Midland Scientific: Bringing 150 Employees to the STEM FieldDec 01, 2021 12:28PM ● By Chris Bowling
Vivian Pappel Greni learned quickly that running a business isn’t glamorous. She grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, lugging port-a-potties, emptying trash cans, and riding the floor wax buffer for her parents’ businesses. It wasn’t exactly “ladylike,” as Pappel Greni said, but it made her realize she wanted to own a business.
“For years, I’ve kept my eye out for something that would be interesting or that would be challenging or that would be something that, at the end of the day, you’d feel like you made a contribution,” Pappel Greni said.
In 2007, she got her wish when she and her investors bought Midland Scientific, Inc. It’s not a retail shop that caters to the general public. Pappel Greni sells chemicals, syringes, plastic jugs, and wastewater testing supplies to laboratories around the country in fields such as agriculture, research, and food.
“There’s no question that the products that we sell to our customers make a huge difference in the daily life of Americans,” said Pappel Greni, president of Midland Scientific, “from the fuel we put in our car to the food we eat on our table.”
Midland Scientific started in Omaha in 1975. John Gondring saw laboratories had a need for a reliable supplier. Soon his wife, Maggie, joined the business, bringing work experience from Monsanto, best known for inventing Roundup and pioneering genetically modified crops. Pappel Greni met the couple in 1998, a year after moving to Omaha. At the time, she was a vice president at HDR and had a background in mechanical engineering. She liked the Gondrings and respected their ability to grow a business while keeping a family-run atmosphere. In 2006, when the Gondrings decided to retire, Pappel Greni’s jumped on the opportunity.
Diane Lechner had been at Midland Scientific for about 18 months when Pappel Greni took over. At the time, the company had 15 employees and two locations in Omaha, as well as one in Davenport, Iowa. It now has more than 150 employees working with more than 300 manufacturers, offering more than 500,000 products nationwide with locations from Bozeman, Montana, to San Antonio, Texas. Lechner, who started in accounts receivable, is now a vice president of the company.
“Not everyone wants change,” Lechner said. “But I can get bored easily. So I think that this job has just continued to provide, for me, challenges and [Pappel Greni is] really open to changes and improving processes.”
It’s a unique challenge because Midland Scientific’s competitors are multinational juggernauts whose names no layperson would know, yet they can easily rake in $10 billion in revenue per year. Midland Scientific has found success by setting its sights on the clients that aren’t top priority for their competitors, then offering them a high level of customer service.
“One of our taglines is, ‘We’re large enough to meet all of your needs, but small enough to meet all of your expectations,’” Lechner said. “That’s what we say to our customers and that’s really, I think, it’s who we are.”
That strategy so far is working well. Lechner said they’ve put new agents in cities such as Minneapolis and states like Ohio, and already found potential clients. That’s exactly what Pappel Greni wants to see. Growing up, she admired her parents for running businesses that serve the community. Now she’s doing the same—albeit on a larger scale.
“I think about [those similarities] all the time,” Pappel Greni said. “They were hardworking people, and they filled a huge need. They were very successful and very prideful of what they did, and they grew [their sanitation-based business] out of nothing. So I learned a lot of hard lessons from watching them.”
Visit midlandsci.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.