Welcome to the spring 2022 edition of the Business on the Bluff Alumni Newsletter.

In 2016, one year into my job as Dean of Business at Concordia University, our school changed its name to the Batterman School of Business. I am honored to have served as the first “Dean of the Batterman School of Business” and to have had the privilege of meeting Ted Batterman during his tour of our new building’ in the summer of 2019. Ted is legendary for his generosity at Concordia, but being a humble man of faith, he
never sought recognition for his gifts. I am glad he acquiesced and permitted our school of business to be named after him, because he is an inspiration to our students, and his life story provides timeless lessons. I recently sat down for breakfast with his goddaughter, niece, and alumna of CUW (Concordia Milwaukee AA 1977; Concordia St. Paul BA 1979. Concordia Mequon MS 1991), Mary Beth Batterman Terhaar, to learn some of those lessons. From our conversation and some literature she shared about Ted and his former company, Spacesaver Corporation, I have recorded some of those stories and life lessons.

Ted Batterman was an incredibly successful businessman and entrepreneur, but first and foremost, he was a man of faith who always valued family. At work, he treated employees and business partners like family. God, family and work were his priorities, in that order. All three he lived out in an inspiring way. Mary Beth’s fond memories include spending summers with Ted and his wife, Marilyn, and their children and times traveling together. She recalls how he always taught his children and grandchildren the importance of greeting him and others with a firm handshake. She remembers that tours of his company were never sterile recitations of equipment and factory processes, but rather focused on the people that worked at Spacesaver. He knew them all by name, and they were what mattered. He would introduce his guest to whatever employee he encountered and chat, and that is how he shared about his company. For Ted, it was about the people. These are lessons from Ted that stem from his character, integrity and faith. Now I will go on to share a bit about his incredible business accomplishments. He certainly lived and embodied the Parable of the Talents that Jesus taught in Matthew 25:14- 30.

Ted Batterman was born in Hinsdale Illinois on Nov. 27, 1927. He was an entrepreneur from a young age who started out by selling his family garden produce at a roadside stand. He later enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a way to go to college, first in Kyoto, and then graduating from the American Institute of Technology in Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in TV and Communications Engineering. His engineering career began at Motorola working on color television technology. From there he went on to found Electronic Systems in 1959 where he developed an automatic shutter mechanism that won him and his associates an Academy Award for technical achievement. That company was acquired, and in 1966, Ted went on to join Warner Electric. In time he left there and co founded Spacesaver Corp., a company started by Ronald and Marvin Staller in a 10,000 square foot barn. He began as a major shareholder and eventually bought out the Staller’s and became the sole owner in 1975. He had seen the potential of a little-noticed product feature, that of having shelving mounted on tracks which dramatically reduced the need for storage space. He recalled later, “I looked at the company… It wasn’t the … company. It was this concept in the back room.” In hindsight, he really did see a hidden opportunity – and that is perhaps a key business lesson – recognizing hidden business opportunities that solve important problems for customers. Spacesaver became a huge success, with over 400 employees; and, it was acquired by Kl in 1998. Kl is the sixth largest furniture manufacturer, with $700 million in sales.

Spacesaver storage systems are used in hospitals, libraries, financial institutions and industrial plants. They are the movable storage systems on tracks that you see in libraries. Early adopters of the systems were Georgetown University and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. 3M uses them, and claims they increased storage capacity 83% and reduced floor space requirements nearly 50%. They are even used by the U.S. Marine Corps, referred to as the Spacesaver Universal Weapons Rack, now the standard in weapons storage. Securing all these customers sometimes started with rejection, but Ted was persistent, commenting that “when you really believe in something, and the answer is ‘no,’ that’s just the time to buckle down and go to work.” He did not take no for an answer!

Ted Batterman received many awards and recognitions, including the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce small businessman of the year in 1984. One year later he was recognized as Wisconsin’s Small Business Person of the Year and was second runner up for the national title. Ted always remained humble, and spent the latter part of his life focusing on philanthropy. He has given to countless initiatives and charities, including Concordia University. His humble generosity was remarkable. He passed away on July 29th of 2020 at the age of 92, after a full life as a successful father, husband, entrepreneur, and man of faith.

So what are the key lessons from Ted? Faith and family are first; treat employees like family, with love and respect; innovate at all levels, from engineering to marketing and distribution; recognize hidden opportunities that solve important problems; whenever you hear “no,” buckle down and go to work; always greet others with a firm handshake; do business with integrity; be humble; and share the gifts God has given you, including the financial fruits of your labors. Ted did all of these at a remarkable level, and God’s love has shone through him beautifully. His legacy will live on in the Batterman School of Business, through the students we train to be the next generation of Christ-centered business leaders and entrepreneurs.

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.