An Inspirational Business Story to Kick Off 2015!
Happy New Year, Everyone! We hope this year has started out well for each of you. We are excited about 2015 and will be here for you in the coming year to encourage you in your leadership role and think about your business in fresh and innovative ways. If you are on our list of friends and associates, we believe you are a part of a company or business that has the ability to be good, ethical, noble and heroic! To illustrate this, we thought we would start off the year with a “feel good” story about a local business that we find inspiring due to their entrepreneurial spirit and amazing, quickly developing work culture. This business is positively impacting their vendors, employees, customers, and community. Here is the exciting story we have seen unfold before our eyes:
Back in 1984, the Lyle family opened Norman Stamp & Seal on the corner of Main and University in Norman, Oklahoma. They specialized in stamps and seals eventually expanding to offer engraved office products such as nameplates and name tags. Even after their parents, Chet and Jennie, passed away, Marianne Raleigh and her brother Doug Lyle continued to operate the business. The pair maintained the product quality and customer service that their client base had come to expect. After 30 years in the business, however, thoughts of retirement began to percolate and the brother-sister duo began considering selling the family business.
That is where Tyler LaReau comes in. Tyler is an independent insurance agent and has been a neighbor to Norman Stamp and Seal for 15 years. He is an entrepreneur who is active in the community and always up for a new adventure. Over the years he would see the brother and sister team walking back and forth in front of his business on their way to lunch. Often, he would step outside to chat with them. This last spring during one of their visits, they mentioned that they were seriously considering selling the business. Tyler bought it on the spot – no review of the books, little in-depth knowledge of the products…essentially, no questions asked. As a wise businessman or woman you might be saying to yourself “That is crazy! How can someone go buy something so blindly?” The fact is – he had a passion and a vision that he was willing to bet on!
Tyler stated “I had been a customer for years and I wanted to keep the business locally owned. I appreciate the quality work they’ve done for the past 30 years and I wanted to build on that rich history and expand the services and products offered.”
A New Beginning
Soon after the discussion with Marianne and Doug, Tyler went to visit the store and the employees. What he found was an industrial type shop with little street appeal. There were very few employees and the employees that were there had been doing the same type of business for many years. The use of technology to drive in business was non-existent. Essentially, customers would call in their orders and stop by to pick it up. There was little reason for a customer to buy anything other than their call-in order when they were in the store. However, when Tyler opened the door to his new business, what he saw was potential. In his mind’s eye he could see a business with a beautiful showroom, products that could be purchased on the spot, a new segment of customers and an energized employee base. Some of the first questions asked by employees were what any of us would ask in that moment. “What changes will be made? Do we still have jobs? What are your expectations?”
His answer was – many changes, yes, you have jobs and the expectation is to have fun while providing great customer care! One of the employees, Bill, had been with the company for several years. With a family, Bill was especially concerned. Tyler began discussing with him the possibility of improving the services offered at the stamp and seal company by adding engraving as a product line. Bill did not see how that could possibly happen. Tyler responded by purchasing a $20,000 engraving machine. With this new machine, Bill would be able to engrave natural products such as wood cutting boards, serving trays, and coasters on granite and other natural materials. Bill’s eyes lit up, he was able to see the direction Tyler was taking them and has been going full throttle ever since.
The Genius of Engaging Stakeholders
The company has new branding, a new website and a new overall look. They have doubled the number of employees and increased profits. A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the four tenants of Conscious Capitalism: Purpose, Leadership, Culture and Stakeholders. While Tyler has effectively utilized all four of the conscious business tenants, the biggest secret to his success is that he has effectively engaged his stakeholders including his vendors, employees, customers and the community. Tyler is constantly asking his employees for new ideas, giving the customers the best service possible, having a positive relationship with his vendors and continues to invest his time and energy in the community. Unlike some businesses that believe they only exist to maximize return on investment for their shareholders, conscious businesses focus on their whole business ecosystem, creating and optimizing value for all of their stakeholders, understanding that strong and engaged stakeholders lead to a healthy, sustainable, resilient business.
So, some relevant questions we have for you this first week of 2015 are:
1. How passionate and energized are you about your work?
2. Do you have a purpose and a vision that people can get excited about?
3. Are you communicating and engaging all of your stakeholders (vendors, employees, customers, the community) in that purpose and vision?
The first of the year is always a time for reflection and if the answer is “no” or “maybe” to any of the above questions, be encouraged that this is the year to make a change. The important thing is to be Conscious (intentional) in making that change. What you do in your line of work every day makes a difference to someone…
Let us know if we can help you in any way this year on your leadership journey!