WILLIAMSON SYMPOSIUM SERIES Ex-YSU player runs material handling business

Learning to motivate people was one of the fringe benefits of a college football career.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The spot that provided the groundwork for Samuel Grooms to get his start in business was crouching in front of a quarterback and snapping him the ball.
Grooms is still in front, running a successful material handling business.
Grooms, president and managing partner of Hy-Tek Material Handling Inc. of Columbus, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday's Williamson Symposium Series in the Butler Institute of American Art. In his presentation, sponsored by Youngstown State University's Williamson College of Business, Grooms discussed the fields of supply chain logistics and material handling and how his company fits into both.
Football values
While attending YSU in the late 1970s and early '80s, Grooms played center for its football team and fondly recalled the family atmosphere and learning experiences he gained from being on the team. In 1979, the Penguins went on to play the University of Delaware in the championship game. Even though YSU lost, the values of hard work and working together for a successful outcome were firmly entrenched in him, Grooms said.
"Bob Dove had a big influence on me," he recalled, referring to the team's offensive line coach. "He said that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to motivating people."
That philosophy, as well as the value of teamwork he learned from being part of the Penguins, became Grooms' mantra after he graduated from YSU in June 1981 on a football scholarship and entered the business world.
Since he joined Hy-Tek in 1981, when it was known as Slife Material Handling Inc., the business has seen annual revenue increase from about $3.5 million to more than $50 million. Hy-Tek expanded its operations to include offices in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Florence, Ky., and has completed projects in 41 states as well as Canada and Mexico, Grooms noted.
Grooms said that Hy-Tek took in $50 million in 2000, reflecting a 45-percent increase over 1999, and was the company's best year. Even though sales dropped over the following two years partly because of an economic downturn and 9/11, Hy-Tek avoided laying off workers, he said.
"We maintained profitability and maintained our balance sheet," he said.
The company has 165 to 170 employees and was heavily in the leasing, rental, parts, fleet management and service ends of the lift truck industry. Today, about one-third of Hy-Tek's sales volume is in industrial trucks, he said.
Consulting work
The company also acts as a consultant for other businesses by giving them ideas for improving their product distribution as well as increasing the efficiency of their distribution centers and factories so they "gain a competitive edge," Grooms added. A central core of Hy-Tek's operations also includes improving logistics for getting goods through the distribution process and to the right places.
"We work with customers' customers," Grooms said.
Some of Hy-Tek's clients have included Hewlett Packard, Car Quest Auto Parts, Jo-Ann Stores Inc. and Luk Clutches Inc. of Cleveland. A goal of Jo-Ann Stores is to add 100 new stores, and Hy-Tek has helped that company with its product movement and designed its Web site; Hy-Tek has worked on Car Quest's distribution centers all over the United States and Canada, Grooms noted.
The supply chain logistics industry, of which Hy-Tek is a part, incorporates the complex network of moving products and other goods and services from assembly through the maze of steps that ensure they reach the customer or destination. It is a $100-billion-a-year industry and will likely grow in the 21st century, Grooms predicted.
Grooms advised business students to be sure they have good communication with others to supplement whatever technical abilities they may have.
"It all comes back to communication skills. Being able to communicate is essential," he said.