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Parental Influence:
Willem’s Success in Business
Sadie Nickles
Ivy Tech Community College
October 1, 2016
Janet Kriege-Baker

Willem VanTielen, president and founder of VTE Inc., knew he wanted to go into
business when he was a child. Following in the footsteps of his parents Willem decided to
start up his business when a great opportunity arose. VTE Inc. is located in Pellston,
Michigan. (The following information came from an interview conducted with Willem
VanTielen via e-mail on Sept. 26, 2016.)
Background of entrepreneur
Growing up, his parents operated a business that transported and distributed energy
related products, such as coal, fuel oil, peat and aggregates in the Netherlands. They had a
docked ship, which was his home until he was 8 years old, when his mother died and he
then lived in an orphanage until age 13. VanTielen worked in a small factory, where he
was an apprentice learning the metal fabrication trade. Two years later he arrived to the
United States with only $10.00 and a train ticket from Hoboken, New Jersey to Fort
Wayne, Indiana, where he met his sister. He did not know English. Since he was not 16,
he went to high school for a few weeks to help him learn his new language. In 1959, he
started working with Steury Bottling and also Dryden Rubber. He is 73 years old and has
not stopped working since. VanTielen became an Industrial Engineer at age 26. He gained
a couple years of college experienced at IPFW, but was unable to gain college credit due
to him not completing high school. In the next 10 years he had many experiences in
manufacturing, retail, Corning Glass, and wire harness manufacturing.
The venture
In 1973 he started a manufacturing operation. It had started as a DBA, and eventually
incorporated. VanTielen manufactured electrical wire harnesses for a company that made

tow trucks for airports and another that manufactured electric start riding lawnmowers.
Today, VTE Inc. is a manufacturer of PVC insulators, soft flexible caps used to protect
the positive and negative electric battery ring terminals. This is 70% of the product that
VTE creates.
The corporate organization is a Sub Chapter S, which means the profit or loss goes to
each of the stockholders’ 1040 tax return in the proportion of the stock ownership. The
corporation does not pay income taxes, which, according to VanTielen, serves owners
well since the income is only taxed once.
Struggles and challenges
In the beginning, it was difficult for VanTielen to meet all the mandatory requirements of
being an employer. He had to meet payroll plus the contributions by the employer for
Social Security and Medicare, having to save to make those payments. Whenever the
deductions are totaled $2,000.00 it had to be forwarded to the IRS and State. Also if there
was a profit shown on the profit and loss statement, quarterly payments were made to the
IRS. If the requirements were not met, the IRS would confiscate the money from the
checking account, risking all outstanding checks bouncing. Banks were of little help to
VanTielen since he had no track record of paying back the money, since he was a new
Risks and rewards
VanTielen states that he truly believes that success comes to those who are prepared to
seize the opportunity when it arises. He seized an opportunity when Roper Corporation,
in Kankakee, Illinois, had an incident where a boy was injured by inadvertently shorting
the positive battery terminal to the metal frame of a riding lawnmower. The customer,

Sears, insisted all the products in the stores and all future products to be fitted with
insulation caps to prevent accidental shorting. At that time, he was manufacturing wire
harnesses for Roper. Their chief engineer contacted him and advised him to promptly
come to Kankakee and suggest a solution to the problem. No one had manufactured the
specific piece that was in need. He was then told to create the rubber piece, which he did
manufacture. He took the “problem” and it became an opportunity for VanTielen. He took
his experience at Dryden Rubber and the over-molding that he did in the wire harness
business, along with some connections, to come up with a solution. He was able to create
for more than one company, peaking at over a million products sold per year.
Learning on the journey
VanTielen overcame the struggles by being selective in the market he chose, not taking
unnecessary risks he could not afford, paying his employees first (never owing them), and
practicing perfect cost control.
VanTielen had been able to set his own hours, come and go as he pleases, and travel, as
he would like. However he said that as a “boss,” he needed to set an example to
employees of being responsible with time and resources.
Own learning
I learned that being a business owner can be stressful and the steps to get where you are
able to become one is even more stressful. Despite this, being a business owner can be
rewarding. There are also many regulations and rules that come with this position.
Personally, I do not think that I could own a business, but props to all who do.

Perseverance and having the adequate information and knowledge is key to being
successful. Always serving his customers first and thinking through each risk is primarily
what made VTE Inc. and Willem VanTielen successful.