“If you’ve never been to a race, you don’t have to know anything about racing and we can make it exciting for you.” Brant describes the nearly 400,000 people, all in one place, all holding their breaths. First place and second place racers are often no more than a fraction of a second apart. Indiana Oxygen has partnered with the speedway for 94 years—serving the Indy 500 as its oldest continuous accessories supplier—and you can feel their pride.
Indiana Oxygen’s connection to the speedway is personal for Brant. He is the third-generation owner of the company, and he sees parallels between the legacy of his company and the speedway’s legacy—also born out of a family company.
Brant’s perspective on multi-generational family-run businesses is akin to the chicken or the egg paradox: “Does the business exist to support the family or does the family exist to support the business?” Brant’s answer may seem counterintuitive—“The family exists to support the business,” but he explains that only by coming together as a family to build, establish and improve the business is the business able to support the family—sometimes for generations.
And it supports more than just his family. Brant is dedicated to supporting his employees. One of his greatest failures, he explained, was a period where the business was failing. They had to lay off 20% of their employees—and it devastated Brant. “When you take a bite out of failure, and you know what it tastes like—you never want to do it again.” Now, that failure—that memory of rough times—energizes him to be better.
The Indiana Oxygen logo shares the checkerboard pattern with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—it’s their reminder to always finish strong. Brant says that failure, while crushing, was necessary for him. It drove him to recognize his vulnerabilities and shortcomings and enabled him to meet his potential. “If you haven’t failed, you don’t have a prayer of meeting your potential,” he explained.
Jill Voeghe, CEO of Proton.AI, saw that the weaknesses of the past, like layoffs, are no longer a part of Indiana Oxygen’s culture: “Indiana Oxygen makes it a priority not to lay people off, especially during the recession and pandemic,” Jill said. “The loyalty and security that this creates in their workforce pay off in dividends, and it shows.”
And I couldn’t agree more. There are many misconceptions about where a business’ focus should be—the bottom line and beating the competition often dominates the business model. But what I’m seeing over the course of the We Supply America tour is that distributors have a different business model. They’ve placed their investment in their people—helping people, serving people, building a community—and they are seeing returns. Employee after employee across all departments of Indiana Oxygen told me about their tenure with the company, 21 years, 22 years, 25 years—and they see the success of the company as their success. The business feels personal to them, and this personal investment in the company is reflected in their dedication to their customers.
Our goal with this cross-country We Supply America mission is to highlight the noble calling of distribution through your stories. Jill and I saw this nobility at play among the Indiana Oxygen team, where employees and customers alike are of the utmost importance.
We want that value to transcend these companies and reach the American public. We want you to be valued by your country. That’s why we’re getting the word out!
When I asked Jill why she and her company, Proton.AI, wanted to be a part of the We Supply America mission, she was enthusiastic about our shared mission.
“We both believe in the power of human connection, and the importance of the people in the value chain of distribution,” Jill said. “When people feel empowered and seen, they add value to the customer that can’t be beaten.”
We Supply America is all about seeing distribution for what it really is—a noble calling, where skilled individuals band together with their customers to get America on the road.
To get the whole Indiana Oxygen story and to see my stroll on the speedway, check out the full episode here. It’s time to wave that checkered flag!