Brothers Mark and Dave Vander Ploeg, of B&L Bolt, searched over a decade for a business to purchase. Both men had the drive and enthusiasm to build a business and create an environment to nurture employees and help them grow. After looking at nearly sixty companies and having multiple doors close, the brothers set aside the dream of business ownership.
Mark Vander Ploeg took a job with a Fortune 100 company in Pennsylvania. Dave Vander Ploeg continued his work as a civil engineer in West Michigan. The brothers followed these paths, until God began to reignite their dream.
Four years after setting aside the dream of business ownership, the men both landed in unexpected and uncomfortable situations. Mark Vander Ploeg’s employer lost forty-percent of its revenue, and he lost his job. Dave Vander Ploeg’s company sent him across the globe doing sales, a position he wasn’t fond of.
After losing his job, Mark Vander Ploeg decided to start looking at businesses again. Even though it was now 2009 and the Michigan economy was in tough shape, the first business the brothers inspected was B&L Bolt, and it turned out to be a perfect fit. In an economy where banks were rarely financing new business ventures, two banks offered the Vander Ploeg brothers financing. “Every barrier fell down and it was obvious it was God’s hand working,” Mark Vander Ploeg recalled.
B&L Bolt started in 1986 and is a commercial construction supply company. Sixty-five percent of the business is distribution for electrical and mechanical contractors for items such as power tools, safety supplies, fasteners and supplies for hanging pipe and conduit. Despite the downturn in economy, when the Vander Ploegs purchased the company in 2009, B&L Bolt was still profitable.
Looking back at the four-year gap when the Vander Ploegs thought the business ownership door was closed, they see how God prepared them for this business. During that time, at the urging of his employer, Mark Vander Ploeg sat for the CPA exam and gained experience as a CFO. He now puts his finance experience to work for B&L Bolt.
Although Dave Vander Ploeg felt out of his element in sales, the contacts and experience he gained during that season play a large role in the new business. After a challenging first year with B&L Bolt, he reached out to a few of his previous clients. Those clients now represent 1/6 of B&L Bolt’s sales. “I can look back and see how God had his hand even in the places [I] didn’t care to be. We don’t always understand what God’s up to. We may have a short vision, but God has the long-term,” Dave Vander Ploeg said.
Mark and Dave Vander Ploeg’s mission with the business is to create environments where people can grow and feel like they are contributing to a larger picture. Between the two locations in Portage and Grand Rapids, B&L Bolt has thirty-two employees.
The Vander Ploegs’ vision for the company is to continue to grow and impact lives positively for Christ. “We’ve been able to make contributions toward non profit organizations, and we’ve offered early morning Bible studies with the staff,” Mark said.
B&L Bolt has partnered with two non-profit organizations for various projects. Kids Alive tears down older playgrounds in the U.S., refurbishes the equipment and moves it to third world countries. B&L Bolt has supplied hardware for the refurbished playgrounds. In partnership with Living Water, the business sponsored a well in Africa.
Over the past five years, B&L Bolt has added product, employees and seen about a fifty-five percent increase in sales. Most importantly to the brothers, they’ve maintained their integrity and honesty and are viewed positively by their customers. The company once realized items sent to a waste water plant were the wrong grade of steel. No one at the water plant would have realized the error. Despite the potential cost of uninstallation and replacement, the Vander Ploegs called to admit the mistake and fix it.
As the Vander Ploeg brothers look to the future, their goal is to not only grow the business, but to see their employees continue to grow and mature in their own lives and skills. They will continue to provide opportunities for development and growth, and recognize that any success they achieve in the business comes from the Lord.
At a Glance:
Who: Mark and Dave Vander Ploeg
Company: B&L Bolt
Mark: Wife: Sue, married 35 years; 2 adult daughters; 1 grandchild, 2 on the way
Dave: Wife: Barb, married 25 years; 5 kids ages 22, 21, 18, 16 and 8.
Phone: Kalamazoo: 800-875-9308; Grand Rapids: 800-853-8388