Mark Chaney has a favorite story he likes to tell about his early career days. It involves nearly getting fired by Danny Wegman.
Chaney was having a good run working at Wegmans Food Markets Inc. on East Avenue. He was 16, enjoyed the job and was engrossed in his duties. At times, however, he may have been too engrossed.
While putting up an aisle display-shirt untucked and hair unkempt-Chaney was stopped by a man who asked him to tidy up a bit. He told the man sure, when he finished the job; then he turned and went about his business.
He later learned that man was Wegman, and he had approached Chaney’s manager after their exchange, saying he wanted Chaney fired. His manager, however, stuck up for him and Chaney ended up keeping his job.
It left a lasting impact, he says.
"I realized it’s not enough to be hard- working; you have to be aware of others and the impact you have as part of a team," he says.
Chaney, 49, carries that lesson into his own business, Calvary Automation Systems Inc. He is president and CEO of the Webster company, which designs and manufactures production machinery and equipment primarily for the alternative fuels, automotive, biomedical and consumer products markets.
Chaney started the firm in 1994 and is the sole owner. Calvary employs roughly 250 workers, and Chaney expects it to log sales this year of $80 million to $100 million.
Over the next 18 months, he predicts, Calvary will add 100 workers and grow annual sales to $110 million to $130 million.
Chaney, who related the story about his near-firing to Wegman at a recent dinner-Wegman remembered the incident-remains impressed with the way Wegman runs his business.
"My goal is to become the Wegmans of automation," Chaney says.
As a child, Chaney was drawn to mechanical objects. He remembers taking things apart as a 4-year-old and asking how to put them back together.
He was born in Daytona Beach, Fla., but spent part of his early childhood in Vestal, Broome County, where his father was a systems analyst with IBM Corp., owned 70 apartments and ran a farm. Chaney did not realize it in his early years but now says he likely inherited his father’s work ethic.
Chaney decided to move to Rochester and live with his mom in his teens, then at 17 decided to venture out on his own. He found his own place and took a job first at Star Market and then Wegmans while going to high school.
After graduating from East High School in 1981, he began taking classes at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he studied engineering. While there, he worked odd jobs as a lifeguard, limousine driver and general contractor.
He never finished college and instead took a job at Rochester-based Rogers Associates Machine Tool Corp. Chaney worked there for 12 years in jobs such as a tool maker and mechanical engineer. While there, he had a number of ideas but never saw them come to fruition. Finally, frustrated, he started Calvary Design Service.
Even as the company leader, Chaney says, it is still a struggle to get people to sign onto his ideas.
"I’ve never had one idea anyone (initially) liked," he says.
Luckily, once they give his ideas a try, people are usually happy with the outcome, he says.
Take, for example, his idea to give Calvary engineers two computer monitors to do their work. Everyone’s initial response was no, so Chaney made one engineer try his idea. Before long, all were working with two monitors, and now they claim they do not know how they did their work without them, he says.
Chaney emphasizes rewarding people for jobs well done. Numerous incentive programs are available at Calvary for those who want to work toward them.
"I’m a big believer in rewards as a motivator," he says.
After buying a 400,000-square-foot building in Webster for $4.6 million and spending $4.5 million to renovate it, the company moved to the larger facility from Henrietta in May.
In addition to the local site, Calvary has sales staff in other parts of the world and recently opened a 50,000-square-foot facility in Malaysia to provide service, support and fabrication for customers.
Its customers are worldwide, including local customers such as Eastman Kodak Co., General Motors Corp. and Xerox Corp.
A few years ago, Calvary shifted its focus from being a custom engineering firm that provided prototypes for customers to one that can supply larger orders of the machines. That business is growing steadily.
More recently, Calvary opened up a new business opportunity by creating separate units that focus on new product development.
Calvary has either partnered with smaller firms or bought stock in other companies to increase its offerings. One such firm is CGS Fabrication, a manufacturer of high-speed machining, computer numerically controlled milling and turning, fabrication and assembly of components.
Calvary also partnered with OptiCool Technologies LLC and has a majority ownership in the business. The firm builds cooling products for data centers. Its systems are smaller than other units on the market and more energy-efficient, Chaney says.
Both CGS and OptiCool are located in Calvary’s Webster building.
Calvary is working with two other companies to set up similar deals. The business looks for companies with strong management and technological capabilities, he says. It then commits money and people to bring the products to market.
Though Calvary is expanding its workforce in other locations, Chaney said, the company’s core engineering and purchasing operations will remain here.
Chaney travels no more than one week per month, mostly throughout the United States, Asia and Europe.
He begins each day at Midtown Athletic Club, playing tennis. Laid back and friendly, Chaney enjoys talking about his business and makes an effort to get his points across with interesting stories and anecdotes rather than reciting a stream of business jargon.
His office-the last spot to be completed since the move-includes a seating area with a fireplace, conference table with a smart board and teleconferencing capabilities, as well as a kitchenette. Family photos surround his desk.
Roberta Chaney, his wife, says her husband strives to be approachable and generous to employees. He makes sure he knows the names of their spouses and children. He also has an open-door policy at the office and even, at times, at his home.
"He respects and values the team he has," Roberta says, adding that his style derives from being a self-made success. "He believes it’s important for everyone to be recognized."
She also describes her husband as loyal and honorable.
"He can relate to everyone; he doesn’t put himself on a pedestal," she says.
Chaney describes his management style as hands-on. He believes in developing innovative products and bringing them to market inventively.
"To achieve this, I have to find and develop leaders who are passionate about the project and the people," he says. "My best attribute is being a good talent scout."
At the office, Chaney focuses on sales strategies, operations and team-building through hiring, training and motivating.
"Mostly I prepare for meetings and go to meetings," Chaney says; he averages more than 100 meetings with key personnel monthly.
He compares his daily schedule to that of a dentist.
"I go from meeting to meeting-instead of patient to patient-trying to improve the department’s health and eradicate problems," he says. "From their point of view, I am exerting pain in areas that could have been left alone for a while longer. No one likes change, but it is part of continuous improvement."
He meets regularly to adjust techniques. The collaboration on new products, as well as developing new leaders, is Chaney’s favorite part of the business. What he does not like is losing projects during the sales process.
While there are many industry challenges, Chaney says the biggest challenge for him is developing the next generation of engineers and technicians who will have the skills and passion to succeed and drive company growth.
He gets different types of inspiration from a few business titans. He admires former General Electric Corp. chairman and CEO Jack Welch for his business strategies; the late Steve Jobs for his innovation as co-founder of Apple Inc.; and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates for his philanthropy.
And then there is Wegman for his success with a local business.
"He has taken the grocery store to a new level," Chaney says.
Bill Krug, with Rochester-based S&W Technologies Inc., has known Chaney for more than 25 years and praises his business acumen.
"What makes Mark a great leader is his blend of innovative thinking and ability to capitalize on developing markets," Krug says. "Attracting and motivating top industry talent to execute on company targets has also been key to Mark’s thriving businesses," he adds.
Off the job
Chaney and his wife live in Victor with their two children, Gia, 10, and Ryan, 8. They family moved back to the Rochester area in 2009 after living in Naples, Fla., where Chaney owned some properties, for four years. Chaney ran Calvary from there, making numerous trips back to the area, but finally decided the Rochester area was more family-friendly than Florida.
At home, he prefers to spend his time with his family. That includes sit-down meals. His wife, born and raised in Italy, is a phenomenal cook, Chaney says.
"Needless to say, we are a close family and we eat well," he says.
He also enjoys tennis, golfing and boating. An avid reader, Chaney often finishes one book a week.
Chaney says his professional focus remains on growing his business.
"Over the next five years I hope to hire hundreds and continue to build the company," he says.
Position: President and CEO, Calvary Automation Systems Inc.
Education: East High School, 1981
Family: Wife Roberta; daughter Gia, 10, and son Ryan, 8
Activities: Tennis, golf, boating, reading
Quote: "I’ve never had one idea anyone (initially) liked."
11/9/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.