7 Questions With...

Fritz Aichele, President, EPCO Products Inc.
Jul 8, 2022
Jeffrey Crane
7 Questions With...

Fritz Aichele has been a businessman for nearly 60 years, and 51 have been dedicated to EPCO. A leading manufacturer of products for the fluid power and diesel engine industries, as well as a supplier of other product lines to the marine industry, EPCO has prospered abundantly over the years. Fritz, along with his dad and brother, purchased the business in 1969 and have since grown it into an operation whose products are sold all over the United States, and in several countries around the world. But don’t let his impressive résumé intimidate you — Fritz is here for a good time. We caught up with him and talked about life, golf and a few things in between.

Q1: What is one piece of advice you’ve received that has made a lasting impression on you?

There were two flight rules I learned when I was taking private pilot flying lessons in the early 70s: Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). IFR pilots could use advanced instrumentation while flying in less than favorable weather conditions, whereas VFR pilots were limited to the basic cockpit instruments while flying in limited to favorable weather conditions. At that time, a flight instructor gave me advice that has served me well over the years with many decisions — “If you have to stop and think about whether or not the weather conditions are favorable enough to fly, you have already made your decision.” 

Q2: How’s your golf game?

The focus of my golf game has shifted to being more about an opportunity to spend enjoyable time with three other players. We start out as friends and finish as friends who won’t tell others who shot what. I’ve made a hole-in-one, and was named Player of the Year at Fort Wayne Country Club (FWCC) in ’86 and ’88. 

There’s also a specific golf memory I like to think back on. For over forty years I have given a gold-plated Susan B. Anthony dollar coin for use as a ball marker to any person in my foursome who I am playing with for the first time. Wishes for the best of luck always accompany the marker. About 25 years ago I was speaking with an associate of Jack Nicklaus about the gold-plated ball markers. I ended up giving him one to give to Jack. Sometime later, and much to my surprise, I received a nice letter from Jack thanking me for the marker. He, too hoped it would bring him good luck.

Q3: What are your favorite things to do in and around the city of Fort Wayne? What is Fort Wayne’s best kept secret?

Trying to learn why the names of way too many Fort Wayne streets have one name until that same street is intersected by another street before continuing on with a different street name. Best kept secret? Who is responsible for naming these multi-named Fort Wayne streets, and could it be possible that whoever it is has a list of more street names than there are streets?

Q4: What is one personal goal you have for yourself and how do you plan to achieve it? 

Celebrate my next birthday! Not overdoing my last one…

Q5: Throughout your time with EPCO, share with us a humorous on-the-job moment that will stick with you forever.

There is an ongoing humorous use of the specialized acronym G.I.T.O.I. as part of EPCO’s manufacturing continuous improvement effort. Everyone at EPCO is encouraged to offer suggestions for improvements. When the suggestions bear fruit, I take credit for them according to our specialized Glad I Thought of It program. I’ve been known to encourage all employees to make an extra effort to generate suggestions during lulls and times where they aren’t coming in as frequently. Of course I don’t really take credit — this is just a fun way of encouraging all to look for and make suggestions for improvements. The names of the actual individuals and their suggestions are recorded on EPCO’s years-old, ongoing Suggestions List in our break room for all to see. 

Q6: If you had to work but didn’t need the money, what would you do?

I can’t say exactly what it would be, but it would need to be something that involved finding better, easier, more efficient, less costly ways of doing that work. Why? Because those challenges always pop up on my mental to-do list whenever a new task is presented.

Q7: What would be a good theme song for your life?

The “Hokey Pokey.” For more times than I care to remember, I have either put my right foot or left foot right in it!


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