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How a Competition Fostered Innovation and Camaraderie in the Workplace

Jun 7, 2024

There’s a predictability about workdays that can be tiresome. Day in and day out, you have a general idea of what lies ahead. But on that rare occasion, there’s a chance to laugh a little and focus on something that’s bigger than what’s on the schedule. Those are the moments that leave an imprint.  


To work at Sukup Manufacturing to know that innovation is part of everyday existence. From the plant floor to the office, there’s no shortage of creativity and ideas! So when Sukup’s Safe T Home ® entered the spotlight for a statewide competition, it was no surprise that some of the great minds behind the scenes of the grain bin, dryer, and grain handling manufacturer, started churning out ideas.  

Sukup Safe T Home had been nominated as a Coolest Thing Made In Iowa. It’s a competition meant to highlight manufacturing in the state put on by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and MidWest One Bank. Nominations poured in…and week after week, depending on voting around the state, certain Iowa inventions were eliminated one by one. Sukup Safe T Home, the grain bin home that can withstand hurricane force winds, can be built in a day, and houses families, schools, and medical facilities in developing countries around the world…reached the final four with a real chance of winning. While the Safe T Home did NOT win the overall competition, that’s okay. Because  THIS story isn’t about that.  

Steve Sukup, President/CEO, never has a shortage of ideas. Right alongside him is Emily Schmitt, CAO/General Counsel and she is also Steve’s daughter. Their brains never sit idle. Between the two of them, ideas tend to come rapid fire; emails, texts, quick conversations. So it was no surprise when Steve insisted an internal, daily email needed to go out to employees to get them voting for this ABI competition. That meant bringing on Amy Fleming, Community and Internal Communications Coordinator. She knew that daily emails to staff would likely become a nuisance; a one-click push into the virtual trash can. She also knew what her bosses wanted and was determined to make this a fun and memorable moment in company communications. But how? How to get employees to open office emails and get them excited about voting for the Coolest Thing Made in Iowa competition? It was a test of teamwork, morale, and ultimately an unforgettable and hilarious chapter in the overall Sukup story. Emily suggested personalized emails; we’re talking emojis and even misspellings if it seemed like something the author would do! Enlisting her team, Amy started calling for unique and creative ways to get people to open their emails. And what transpired has been unforgettable to say the least.  

Office email inboxes revealed colorful messages that popping up from various employees. Daily. Cleverly worded and mirroring popular movies and pop culture, they were not to be ignored! It wasn’t just a “vote here” enticement. They were colorful, hilarious, quirky, and motivational! People started voting. Amy teamed up with advertising’s Kate Fjone, who developed unforgettable graphics. It wasn’t just the cinematic twist. Each email came from a different member of the Sukup team. From engineering, to sales, to administrative. Each email got a little bolder, a little more clever, and ultimately the collaboration energized an entire office of people celebrating the Sukup Safe T Home together. Sukup didn’t win the competition. Sure, it’s disappointing! But ask any one of the hundreds of Sukup employees, and you’ll see that the iconic home is already a winner in their book. Maybe this wasn’t about winning the spotlight. It was more of a testament to strengthening the bonds of those making a living, working at Sukup Manufacturing Co. It’s the camaraderie that’s manifested and woven through a workforce. It’s the task to innovate something bold and different that ultimately embraces the hearts of co-workers and brings them together for a cause greater than their workday. It’s taking a chance; win or lose- but if you ask us? It seems Sukup may already be winning. 

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