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Podcast: From School Teacher to CEO with Kathie Fuce-Hobohm

Going from school teacher to CEO of one of Michigan’s top 50 businesses to watch. Kathie Fuce-Hobohm stepped into the CEO role because she loved what she was doing. In this episode, we cover the history of her company Space Inc, the succession of her family business to the next generation, and causes she strongly believes in.

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Cliff Duvernois: Hello, everyone. And welcome back to the Call of Leadership podcast. Today is gonna be a really special treat. We're we're doing a more of a business to business, uh, podcast episode today, but I still think you're gonna get a lot of value from it because we're gonna talk about something that we all have to deal with at some point in time in our lives.

Cliff Duvernois: And that is workplace. Environment in today's guest, she's the CEO of space incorporated. They are a workplace design firm based out of Midland, starting back in 1995. And I'm gonna let her share the story with not only myself, but with you as well. Uh, there three main focuses of course, is the workplace design sustainable spaces as well as healthy workplace and virus protection.

Cliff Duvernois: Ladies and gentlemen, please. Welcome to the show. Kathie Fuce-Hobohm. Kathie, how are you?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: I am fine. Thank you for having me on your podcast today. This is exciting for us.

Cliff Duvernois: it's exciting for me as well, and I'm really looking forward to it. So why don't you tell us a little bit about where you're from and where you grew up?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Well, I'm from a variety of places around this, around the state, but I consider a small town in Western, Michigan by the name of Shelby, Michigan, my, my hometown. And I grew up where the north begins and the fine fruits grow. So that's, uh, that's Shelby's claim to fame. I moved a variety of different places growing up.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Uh, we lived in Lansing for a while. We lived in Shelby. More than a while. I graduated from Central Michigan University. Awesome. Spent some time there ended up married in cold water, spent a little time there and then finally ended up in Midland, Michigan. And we've been here for the last 35 years.

Cliff Duvernois: Excellent. What brought you to Midland?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Um,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: a

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: series of fortunate accidents. Oh, I love it. I know. Very good. Um, I had. Uh, I have a teaching degree. So when I graduated from college, basically, I didn't. That girls could be anything other than teachers, nurses, or secretaries. Right. So, um, when I graduated with a teaching degree, I ended up teaching for five years and was laid off from teaching and didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and, and found, uh, an organization called battle Creek office equipment.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And I went to work for them in their, uh, selling office. Interiors is where I started. And.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Quite possibly the worst salesperson, probably on the planet. It was a straight commission job. And I think I made, oh, if I made $2,000 that first year, it would've been. A miracle. Um, but I loved it so much. I loved the industry.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: I loved the, um, ability to change people's work environment. And so I kind of kept going on. It got a little bit better, got a little bit better. Um, and then one day my husband called and said, would you mind if I took a transfer to Midland, Michigan? So we were down in the battle Creek Kalamazoo area. And I honestly, I really wasn't listening to.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Carefully because he worked for the federal government and he wasn't necessarily at the top of the list of transfers. So when he said, uh, would you mind if I take a transfer to bay city and Midland area? I just said, yeah, sure. Not a problem. And sure enough, they moved him like two weeks later. Wow. Yeah.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So I had to dress in black. Wine for a little bit. when I moved up to Midland because it wasn't, I was really happy with the, uh, the business that I was in, the people I worked for, and it was a wonderful experience. And then moved up to, uh, to Midland and worked for a couple other dealerships is what it's called, um, before I founded space incorporated in 1995.

Cliff Duvernois: So that brings me to my next question. Why did you decide to start space incorporated?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: That's a wonderful question, but I didn't decide to start space incorporated, basically. Uh, I'm an accidental entrepreneur.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Okay.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So, um, I had worked, I had moved from battle Creek to Midland. I'd worked in a couple different, uh, For a couple different companies.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: I worked for a wonderful man by the name of Bernie Moray down in, um, the Detroit area. He wanted to open a dealership up here. They gave me an opportunity. It was a wonderful experience over the course of probably four or five years. He ended up, um, Being bought out of the business and somebody else came into the business and it wasn't as good of a fit for me.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And so one day in 1994, um, the new owner came in and said, I'm closing this location and go tell the staff that they no longer have jobs. 

Cliff Duvernois: Ugh 

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yeah, I know at the time it was, it was rather traumatic. Um, but. That said, I mean, it's probably one of the best things that ever happened to me from a career standpoint, because in the next 90 days we basically opened space incorporated.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So we didn't follow the textbook format of, you know, having a business plan and having a, you know, thought process involved. We just knew that what we were doing was something that we were meant to be doing. And. it seems silly to close a business. So we just opened space Inc. Um, 90 days later.

Cliff Duvernois: That's awesome. And, and I think one of the things that I really like about what you were, you were just sharing there is, and it's something Mitch album writes in his books where all endings are also new beginnings.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Absolutely. I'm a firm believer in that.

Cliff Duvernois: Yes. So for you, for having the owner come in and saying, You need to tell everybody that they don't have any jobs anymore. I'm closing up shop. Yeah. To all of a sudden seeing that, Hey, there's an opportunity here for us. Yeah. And 90 days later, opening space, Inc. Mm-hmm, kudos.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Well, kudos. And I I'm a firm believer that the universe aligns when you're on your path. And when you're finding your purpose, you know, things happen to help you, whether they look good or they look bad, you know, it, it just points you in a direction.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So, you know, we had the opportunity to start a business. We were kind of forced into that opportunity to start a business. And, um, at the time I had a business partner and in the interim before we opened space and we were kind of looking around and we didn't know exactly which direction to go, we were driving around town, looking for, you know, where we could relocate to, because we had a, a facility up here that belonged to the other company that they had been renting.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: We needed facility. So, um, my business partner and I got lost.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And so we were kind of driving around and we turned down vantage point drive, which is the drive that we're on. And we drove to the end and there was this building, it was brand new and there was a gentleman outside and he was painting the building and we looked at it and we said, gosh, this is, this is our building.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: This is, this is gonna be the home of our new business. And we rolled down the window and we. J who owns this, BU this building, uh, we wanna move in and he said, my dad does. And his dad is someone who's a, a FA kind of a famous entrepreneur around Midland, Michigan, his name's John Bartos. And, uh, John did everything in his power to help us.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Relocate. Oh, it's awesome. Uh, you just there's, you just can't pay him back enough, but anyway, he moved us in and helped us through the first year and gave us wise counsel and helped us build the business. And I say, we started with, uh, two computers. Oh three task chairs, five employees, and a dream, you know?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: stories so much.

Cliff Duvernois: I really do. So I want to go back and I wanna highlight something here. So. You, you, you had a job, the owner closed up shop. 90 days later, you started

Cliff Duvernois: S space Inc you don't have an MBA. No, you don't have any business degrees. No, you don't have any of that. And yet you still said, you know what, let's launch this 

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Well,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: there's, I mean, ignorance is a strategy is when I look back on it, it's kinda like, okay, I can do this. No, we didn't. We knew we loved what we did, which was to create workplaces that, uh, inspire people and that they really enjoyed. We didn't have any business background and, um, from a financial acumen standpoint,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Lacking amaz amazingly lacking.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Um, we also didn't have a lot of capital, so to fund the business. Um, as I mentioned before, my husband was a federal, uh, employee, right? Every two weeks he would have a $50, uh, savings bond taken out of his paycheck for, uh, our kids' college education. So. When we decided to do this, I was 40 years old and we had accumulated, he had worked for the federal government for 20 plus years.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And he'd accumulated about $40,000 in savings, bonds, individual savings bonds. So when we opened the business, my husband signed all the savings bonds for our kids college education and gave it to the bank and said, this is what we're gonna do. We did it.

Cliff Duvernois: and here you are all these years

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: later, and here we are.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yeah, it was a good investment. It took him a few years to realize that his $40,000 was a better investment. But luckily we're, we're into that phase of this now. So

Cliff Duvernois: Exactly. So let's talk a little bit more about the, the, the philosophy you, that you bring to workspace design.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: mm-hmm

Cliff Duvernois: I've spent quite a lot of time looking over your website and seeing the photos and the work that you have done.

Cliff Duvernois: And I will have to say this because I spent a number of years sitting in beige gray

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: mm-hmm 

Cliff Duvernois: That was obviously the lowest bidder. Just how many people can re cram into this space. You guys are really elevating that to bright colors and comfortable furniture and spaces for employees to hang out. And I mean, there was like one picture I saw with fabric from couches that kind of blended right in with the floor.

Cliff Duvernois: And it made me think of a Salvador Dali painting.

Cliff Duvernois: Painting but it's it. It's beautiful. Why, why is this designed aesthetic really necessary for somebody that's just coming in and grinding it out eight or nine hours a day?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: That's exactly why it's important. They're in there grinding it out eight or nine hours a day. So even in the post co COVID environment, you're going to spend a good, you know, third of your life in a workplace environment, whether it's a home, home working from home office, or if it's this, uh, workplace where you gather, I mean, our real focus is.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Area where you're coming together with other people, you know, is it in an office? Is it a, you know, hospitality area? What, what kind of space are you coming into? Um, I think the biggest thing about workplace interiors, when we're, when we're trying to create, we think we're really creative. Uh, we have a variety of different ways to do it.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: What is the client trying to accomplish? I mean, we really wanna start with the vision and the mission of the company. We wanna start with the vision and the mission of the project so that we understand so that we can interpret good designers, interpret what that, um, concept is. And they create the reality from that.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So, When you see our designs, it's very reflective of, uh, the personality of the organization we're working with versus a, uh, kind of, you need this, you need this, you need this, and we know what's best for you, you know? So we take your concepts and then we, um, interject the,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: you know, the, the actual pieces and parts that create it.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: One of the things I'm really excited about. And I am really excited about this. We can, we can create that vision two different ways. So if you, if the vision of can be resolved with, um, all new you, you're building a new building, you need all new flooring, you need all new this, you need all new that we can absolutely do it that way.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: That is not a problem.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: If

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: however, we kind of filter in a lens of sustain. We can create an environment for you that, that REU utilizes some of your products that, um, allows us to exchange into a sustainability exchange, uh, some of your seating or some of your systems furniture for what you want now. So instead of putting all of that into the landfill instead, You know, creating a, a deficit in the natural resources.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And instead of doing it that way, let us look at it through the lens of sustainability and create the same type of environment, but with a lot less environmental cost. So I'm geeked about that. We call it space of new it's. It's a great program. So we've done this. We started doing this. 2010 for the federal government.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: We do a lot of our work with the federal government, right. And it was kind of invented by one of our interior designers. She looked at a project that she had, um, and it was a big project. It was four or five buildings in, in Washington, DC. And the. Uh, end user wanted to take the four or five buildings of leased property and combine it into one new building that they were building to do that they were changing the floor plan and the footprints and the vision and the mission of the new building was different than their five existing buildings.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So they were going to abandon all of the products that they had in their five. All of the chairs, all of the cubicles, all of the private offices, everything was going to be abandoned, put into warehouse, put into landfill and then buy all brand new. And the project was a substantial size. It was about a 10 million project.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So the designer looked around and she said, you know, we can use. This, we, it, we don't wanna use it the way it looks right now. We wanna do some upcycling to it. We wanna create a new environment with it, but there's no reason to put all of this into the landfill. So she came up with a way to reutilize and reimagine the existing products.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So we were able to take the budget of the project from 10 million down to four point. Um, we were able to reutilize about 93% of the existing items that they had in their five buildings. Awesome. I know. And we've kept millions of tons out of the landfill. It is. It's so cool.

Cliff Duvernois: I love this term that you used up cycling.

Cliff Duvernois: Mm-hmm why don't you talk to us a little bit about that?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yes. I love upcycling. I like the word. I like the concept of upcycling. Um, there are. Uh, organizations and businesses in our, uh, in our field, in our industry that do what they call refurbishing, they refurbish stuff. Right. Um, we call that lipstick on a pig.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Actually, not to be too mean to our re refurbishers, but, uh, a refurbishers idea.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: uh, product is I have, well, let's do a cube. I have a blue cube and it's located here and I wanna refurbish it, which means I wanna turn that blue cube to a green cube. And I wanna take that cube as is, and I wanna move it from point a to point B.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So that's kind of the thought process with refurbishers what our designers do is they want to reimagine and reinvent. What you have. So they take, let's say that same cube and they think about it in terms of its lowest common denominator. So they divide it down into core pieces, just pieces, um, and they take those co pieces and they put them in, we'll say a pile, a computer type pile.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Then they take the new vision of what they want to create. and they want a new look. They want new aesthetics. They want new function. They want new productivity. They want, you know, whatever the criteria of the project is. And based on that, then they're going to pull from this from their de they're deconstructed items and fill in over at the new location.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So when we upcycle things,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: it's

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: not just about changing a color. It's about taking that piece. And maybe let's say it's a panel and it's 60 inches tall because that's the. Cubes were done in back in the day. We wanna take that. We wanna cut it down. We wanna put a new surface on it. We wanna add some glass.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: We want to, we wanna create this new environment that really supports what our client's trying to do. So we up cycle it and we do as much to it as we possibly can to make it as cool as we possibly can. So sky's the limit.

Cliff Duvernois: Oh, absolutely. Love that. Now you have an office in Midland.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: we do

Cliff Duvernois: also have one in Virginia.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: We do.

Cliff Duvernois: Congratulations.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Thank you. That was, that's actually a good story. And I'll, I'll share if you don't mind, I'll share that

Cliff Duvernois: you, please do.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Okay. So I mentioned earlier that we do, uh, business with the federal government, right? Okay. So in 2001 was nine 11. And, um, if you remember back that long, the, the economy in Michigan, Devastated, right.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: It was very difficult to do business. And certainly from a let's get new offices criteria that wasn't necessarily top of mind of anybody in that time. So during this right after nine 11, we had an opportunity. We knew that there was a project with the federal government up on the border patrol up between Canada and, uh, the Sioux.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And we knew that they were going to be redoing one of their buildings. So one of the gals that worked for us had to find the people who were actually in charge of the building up, up in the Sue, because they were located in Missouri and some people were in Vermont. I mean, that's just, you had to do a lot of figuring.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So she found that we, the, the project facilitator, we were able to do the project. And we found out that we liked government work because in general, we like to cross Ts and dot I's, right. Where that kind of organization, and from, from a DNA standpoint, that fit really well with. All of the structure in a federal government procurement process.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So she said, I think I can get a GSA contract, which is the general services administration. And she went ahead and started to do paperwork and filling out forms and did everything and got us a GSA contract. Well, I honestly, I think we were the first one in the United States that had their own from a dealership standpoint, had their own GSA contract.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Mostly they were held by the manufac. So the big steel cases would have him, but we got our own. And about four months later after we got our GSA contract, we got a fax and the fax said, do you want to bid on the furniture for the department of health and human services? Check your box. Yes or no. Well, heck yeah. so

Cliff Duvernois: can I get one of those

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yeah. Check, check, check, check, check. So we send back in our, um, facts. We don't hear anything so months go by and all of a sudden we get a call from a gal, um, out at the department of health and human services. And they said, Hey, you checked your box. Yes. And we wanna take a look at you and we're doing some, you know, research.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: We want you to bid on it. So we're ecstatic. We're like, yay. We don't know anything about anything. So we're, you know, we see no downside to this. So, um, we're like, yay. So we take this back to the manufacturer and the manufacturer says, no, no, no, no, no, I'm sorry. We have dealerships in the Washington DC area that get this, they get it.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: It's their area.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Basically go away and if they don't get it, we have another type of a, a relationship with the federal government. And we're gonna give it to somebody in Texas. So no, no, you can't do this. Come to find out. We were the only people in the United States, the only business in the United States that sold the product that we had that checked their box.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: we were it. So , we ended up with a

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: very

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: large contract with the federal government. We got up, what's called a blanket purchase agreement with the department of health and human services. And so in 2004, we started, uh, doing business out in Washington, DC, and we were really fortunate to have that business through the last, I don't know.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: 20 years or so 

Cliff Duvernois: beautiful. 

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yes. Wonderful, wonderful little facts pointed us in the right direction.

Cliff Duvernois: And I, I, I wanna go back and circle something here because I've, I have actually, I got friends that have worked with contracts from the federal government. Yeah. You were another business as well. This is something I don't think a lot of entrepreneurs out there.

Cliff Duvernois: A lot of business owners out there realize is that there is a lot of contracts through the federal government and through the state government. Yes. That. Many of them don't really get any bids on, or if they do get a bid there's only one bid. How did you get started working on federal contracts?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Well, having a blanket purchase agreement is a different.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Once you have a GSA contract, a GSA contract is designed. I'll call it a hunting license, but basically says I have been vetted or our business has been vetted to do business with the federal government. So you've gone through the process of, uh, letting them know that this is what the products we sell.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: This is the how financially viable our business is. This is how long we've been in business. Um, by that time we'd been in business nine. So we had a little history. Um, we had history of these are the, this is the size of projects we worked on. This is, you know, this is a list of our customers. So we were vetted through a GSA project.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Our process. Once you have a GSA contract, then you can go to the individual agencies and you can say, and you can look on. Government websites and things like that. And you can see what type of, um, opportunities. So we had our GSA contract department of health and human services actually found us because we were certified as a woman own small business.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And they reached out to us via the facts. Most of the time though, you spend, um, you spend your time. For the opportunities that fit, fit your needs, and then you respond to those opportunities. So as we were going through, you know, as we've evolved over the last. You know, 20 years or so we started with our blanket purchase agreement and we started doing business and we made sure that we were, uh, we delivered what we said we were going to deliver.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And then we started to look at more of a diversification in marketing to the federal government. So we found, um, for example, in 20,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: 2021, there was an opportunity for a blanket purchase agreement with, uh, FDA. And we applied for that knowing, you know, what we could provide. And it was a large opportunity. I think there were, um, in total it was over 50 million and it's um, so.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: They don't pick just one person for the blanket purchase agreements. They normally pick two or three, four vendors with it, that fit criteria. So we were one of the vendors that was selected for a five year, um, opportunity. Thank you. That was a big deal. As a matter of fact, we were just named, um, for the state of Michigan, uh, government contractor of the year through.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: PT a and yeah, we were pretty

Cliff Duvernois: for that too.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yeah. Yeah. Happy to discuss that with anybody out there who wants to do business with the federal government? I think it, people sometimes are scared of doing business with the federal government. They think it's, um, hard. It's not hard, but it it's exact. So you, you, if it's in your DNA to be very exact and precise and that doesn't bother your team, um, then it's a.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Opportunity. And literally I've said this before. I don't think we would be in business now without having a, um, diverse market. So some in east coast, we actually do business around the United States for, uh, federal organizations. So,

Cliff Duvernois: Absolutely. Wonderful. So you and I connected because of the Stevens family center

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: we.

Cliff Duvernois: So talk to us a little bit about your business being a family business.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yes, it's a family business and with a gen two leadership team now. So I'm, I'm in the process of semi retiring, except I will say I'm not very good at retiring. I'm trying

Cliff Duvernois: CEOs are horrible at retiring.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: man. I tell you, this is a hard thing to do.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Um, I'm actually taking lessons. Retirement lessons. That's what I call it. It's actually called legacy council through another organization called the Edward low foundation. And they do a great job with legacy and getting people to retire. Um, as far as the Stevens family, uh, business, well, one I'm a huge fan, but both of our generations have gone.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: To their events. We are, we belong to their, uh, or we go to their executive round table. So they have a leading generation round table, and then they have a second generation round table that allows, uh, peer discussion on what's happening with the, with the family dynamics of the business and family dynamics.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Just add a little complexity. Sure. Um, because you know, if you're mad at your son, because he didn't take the garbage out. It, it, I, it should not impact, you know, sales numbers during the day, but somehow they get all intertwined in your mind. Um, we've, we've through the, uh, Steven's family business. We actually have developed, I think, a really strong succession process.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So we started succession planning. Maybe I Don. Six or seven years ago now. Oh, wow. Yeah, my son is 38 now. So we probably started when he was 32. He's been with the business, he worked outside the business. Then he came back in. Um, so he had worked here for maybe six years. Um, but it was a three phase program.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So phase number one was providing, um, Educational opportunities and a consultant for strategic planning and thinking about the business of running a business. I came from a background of lack of financial literacy, and I didn't know what a business was. So having that as a, as kind of a foundational piece as gen our gen twos are moving into that, that was really good.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And then we brought in, um, a financial consultant. He happens to be our accountant, but he's so forward facing. So here's my plan. And how am I going to fund it? Because again, that was. I just didn't have any background in that. And, and I knew that that was an area that we needed to work. And then the last piece, which is probably the most interesting and the most difficult is the leadership piece.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So all of the education and, you know, I heard somebody say one time that you can own a business, anybody can own a business, but you might not be able to run it. So, yeah, it's so truthful, you know, being a, a business owner. Fine. You can do that. It's a monetary thing. You can own a business leading a business that takes some chops, you know, and it takes a lot of conversations and mentorship and things like that.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So really our gen two leaders have gone through these three processes and now they run day to day operations. They, and they're perfectly fine at it. Matter of fact, Do things that make me laugh, like do that was smart, you know, so 

Cliff Duvernois: nice. Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois: I wanna chase down that leadership that you just talked about there, but first I have to go back and ask this question because my curiosity is going wild. Why not just sell the business? Cash out you would OB if you're talking like three to five times multiplier for your revenue, I mean, you would, could take your whole family and buy an island in the Caribbean somewhere and just live high on the hog little drinks with umbrellas. But you've decided to pass us down to the gen two as you've, if you've referred to them, you know, why, why is that important?

Cliff Duvernois: Why is that? Why is that the legacy keeping in the family? Why is that important?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Oh, gosh. Um, well I think there's a variety of emotional reasons.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Creating a legacy that continues, uh, in a certain way is always very satisfying. So, uh, I we've talked internally about Patty, my son's name's Patty P a D D Y um, running the business since he was in college. And it's always op optional. You don't have to come in and run the business.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: You can, you can own the business and not run the business.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: You, we can sell the business, um, or you can, you know, take it through a second generation and hopefully into a third generation, if that's your, if that's your passion. So right now, his, you know, he's very involved with the business and it's a joy for him to take it on. So I think. You know, I'm happy to give and he's happy to receive.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And it just, it's really, I'm very lucky with this. A lot of people maybe don't have this opportunity to pass on their business. You know, for me, it's a little bit a labor of love and to have somebody who really has that emotional attachment to it, um, take it on is, is satisfying. Um, if he came to me tomorrow and said, you know, Hey, I think this isn't my passion.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Okay. We, we could sell it, but luckily that's not the case right now. So yeah, it's a, it's a good thing. And I'm wonderful. Happy

Cliff Duvernois: with regards to leadership. Let's go back and talk about when you decided to become the CEO start Spacey. What was probably one of the, one of the biggest lessons that the universe or the life taught you about leadership?

Cliff Duvernois: Cuz obviously you didn't make it to this point without having some leadership skills.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Uh, well, I, again, the first few years, I, I think what happened there were, there were some milestones that really, it were impactful. And I think in 2001, the, we had a milestone that said, you know, wait a second. This is a business, not a hobby.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And we're going to run it as a business. So there was a big aha moment.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: We said we really need financial literacy and we need, we need to run the business a certain way. So luckily for me, I was on the, uh, board, uh, the advisory board for chemical bank at the time. And the CEO emeritus was a gentleman by the name of Alan OT and Alan had retired and he was kind of grumpy little guy I love him to death.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So I could say that on podcast, um, I cornered him at a chamber event. And I said, I need some help because we're not financially. I literate and we cannot continue to do the business. Like we're doing it because we're really not running a business. We're just kind of accidentally selling things or doing whatever it is that needs to be done.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: So every month starting in 2000, probably every month I would go in with my financials and he would ask me.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: and the first year, literally first year I had no clue what he was gonna ask and I had no answers for what he was going to. I'd have to go back. I'd have to research and I'd come back second year.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: I would, I got better. Third year I could anticipate, and I was ready for his little questions, but that fourth year I could ask the questions. And that has been one of the biggest gifts. I can't, I can't thank I couldn't thank him in enough. He. Passed away, but I, I was with him for 20 years. We were, yeah. I mean, just he's such a gift.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: I mean, how do you even say thank you for that? So that was kind of the, one of the first milestones. And then in 2007 we won, um, we won the Michigan 50 companies to watch that's it's BEC because of all the government work. And we were kind of growing and doing things like that. So we won that. And as part of the prize, we got to go down to the Edward Lowe foundation and sit around and talk strategy.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And my business partner at the time, Lisa Halbert, and I went down there and she said, uh, or when we were learning it, they talked. Working on your business versus working in your business. That's huge. It's so huge. And it's so easy. And nobody had ever mentioned that in the first, I don't know, however many, 12 years we've been in business.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: And that's the point where we became purposeful, purposeful leadership, purposeful of financials, purposeful, purposeful. We're gonna work on the business. We're gonna do it a certain way. So when you talk about leadership leader, Is a thought process and it's a responsibility and it is a, I mean, you can really see lack of leadership in how your business is performing, how your people are performing.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Um, when you see the issues that are happening within a business that always do, you can trace those right back to leadership. So probably starting in 2007, everything that we've tried to. It's been on purpose, not an accident, but purposely done. So it's, it's been good. 

Cliff Duvernois: Indeed. It has now for the succession planning mm-hmm and turning your business over to your son.

Cliff Duvernois: What has been some of the key pieces of advice that you've shared with him?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Well, you know, you gotta be careful sharing advice. try to, you try to do that, but it's like,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Sneak that in every so often actually Pat's been very good. Um, there's been advice from me on, well, actually in fairness, when pat came into the business a long time ago, he's never been the owner's son. He worked in all different divisions of the company, but did so in such a way that was very appropriate.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: You know, sometimes you. Owners kids and they feel entitled and they do things differently. Um, he never has done that. He's always been very receptive on, you know, let's, let's think about things this way and maybe, you know, let's, let's, let's look at this differently. Both he and Jenny Bush, which is our other gen two leader right now.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Um, so as far as advice I've given him, I think he's gotten advice. A variety of areas. He, I was very insistent that he had outside mentors. I'm very insistent that our leaders do have outside mentors and I, you know, it is so important. Um, so I was able to connect with some of my connections, uh, his first mentor that he had.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: It's just been an amazing relationship and Jenny bees there. So that was kind of my advice, you know, like I can get you a mentor, so go listen to them. So, which has been great because a lot of times the mentors kind of say the right things and you're like,

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Ma Yay. Yay. I completely agree. So it comes at a little differently.

Cliff Duvernois: I started working with mentors and coaches last year.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Mm mm-hmm

Cliff Duvernois: uh, for the first time ever. I mean, people have been recommended it to me for years, but I'm kept thinking to myself. Ah, I don't know. I don't know, man. I wouldn't, I would not change that experience for the world. It is just amazing. How quickly an outside view.

Cliff Duvernois: Can't provide clarity for problems that you've been struggling with for months, maybe even years. And just having them ask one question, Hey, well, what about this? 

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Exactly. And 

Cliff Duvernois: of a sudden, a door opens that you just never knew was 

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yeah.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Yeah. I'm a firm believer in mentors. I'm a firm believer. Well, I'm a firm believer in getting help anywhere you can, um, maybe not taking all the advice, but being able to find a lot of advice and pick the parts you need.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: But I like, um, CEO round. I think that's all peer to peer learning is always very powerful. So yeah, anything like that. And he's been, he, both of them have mentors, long term mentors, and they're very, um, again, purposeful and respectful of, of that relationship.

Cliff Duvernois: Wonderful. Cathy, if anybody from our audience is listening to this podcast, then they wanna. Check out what it is that you're doing. Maybe learn more about space Inc. And what it is that they're offering. What's the best way for them to, to do that?

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Um, well you certainly can go to our website, which is and take a look at what we, what we do. Um, I think if you wanna talk about leadership or you wanna talk about business or how to do work with the government or something that maybe is a little less tangible than, Hey, I need a.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Workspace, um, you can call the office and the, I think we have an eight. We do have another 800 number. It's 1 8, 8, no, hold on 1 8, 7, 7, 7, 7 2 2 3. It spells something it's like.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Hello from space or something like that. Anyway, it's we've got a phone number, call the look at the website. Call the phone number, ask for Kathy there.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Uh, Julie Hayes answers the phone. She's usually usually pretty good at getting, uh, people on my calendar.

Cliff Duvernois: for our audience. We'll make sure to have all of that information in the show notes down below, including the phone number.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Thanks you. Um, I'd edit out that part now. I'm

Cliff Duvernois: of curious myself as to what your number, uh, what your phone number spells, but anyways, Kathy, thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today. I have learned a lot from this conversation, so thank you for taking time.

Kathie Fuce-Hobohm: Listen, thanks for, uh, for asking and it's been a pleasure.



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