Tell Mark Peterson he's childish or he's never really grown up and he'll probably thank you for the compliment. |
Being a little childish is an important job skill for the 47-year-old East Moline man who designs and sells playground, park and recreation equipment for his company, Midwest Sales Company.
"I'm just a kid at heart, I've never grown up," he said, standing near one of his installations, a Viking ship in Silvis Heights Park in Silvis. "I have to channel my inner child a lot for this job. Not many people can go spend time in six parks and consider it work related."
He was managing a bakery in Davenport when the former owner of the company asked him if he wanted to sell playground equipment in 1997. About four months later, he bought the company.
"It was one of the best moves I've ever made in my life," he said. "There's been ups and downs, but overall it's been great."
It wasn't all fun and games, he said, calling it a "radical learning experience." Because most of his work is with or through a local government, there are Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines that must be followed, consumer-safety regulations that must be met, and a host of government regulations that must be considered.
Mr. Peterson has studied how profoundly disabled children play to better design playgrounds to meet their needs. He even spent some time in a wheelchair to get a better understanding of the challenges children in wheelchairs face.
"It made me realize what's easy for some kids can be extremely difficult for other kids," he said.
Playgrounds are just a part of what the company offers. They also sell shelters, restrooms, benches, grills, splash parks, skate parks and sports goals.
Midwest Sales Company has provided equipment for about 70 area parks and schools.
Parks and playgrounds also have evolved. Play can help kids physically develop muscles, balance, even the simple act of swinging can help a child's inner ear develop. Mr. Peterson said that's why his company's motto is "Promoting wellness through recreation."
He has two children of his own, Carl, 23, and Kian, 7. Both have provided insight into what kids like in a playground or skate park. His wife, Jill, also plays an integral part of the operation, handling the bulk of the paperwork, orders, coordinating deliveries, accounting and inside sales, as well as being the in-house answer person. She's also proven herself very understanding, like the time when Mr. Peterson called her from the road to explain he had bought a Viking ship.
"I was at a national park and recreation association conference and the manufacturer who had the Viking ship asked me if I wanted to buy it, I said 'yes,' even though I didn't have a buyer lined up," Mr. Peterson said. "So I had to call her on the way home and say I bought the Viking ship. She asked me if I had a buyer and I said 'Not yet, but don't worry, we have 90 days.' She's very understanding."
Rock island, IL Details
|(More Print Ads)|