Lozon said he has completed one book in under a year — for RoMan Manufacturing — while it took three years and 125 interviews to complete the Bil Mar book.

Lozon is now working on an autobiography of Peter Cook, a local automotive industry leader with Mazda Great Lakes and a noted philanthropist.

As a small business owner, Lozon has been active in the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce as the chairman of the Small Business Committee and working with other small business programs. He also is active in the community, working with English as a Second Language and GED programs to help people improve their writing.

Bob Roth, president of RoMan Manufacturing, said he was very happy with Lozon’s work on the 25-year history of the company founded by Roth’s father, Dietrich Roth, and Robert Hofman.

“Mike was fun to work with and a total professional,” Roth said. “When we saw the finished product, I thought he did a tremendous job of capturing the spirit, because it wasn’t intended to be a textbook or some sort of dry recording of history; it was intended to be a story.”

Though the book was meant as a keepsake for those attending a 25th anniversary celebration for RoMan, Roth said it also works well for promotion of the company, with more depth than a corporate brochure.

“We’re proud to be a family business and we’re striving to remain a family business,” he said. “We also think it’s important from a family perspective to tell where we’ve come from.”

The book gives people a glimpse of the company from many different perspectives, Roth said. “(Lozon) interviewed not only the founders and the family, he interviewed employees and he interviewed customers and suppliers,” he said. “He’s good at drawing information out of people and digging into the kind of stories of who you are.”

Roth said Lozon took the book one step farther, showing the differences and similarities between the two founders, but also paralleling their individual careers to the changes that were taking place in the industry.

“There were a whole lot of things that were going on professionally,” Roth said. “I think people found that kind of fascinating.”    

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