Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mike Raszeja

Mike Raszeja:

A Café Conversation

By: Joseph W. Norman

Mike Raszeja is a Western New Yorker with a wide range of experiences. He served in the Army during the Vietnam era, got a degree in Chemistry, worked for Kodak in its hey-day, owned and operated a chemical repackaging business with a friend, and served on the Board for the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce. Now in retirement, he is an ambitious traveler with his wife and an avid golfer. He uses the latter to help reconnect with his friends and business associates from the past. Mike continues to make his presence known in the community, working with multiple organizations that fit his variety of interests.

VIP Fact Sheet: Mike Raszeja

  • Has a lovely wife and two children; a son, 33, and a daughter, 27
  • Thanks to his daughter and her husband, his wife and he are expecting their first grandchild in February of 2008
  • Is an avid golfer – his first exposure was for a physical education requirement in college
  • Attended the University of Central Florida; graduating in 1972 with a degree in Chemistry
  • Worked a little over twenty years for Kodak
  • Purchased and ran Aldon Corporation in Avon, New York until a year and a half ago when his partner bought him out
  • Loves to travel the world
  • Enjoys studying investing and finance; is involved with the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII)
  • Has a penchant for politics
  • Chaired the Public Policy Committee for the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce
  • Has a great sense of humor and enjoys some good joking around

Mike on his experience in sales and marketing for Kodak:

“What was interesting is I would go on sales calls with people. A lot of times I think people would think, “Oh boy, here comes another sales guy.” Then, we would get into a conversation about what their chemical needs might be and all of a sudden as we were talking they realized that it wasn’t another sales guy talking, it was another chemist. So, we were having a technical conversation and then their expectations of what I, and what Kodak, could do for them was raised. It was interesting on Kodak’s part that they took the chance on moving a technically trained person into that kind of environment. In this particular case it worked out for them and for me. That was a great opportunity.”

Mike on tragedy:

I always marvel at people who experience a tragedy, because you have two choices when that happens. You can rise above it and learn from it and really accomplish stuff, or you can just wallow in it for the rest of your life and say, “Oh, woe is me.”

Mike on business ownership:

As a business owner, if you get there at 6 AM and there is a truck that needs loaded and nobody is there, you load the truck. If the floor needs swept and nobody is there, you sweep the floor. There are no limits to how many hours you work when you run your own business.

So, if you are going to run your own business, you have got to have a good work ethic.

The good part is you end up having good people working for you. It is interesting to help them in their lives by paying them a decent salary and ensuring that they have a good job. You also get to learn a little bit about their families along the way – which is fun too.

JWN: What was your experience like at the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce?

MR: I served under Steve Newvine. I have an interest in politics, so I led the sub-group on public policy. We got to go to Albany and sit in the office with our State Legislatures who were responsible for Livingston County. It was back in the late 90’s when supposedly the state of New York had a budget surplus. So, we went to the legislature, Senator Volker at the time, and tried to convince him that the state doesn’t have a surplus.

We discussed micro verse macro economics. At the state level, they chose to disregard long term debt, so it was one of our more memorable meetings.

I really got a kick out of working with the Chamber.

Mike on playing golf:

I’ll give you several recommendations on playing golf,

1) Make sure that you take lessons

2) Don’t listen to your friends

3) Make sure that you buy golf clubs fit to you

Your friends will try to teach you how to play golf. They think that because they’ve played for five or ten years they know how to play – but they don’t.

The number one is to take lessons though.

JWN: What was your experience like at Kodak?

MR: I was there when they were in their hey-day. There were 62,000 people working there. It was a wonderful company to work for because they truly rewarded people in a positive way. If you did a good job or things over and above the ordinary, they would do such positive, special things for you.

I worked in product development for many years, and then I got an opportunity to get involved with management. I began work for a subgroup that was responsible for selling chemicals. You can trace back to George Eastman’s time, selling chemicals outside the company.

I worked in a management position in marketing for this subgroup. It was really wonderful. Right about that time, our part of Kodak was being downsized and the assets sold to Fisher Scientific. I had the opportunity to work at a different part of Kodak, but at the same time, two guys who ran a chemical company in Avon approached me about Kodak purchasing them. Kodak wasn’t interested, but I was.

Mike Raszeja

Former Kodak Employee

Former Owner and CEO of Aldon Corporation

Former Board Member of Livingston County Chamber of Commerce

Avid Golfer