The Family Owned Small Business of the Year Award goes to Joanie Gerber of Bikle Manufacturing in Smithsburg, nominated by the Hagerstown Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business.
Bikle Manufacturing, a one-stop machine shop for manufacturing and fabricating needs, was formed by Joanie’s grandfather, Richard Bikle, in 1971. Richard and his wife, Joan, ran the business, enjoying steady growth for approximately 40 years before his health began to fail, limiting his ability to manage daily operations. As Power of Attorney for her grandparents, and wanting to protect their interests, Joanie transitioned from her career in social work to spending time at Bikle. She learned every facet of the business. She swept floors, straightened shelves, prepared estimates, handled billing and worked directly with customers.
In 2012, Joanie assumed full-time leadership of the company and went about giving the company a much needed facelift. She secured a grant from the US Department of Agriculture to install new LED lighting; introduced an inventory control system for materials and paid off several debts. She brought in new modern equipment and implemented Lean Manufacturing Strategies to reduce the cost of production from 76 cents to 55 cents, a 27% reduction in costs of goods sold. Joanie improved her customer base by 50% and made significant improvements to the company’s website. NASA, Lockheed Martin, MGM Studios and Johns Hopkins University are just a few of her clients.
A family business in every sense, Joan Bikle serves as Vice President; Joanie’s husband Eric works with the Finance Department and her boys, Nate and Owen, even help out--positioning them to one day take the reins. Appreciating the important role that her employees play in the company’s success, Joanie treats them like family. She celebrates their birthdays and provides paid leave for medical and dental visits for the employee or when they need to accompany a family member to an appointment.
Joanie proudly displays “Made in America” on Bikle products and works closely with numerous business and civic organizations, including: the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Hagerstown Hospice and she is a strong supporter of the youth sports at Smithsburg High School and Smithsburg Youth Athletics.