When 25-year-old Tim Stelzer reported to work at master distributor Neuco Inc., it probably seemed like just another job.

What Stelzer and the management staff, composed of family members, probably did not consider that day is that he would one day join the inner circle as a partner.

Based in Downers Grove, IL (just outside Chicago), Neuco announced that effective April 2009, Stelzer, a 27-year veteran, had become a partner in the firm. He is the first “outsider” to gain the title.

His personal style, his long-term commitment to Neuco and his widening responsibilities were the impetus for the promotion, says Stelzer.

“I think the owners had an opportunity to see my values and work ethic in the workplace and realized that I grew as the company grew,” he says.

Stelzer pointed out the special regard he had for Joe Neustadt, who was of particular help when Stelzer first started. Neustadt, a co-owner and vice president, passed away in 2004. “You always need encouragement when you're new, and Joe provided that motivation,” Stelzer recalls.

What probably helped the owners decide about him was that they realized he treated Neuco as though he was a partner even before he received the formal invitation, Stelzer says

“If you take responsibility for your duties and make a firm commitment through hard work and always seeking improvement, you will get the attention of management,” he says.

He points out that sometimes employees at a family-owned business might feel that there is a ceiling regarding promotion if they are not related. At Neuco, his promotion shows that no ceiling exists if you're willing to make the commitment.

While modest about his own promotion, Stelzer says it should offer encouragement to employees who want to progress at Neuco. “If you pay your dues and are conscientious and ambitious, you have a real chance to move upwards,” he says. “I'm living proof that you can advance as far as your desire and skills will take you.”