So this year’s Business Club trip was to go to The Windy City…Chicago. The purpose of these trips are to see different aspects of business for, well business majors. Examples of such being financial, marketing, management, and such. Even though I am an Automotive Restoration major, I am part of the management track, so this does apply to me as well. Along with being able to see “business in action” it also makes a nice excuse to travel and see what I have not. For this trek 18 of us piled into a charter bus and enjoyed ourselves over a 12 hour drive to Chicago. Nothing too exciting, since we were on the bus for almost all of it, but as we passed through Iowa I realized that it was essentially Kansas, with trees. Our biggest hitch was when we were an hour out. The bus encountered some heavy traffic. We crawled about 3 miles in an hour. I think it was actually worse than L.A. traffic back home.
After arriving at our Holiday Inn we proceeded to see what the Windy City had to offer. We walked a few blocks from our hotel and went to a food court that had a few different dining options. There was Italian food and hot dogs, among a few other edibles. The atmosphere was going for a 1920s/1930s vibe. They even had a 1930 Chevy on a platform. I turned in early, because I am not particularly a night owl, more of a early to bed early to rise type. Oh, and a little bit of a history tidbit is that the Holiday Inn used to be Hotel Cass, built in 1925. It was named such because the street that it is on, Wabash, used to be named Cass Street. While it looked fairly old on the outside, the interior was pretty new. I might also add that there were 4 guys to a room and the rooms were about the size of some of the smaller dorms on campus. I took the floor. Luckily we would not be spending much time in there. The bathrooms were pretty small as well. As one person said “You can sh#t, shower, and shave without moving”.
In the morning we hopped into our bus and headed to Elkay Manufacturing. Elkay has been around since 1920 and primarily deals with the making of sinks, counter tops, cabinets, and such out of stainless. The nifty thing about this building was that it was made out of bricks and had a very nice architectural front entrance. I am a sucker for great architecture. We at first thought we were in the wrong place, since the front looked like something you would expect out of a corporate headquarters. Turns out it was the old headquarters, but the manufacturing was in the back. We walked through the whole manufacturing process, from the sheets of metal, through the stamping of them, to the welds, and finish. After seeing the whole caboodle we sat down in the conference room to get a little bit of a lowdown on the business as well as the different brands that Elkay makes. After our brief presentation we loaded up on the bus to head to the next business.
Our next stop for the the day was Dyson, yes as in the vacuum company. Their US headquarters was indeed in Chicago. At Dyson we were able to get a panel of people from different departments to answer whatever question we might have as well as just to tell us about Dyson. The panel included people from Marketing, Financial ,and Management. All of which who were very open to questioning. They discussed a little about international business, what issues they have, what the companies strengths were and such. After much interesting, discussion we headed back to our hotel and to get dressed up a little more for dinner.
We walked over to Maggiano’s Little Italy, which was a few blocks from our hotel, and proceeded to have one of the fanciest dinners I have ever had. The place we walked into had loads of decorative wood paneling as well as our own dinner hall. Again, some pretty nifty architecture. There was a bar there and a many course meal. The next day we had our last day of planned tours. Our first stop was GKS. This was somewhat a cross between a law firm and a financial firm. What I mean by this is that this company funded lawsuits and at the end of it all took some of the proceeds or stretched it out to monthly bills. An interesting idea, but also sounded a little high risk and a headache to me.
Next up was a marketing firm called Zocolo. This firm was different in that it focused on social media for companies. They either helped institute social media for companies or improved what was already in use for advertising. Right off the bat I noticed that this was no Sterling Cooper. The people were mainly in their 20’s and very “hip”. I guess you have to be if your job is in social media marketing. The company itself is fairly young, since social media is as well, and actually did some pretty interesting work. They just signed on with Bengay, and showed off a couple of propositions that they were going with. Bengay was trying to identify itself with a younger audience, particularly the 30-50 range, the weekend warrior types. Those that are young at heart, but live a “normal life”. While I was at first skeptical about the social media scene, it is evident that these folks know how to play the field. Not only that, but the folks who worked there had a great view the city and the bay.
Our last scheduled tour stop was that of an independent hotel called, “The Acme Hotel”.The building that The Acme resides in has always been some sort of hotel. In it’s last iteration, it was part of a larger chain, but broke off to become a themed and fun hotel. I really found the atmosphere to be much more appealing than the usual hum drum of a chain hotel. This was geared towards the person who wanted more than just a place to lay their head down. We were guided by the manager who showed us around, as well as discussed how the Acme has been doing, how it was managed, as well, as the difficulty of establishing an independent name. The gentleman was very nice. After that it was time to do our own things and get ready for the next day. The only thing planned for tomorrow was a White Sox game, so we had until 12 to do whatever we wanted.
Tyler and I got up at 7:00 a.m. And had breakfast before meandering around the city. We zig zagged up and down the city, going through some parks stopping by a natural history museum, and walked back to the hotel to meet up the with rest of the club, some of which had woken up not that long ago.
Part of the plan was to go to a White Sox game since we were in town, why not right? The game was pretty enjoyable. It is America’s favorite pastime, and was a nice simple way to go out and enjoy a beautiful day. They ended up winning and we all piled out with all the happy White Sox fans. During the game though, one of the students posted a picture to Facebook and a graduate from last year happened to see the picture. Lance Butler, the same person who helped me work with Seven during Pebble Beach week, recently got a job in Chicago managing a collection. We happened to be about a mile away so after the game we made our way there on foot. We were not allowed to take any pictures, but I can tell you a little about it. We saw just one part of this collection which was spread out across
the city. The guy that Lance works for buys these cars for a few reasons, because he sees them as an investment, because he thinks they are neat, and most importantly because he wants to drive them.
Lance primarily makes sure that the vehicles are in driving condition and are maintained. The owner, whom we did not meet, mainly collected race cars and fast cars, not my cup of tea, but here were my two favorites. First off there was a fairly original 427 Cobra, yeah cliché, but the nifty thing about this one was that Lance lifted up the decklid to show us the English Wheel and hammer and dolly markings. It was just nifty to see and remember that these were all handmade. The other one I really liked was a ’69 Boss Mustang. I know I am not much of a muscle car guy, but let me tell you about this one. This was VERY original. The car had less than 20 miles on the odometer, had the plastic covers on the seats, starting instructions on the sun visors, original chalk markings on the engine, and even the original oil filter. I didn’t give a thorough examination but in the time that I saw it, it looked just as good as any restored mustang. After that we did a lot of walking around trying to find a restaurant. The one we wanted to go to was booked so we ended up walking back to the hotel and finding a restaurant nearby and dining at that one. Boy was it nice to sit down and eat. After that it was time to get some shuteye for our journey back to McPherson.
Photo’s from the trip here. https://www.flickr.com/photos/100138415@N07/sets