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Editor Jeff D’Alessio’s weekly chat with a local boss about leadership, management style and more. This week: The president of Midwest Engineering and Testing Inc., a major player with a big reach in concrete testing and engineering.


Dan Tappendorf didn’t have to look far to find his business role model.

He went by “Dad.”

Eldon Tappendorf was “a small farmer and small businessman installing overhead doors. We worked together nearly every day I was not in school, from seventh grade until I got out of college,” the son says. “I learned many things from him. One of the simple things I learned is that when you make a commitment to do something, you need to do it.”

In 2009, Tappendorf and future CEO wife Julie committed to a bold move — taking out a Small Business Administration loan, acquiring the Champaign company where he’d worked for two decades (what was then known as Midwest Engineering Services), tweaking the name and diving in head-first.

Ten years and change later, Midwest Engineering and Testing Inc. is a major player with a big reach in concrete testing and engineering, from wind farms in Iowa to Willard Airport in Savoy.

The company president took time out to answer a few questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the seventh installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting local leaders of organizations big and small.

I can’t live without ... my lifelong partner, Julie. Not much else matters if you’ve got a good partner.

My philosophy on meetings is ... try to limit to the people that are essential to attend.

I’m frugal in that ... I mow the lawn at my office.

The worst job I ever had was ... working in the bindery at a printing company, second shift, for a time while in college. I had to keep 10 to 15 feeders filled up with sheets of papers. When I moved on from that job, I felt like I had just got out of prison.

For employees, my one unbreakable rule is ... if you can’t show up on time, I can’t use you.

The last luxury I indulged in was ... buying a sailboat. Jeanneau 44 DS. We keep it in St. Petersburg. Beverly Isabella, named after Julie’s mother and my mother.

When it comes to my single favorite moment of all-time in this job ... I don’t really have a single moment but get the most enjoyment in helping customers solve problems and meeting their demanding deadlines. It was also a pretty good day when we paid off the SBA loan.

I’m up and at ’em every day by ... 5 a.m.

As far as my exercise routine ... I do not have one. My office is upstairs and I make 20 to 30 trips up and down every day.

For Midwest Engineering and Testing, the next big thing is ... transitioning ownership of the company to the next generation. We have several family members in the business, and I look forward to seeing where the next generation takes the company.