Matt Kripke, BBA ’90: Positive Culture Sustains Family Recycling Business
Building a positive culture is a key part of Matt Kripke’s, BBA ’90, role as CEO of his family's metal recycling business, Kripke Enterprises Inc., which has grown from a mom-and-pop shop into an enterprise with 70 employees in four states, multiple divisions, and $375 million in sales during 2022.
Matt didn't always know he wanted to work for the family company, but from a young age he knew he wanted to pursue a career in business. Today he works alongside his father, Larry Kripke, BBA ’65, who is also an alumni of the Ross School of Business.
Like father, like son
Larry always imagined his son would grow up to work with him at their family's Toledo, Ohio-based scrap business. But, when the opportunity to sell the business arose in 1983 while Matt was still in high school, the family had a choice to make.
"My dad came into my room and he said, 'Hey, your uncles and I and your grandfather were thinking of selling the business,'" Matt recalls. "I said, 'OK, great. Why are you telling me?' He said, 'Well, because I always had this vision that we would one day work together.' I said, 'Well, you should definitely sell it because working in the scrap business just doesn't appeal to me.'"
Ten years later, Larry had sold the scrap business, moved through a variety of jobs, and launched a new company called Kripke Enterprises, Inc. in 1993. Matt earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan Ross and worked in direct sales positions in Toledo, Pittsburgh, and London. When his dad became ill and was hospitalized in 1994, Matt jumped in to keep the new family business afloat. To his surprise, he loved the work — especially the quick sales cycle of the metal recycling industry.
Today, Matt is the public face of Kripke Enterprises, Inc. and his dad has shifted into the founder role. Matt focuses on mentoring and coaching, collaborating with the company's leadership team, negotiating, and serving as a cultural ambassador.
Investing in a positive culture
Matt is deeply committed to building and maintaining a positive workplace culture and frequently taps into programs and resources at Michigan Ross and the University of Michigan to achieve this goal. For example, he is actively involved with the Center for Positive Organizations and has applied many best practices learned to support his employees and help them thrive. In 2021, he launched a first-time home buyer’s program to help employees with down payment costs and mortgage costs.
"It boils down to: Do you treat your employees well? Do you treat your customers well? Are you good stewards of the environment, of the economy, of the community? We focus on all those things."
Staying connected to his maize and blue roots
Along with his father, Matt’s uncles attended Michigan Ross. His parents also met there.
"It’s a family tradition that runs deep," Matt says. "I had been going up to football games since I was like four years old and knew that was where I wanted to end up."
When it was time to earn his bachelor's degree, he chose Ross not just for the family affiliation, but because of its academic excellence and the reputation and networking opportunities it would afford him after graduation.
"Having those connections and people to call on and just ask for advice or ask questions, it's helpful," Matt says. "If I was advising someone today, I would say, 'You've got all these smart people in one place that, in 15 years, are going to be really advancing up. Take advantage of getting to know them now.'"
And Matt wants others to have the same opportunities that he had at Ross and U-M. For this reason, he and his wife have made the school a part of their annual giving and estate planning. Kripke encourages others who can to do the same.
It’s important to me to give back to my alma mater and make it possible for others to have the same opportunities that I have had.
Never say never
Looking back at his 15-year-old self, who wanted no part of the family business, Matt says he wouldn't change a thing.
"I'm very grateful and very happy for the life that I've been able to provide for our family and for my employees," Matt says. "I don't think I'd want to change the way that kid thought because that got us to where we are now.
"Now, that being said, he was an idiot," Matt laughs. "I probably would say, in a nice way, 'Never say never.' Because, you know, life throws a lot of curves and a lot of challenges and you never know where you're going to end up."