Meet the Rising Stars: Eric Kahle
Eric Kahle's business is a family affair.
How did you get involved in the industry at such a young age?
Visual Marking Systems (VMS) was founded by my grandfather more than 35 years ago. Today, I work side-by-side with my father, who is also my partner in our new venture, Badlime Promo and Apparel. However, it took me a lot of long hours and hard work to get to where I am in the organization today. It all started at a young age of 14. I wanted to work. I started by scrubbing the floors after school as a teenager. From there, I wanted more. I was determined to learn more about production and, ultimately, about the business. Today, I can honestly say I’ve ran more than 90 percent of the equipment in manufacturing. My responsibilities are ever evolving. My next step was learning to install our products. Installs became a passion of mine, and our fleet division was growing like crazy. A few of us moved on to get our PDAA Master Certification, vetting ourselves as a reputable installation company. I had the opportunity to travel, meet, and learn from the most experienced installers in the nation and really focus on my craft. However, I didn’t want to stop there. I decided it was time to finish my college education.
I graduated with an associate degree in business administration, bachelor’s degree in management, a minor in finance, and a general immersion in economics. I joined Future Business Leaders of America and was elected to the New York State Treasurer position. After graduating from RIT, I left the industry. I’m not one to accept the silver spoon, so I set off to create my own career. I worked in manufacturing facilities, hospitality, and logistics. I had fantastic opportunities but felt drawn back to printing. At that point, my wife had a work opportunity back home, so we moved to the Cleveland area. When my father caught wind of our move and me applying for jobs, he quickly snatched up the human capital. Just like that, I was back in printing.
I started as a management trainee (and technically still am in my management training program). The program is designed to be a 10-year plan; working in every department, learning every facet of the business. I’ve worked in accounting, design for manufacturing, and sales. Currently, I run our start-up, Badlime, as VP of Operations and Master Scheduler. I also sit as a co-chair on Printing United’s Next Generation advisory council. I’ve positioned myself to soak up everything I can, from both my co-workers and active industry participants outside of VMS. I have a great network of resources that continues to help drive VMS to be the industry-leading manufacturer we are today.
Why is it important to become trained and certified?
The PDAA master certification is not an easy one to pass. It takes patience and is humbling. Let’s face it, I was just a 19-year-old kid trying to be a quality installer – not easy. The work is hard, the hours are long, and it requires a lot of travel. There were a plethora of installers that could literally wrap circles around me. This became a challenge for me, and it was ever rewarding when I passed my test. It was a career milestone. I just wanted to keep growing.
I knew that this was the step VMS needed to take to differentiate ourselves as the top graphics installation provider in Northeast Ohio. Today, it has grown to so much more than that. We have multiple installers on staff, but what is ever more significant is the network of installers we take advantage of. We use over 250 installation crews around the nation to service our largest fleet customers. We’ve added a full-time installation coordinator to our staff to accommodate for the project management required. If VMS had never made a push to understand and incorporate PDAA into our vetting process, we would not be able to service the scale of fleet accounts we have today.