Interviews | September 08, 2020
Badger Tag & Label Builds on 85 Years of Service
In the year 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, Alfred Hitchcock released his thrilling film “The 39 Steps,” the Lindbergh kidnapper went on trial — and the Badger Tag Corporation was incorporated in Random Lake, Wisconsin. Badger Tag Corporation changed considerably in the ensuing decades, including a name change to Badger Tag & Label Corporation in 1969, but even as it grew, the heart of its operation remained unchanged. Today, Badger Tag & Label still operates out of Random Lake — from the original location dating back to 1935 and from a second location that opened in 2017.
You can’t go through 85 years of service without weathering a storm or two, and Badger Tag & Label is no exception. Ryan Will (pictured above, left), the company’s vice president, says Badger Tag & Label has always sought to learn from unexpected and challenging circumstances. “[Crises] do have a way of showing some areas that are weak or need some attention,” he says, adding that Badger Tag & Label looks to “focus in on those areas and make the changes that are necessary.”
But the coronavirus crisis that broke out early this year was a whole new beast. Faced with a once-in-a-century pandemic, Badger Tag & Label put “all hands on deck,” according to Will.
“From the start of Wisconsin’s ‘Safer at Home’ order, we were deemed an essential business due to our manufacturing of products for the medical, food, logistics and other essential industries,” Will says. Badger Tag & Label created a group to draft and institute new health policies and keep employees informed.
Meanwhile, as phrases like “social distancing” entered the national lexicon, the company began advertising its ability to manufacture custom labels, floor decals, signs and more to help maintain distance. On its website, Badger Tag & Label promises to help its customers “prepare for the new normal,” and it incorporated coronavirus-related orders into its workload without missing a beat.
“Our workload throughout the pandemic has been mixed. Much of the work has been for our regular printing mixed in with some very specific coronavirus-related orders,” says Rita Horstmeier (pictured above), Badger Tag & Label’s sales and marketing manager.
Badger Tag & Label’s determination to keep working through the once-in-a-lifetime crisis is indicative of the grit it has always exhibited. The company was born out of troubled circumstances in the Great Depression. Founder Emil Thiel joined the team at Globe Tag in the 1920s, but the outbreak of the Great Depression battered Globe Tag. With the company failing to turn a profit, the family that had started Globe Tag left the business and its debts behind. Undaunted, Thiel bought out the other shareholders and became the sole owner of the struggling company. It became a family business, with his two sons and three daughters pitching in. In 1935, the company received its fresh start by incorporating as Badger Tag.
Badger Tag & Label steadily grew until it was too much for the Thiel family to handle alone. By 1961, Emil’s sons Elmer and Clarence Thiel hired Joel Entringer to serve as president and treasurer. Even as Badger Tag & Label began expanding outside hires, the Thiel family remained deeply involved with the company. Elmer’s son Jim worked for the company from 1969 to 2003, while Clarence’s sons Bob and Dick joined in 1971 and 1976, respectively. Dick retired in 2015, but Bob still serves as president.
Today, Badger Tag & Label employs 38 people. Its employees tend to be experienced, knowledgeable and loyal to the company, with an average tenure of almost 20 years. Entringer, the first outside hire, spent 37 years with Badger Tag & Label. DJ Jacoby (pictured above, far right), a longtime vice president, spent 44 years with the company before retiring in July. Jacoby cites the long tenure of Badger Tag & Label’s staff as a strength.
“The longevity of our professional staff helps solve the customer’s needs in an efficient, well-laid-out manner,” Jacoby says.
Solving the customer’s needs is the most important task at Badger Tag & Label. The company is committed to providing top-tier customer service, including a strong emphasis on person-to-person interactions.
“A person always answers the phone during our normal business hours; no automated answering system is used,” says Kevin Kalkofen (pictured above, second from right), a Badger Tag & Label vice president. Through phone communications and in-person meetings, Badger Tag & Label takes the time to develop strong relationships with its clients, Kalkofen adds.
Badger Tag & Label’s efforts have paid off. According to Horstmeier, some clients have been working with the company for decades. Even as Badger Tag & Label maintains its longstanding relationships with clients in a number of industries, it continues to attract new clients. The key, Horstmeier says, is treating every client like it is the only account, dedicating great care and attention every step of the way.
Badger Tag & Label is a longtime member of PSDA and consistently exhibits at trade shows. In addition, Horstmeier says she makes great use of the Listserv. “It’s a great way to send out a request and get referrals from a large network of people when you have a specific need, whether a standard item or something very unique,” she says. Through the Listserv, Badger Tag & Label has connected with “numerous clients,” per Horstmeier. The company also regularly advertises in PS Magazine.
For 85 years, Badger Tag & Label has been a solid presence — both for the community of Random Lake and for its clients. From steadily expanding in the second half of the 20th century to navigating unprecedented challenges this spring, it has never ducked from a fight and continues to prioritize its clients’ needs. Badger Tag & Label strives to “simplify the complicated,” Jacoby says. Through this emphasis on its clients’ needs, Badger Tag & Label is maintaining a reputation for care and quality that it has built over the past eight decades, ensuring that it will be a staple for years to come.
“When a company is around for 85 years, people just know you,” Horstmeier says.
Case Studies and Profiles Manufacturers/Suppliers COVID-19 Tags & Labels