On Monday, for example, I met Edgar who supervises receiving at Advance Electric in Chicago. Then, I met his sister, and then his father, and then two of his cousins. Edgar, you see, decided that America provided opportunities that his native Venezuela does not.
Against his mother’s wishes, he followed his dream. Fast forward to today—his whole family has followed him to this great country to pursue their dreams.
Edgar talked to me at length about bettering himself, being able to provide for his family, and finding joy in life through meaningful work.
Edgar’s sister Michelle is a pre-med student. When I met her, she was receiving products and talking to me as if she owned the place! She excitedly explained how important her work is to help Advance customers do their jobs.
What are you dreaming of Stephanie?
Don’t lose it! Go for it!
Great Lakes Hotel Supply Company Episode Review – Big Enough to Matter, Small Enough to Care
The fifth episode of We Supply America premiered on Thursday, and it began with courage. Courage is what Marc Israel, the owner of Great Lakes, said was one of the foundational components of their success. It means taking a risk and getting outside of your comfort zone, and Marc takes those risks.
He told me a story about a business he acquired that wasn’t making money. He took the risk of giving every employee a raise—even with a company that hadn’t yet moved into the black—to show his commitment and investment to his staff and, as a result, those employees grew in their commitment to the success of the company.
According to Dave Hubbard, Chief Operations Officer, Marc is a textbook visionary—someone who sees things that others don’t see. Marc leans into those insights and instincts, to find the right talent and build strong and dedicated teams.
The team, according to Dave, is so integral to the company. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it was the “cohesive, functional, and healthy team” that empowered the company and gave them the fortitude to move forward. “You need your teammates around you to pick you back up and tell you that everything is going to be alright.” And this team has truly banded together.
“I felt extraordinarily blessed to belong to a place that, they never even talked about laying people off.” Project Coordinator Shannon Berndt explained. She believes that when you and your team feel supported, you work differently. “We went through an entire pandemic never questioning if we were going to get a paycheck, never questioning if we were going to be taken care of, they were extraordinarily supportive.” And Great Lakes extends this type of support and personalized care to their customers as well, leading to numerous repeat customers and strong collaboration and loyalty—this is their “bread and butter” and the business model that continues to elevate Great Lakes to success.
I feel so honored to have been welcomed in by Great Lakes—from sipping on a Gibson mixed and poured by Bar Program Manager Carrie Floyd (voted top bartender in Detroit for 2021!) to strolling the Great Lakes gardens (voted best wedding venue of the year!) with Marc Israel—this company is the pinnacle of success, and it is powered by a team that is cohesive and empowered by their love for each other, their customers, and the country at large.
This episode is sure to give you some inspiration and enthusiasm going into Monday morning.
I really dug being with the team at Republic in Davenport. This third-generation electrical and HVAC distributor is the definition of noble. In the 1930s, at the height of the depression, the original founder raised over $130,000 (about $2.2 million in today’s dollars) to help the poor buy coal.
And that concern for others continues to be at the core of Republic. People are at the heart of the noble calling at Republic. From the opportunities for growth that every Republic employee has to their deep understanding of their independent family-owned dealer customers to their committing to their customers’ success—Republic puts people at the center of their business.
Later in the week, I had a chance to visit with the leadership team of NEW Cooperative. I took in a firehose of information and insight about what it takes to feed America! And let me tell you, it’s pretty amazing.
Check out this short video of me with NEW Cooperative’s Heath Brock, standing atop their dry fertilizer “shed” talking about this noble calling.
I know you’ll say … Dang! Right?
On Friday, I was with the employee-owned Dakota Supply Group (DSG) in Plymouth, MN. During lunch, I met many of their employees and about 10 of their customers, including a third-generation owner of an HVAC contractor, Standard Heating & Air Conditioning. Seeing these independent businesses thrive based on their partnerships with one another is inspiring.
My conversation with the current owner of Standard Heating & Air Conditioning, Claire Ferrara, centered on this strong sense of identity. When I asked about what was the key to successfully growing the business over the years—from her grandfather’s time as the solo-preneure to the 110 employees today—she, without hesitation, responded:
“We are very certain who we are.”
She went on to say that “If we lose a customer, lose an employee, or lose money because of decisions we make based on who we are—that’s okay because we know what we value.”
Lots of lessons there! Don’t you think?
Back on the Road
This may have been my busiest week yet, but I’m not slowing down! I’m heading to Minneapolis Monday evening and then heading West. I’d love to meet up with you and hear your story!