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Twinsburg -- For some in the business world, big contracts are closed through a golf outing or dinner, tickets to a sporting event or other such white collar wooing.
For Dolf Kahle of Visual Marking Systems, deals are made in the details.
"You win your business by earning it, by doing a good job," said Kahle, named the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce's 2016 Business Person of the Year.
The owner and CEO of VMS on East Aurora Road received the prestigious award before about 120 people Dec. 15 at the Hilton Garden Inn of Cleveland/Twinsburg. The honor has been conferred every year since 1972, with such local luminaries as Ray Diersing, James Karabec, Erwin Geis and last year's recipient, Peter DeSouza of Violet Orthodontics, receiving the recognition.
"The key words are 'business,' and 'person,'" DeSouza said in his introduction. "And the 2016 recipient excels on both fronts. When opportunity knocked, [Kahle] and his Dad opened the door ... and from that day on, they never looked back."
"That day on" was more than 35 years ago, in 1982, when Kahle and his father, Herman, opened VMS in North Royalton, a facility of about 20,000 square feet that specialized in small-screen printing, with one printing press.
While Herman, who passed away in 2010, ran the business, Dolf maintained the computer systems and worked in sales.
The two moved the business to its current location in 1987, purchasing about 30,000 square feet at 2097 E. Aurora Road. The business expanded to 50,000 square feet in 1997, and now boasts about 58,000 square feet, 117 employees and 20 printing presses.
"At the heart of every great team and business lies a leader with vision and purpose," said Ron Gizzo, chief operations officer at VMS. "Dolf Kahle has never swayed from this path, and has created a work environment and culture that is simply amazing. We are extremely proud to say we work at Visual Marking Systems."
According to VMS officials, 60 percent of VMS employees have been with the company for at least five years; 20 percent have been there for more than 15 years; and six employees have been there for 30 years.
"I'm speechless," Kahle said at the luncheon. "I made it because I have a phenomenal group of people around me."
According to Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Abby Fechter, the selection is based on various criteria, including selflessness; going above and beyond in duty; reliability; pride in the community; and being an industry leader. The Chamber accepts nominations for the award, and the Chamber Board of Directors makes the selection.
"Dolf easily fits these components with his work at VMS, the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce and the Twinsburg community as a whole," Fechter said. "This is an award for those who go above and beyond ... and that's what Dolf does."
While VMS is known internationally for its signage, from its logos and decals on corporate fleet vehicles to all manner of nameplates and decals for industrial, medical, agricultural and retail companies, the Twinsburg business also works in the community -- from the Chamber clambake and golf outing, to the Twinsburg High School Great Expectations Show Choir, to work with the Reminderville Athletic Club.
"You have been a mentor to a next generation of business leaders," DeSouza told Kahle Dec. 15.
"Dolf Kahle goes above and beyond the call of duty," said Twinsburg Mayor Ted Yates. "It's heartwarming to drive by and see banners supporting the city. 'I love it there,' is what the people who work for him say."
A respected member of the specialty printing industry, Kahle has served as chair of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association; Board member for the National Association of Graphic and Product Identification Manufacturers; and in 2014 was named one of Smart Business Network's 50 Smartest People.
VMS joined the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce in 1994.
Kahle, a graduate of Orange High School, the University of Michigan and Arizona State University, lives in Solon with his wife of 33 years, Marilyn, and has three children.
"I've had a blessed life," Kahle said. "I've had an opportunity to work with my father ... he was Best Man at my wedding. I've got a wonderful family and I'm about to have my first grandchild.
"So, I'm blessed."