Does history have a place in today’s business?
Step back to 1937 in Chicago. The steel workers’ strike was a hot front page item and the city was in the limelight with the Hollywood release of “In Old Chicago” a fictionalized account of the Great Chicago Fire. At the time, this Academy Award nominee was among the most expensive films ever made.
In lesser-known news, on June 20, 1937 the printing company DF Keller threw a cocktail party to inaugurate their new building located at 3005 Franklin Boulevard. If you’re a Chicago Powder Coat customer, you’ll recognize that address—home of S&B Finishing.
By a twist of fate, the invitation to the building’s inauguration in 1937 turned up at a yard sale two years ago now hangs in S&B’s conference room.
When President Kenny Spielman was offered the invitation for 80 bucks, he didn’t bargain. He thought that having that piece of nostalgia on the wall was worth it.
A framed piece of paper may not seem significant, but it points to qualities and deeper values that make S&B the Top Shop it is today.
Pride balanced with appreciation
Getting overly nostalgic or longing for the past is different from valuing our history as a company. Along with real pride comes deep appreciation—a quality often undervalued in the business world.
For S&B appreciation means acknowledging that our continuing success stems from the loyalty of our employees—ten of whom have been with the company for over 25 years. Their consistent commitment to performing top quality work day after day, year after year—and decade after decade translates into excellence that keeps customers coming back.
Secondly, as a company we don’t take for granted the trust our customers place in us. Regardless of the size of company or project, every single job is our most important job.
The value of persistence
Growing as a business isn’t a simple and smooth upward trajectory. To stay in business for 40 years means withstanding the challenges that come with growth.
Kenny recalls the process of moving from S&B’s former location on North Carpenter Street to 3005 Franklin Boulevard after he purchased the building in 1989. The process lasted over two years and involved duplicating shop operations in both locations.
“We couldn’t just move like you’d do an office or home,” explains Spielman. “We had to rebuild the entire equipment assembly in the new shop while keeping the former one in operation to make the transition seamless for customers.”
Trying times like those early years in the new facility and the more recent transition to new software in the office have been critical to better serving customers over the long run.
Honoring our past to build our future
Valuing our history means learning from our successes and mistakes—then taking that information to build a better company. It can be tempting to adopt cleverly-packaged ideas or practices without careful assessing whether they’ll benefit customers.
Instead S&B works as a team, an active member of the Powder Coat Institute 20 group and through its annual ISO 9001 Certification process to clearly assess where innovation or improvement is called for—and where things are already working well.
“By working smartly as a company, we take our history and improve upon it,” says President Kenny Spielman.
What about your business?
In the comments below, let us know about your company.
What nostalgic artifacts do you have in your workplace?
Does history have a role to play in your company?
Does history have a place in today’s business? What values have allowed your business to overcome challenges and improve service to customers?