The Beginning – Part 2



Exactly why our family business was furniture and carpet.

The beginning was 20 years prior in 1941. My father made the Toppers Club (sales) for the Appliance and Merchandise Dept of the General Electric Company. The plaque above reads “Star Division Member 1942 (the 1941 plaque didn’t photograph well).

With 20 years selling experience (3 years at Continental Motors during WW ll)….my father decided to start on his own by opening Baker Furniture on Whitehall Rd. (prior post). It seems like it all began with selling GE appliances. I don’t know for whom. After the war he gained further experience at several stores and eventually became General Manager of the furniture department of Grossman’s Department Store. Department stores were the top-the-line merchants in the late 40’s and 50’s.

Humble beginnings looking back….yet I believe a strong entrepreneurial spirit was the catalyst for striking out on his own.

Our building now:

The Beginning



The headline from a Muskegon Chronicle news clip: “U.S. 31 Sector Growing – Open Furniture Store” (the Swap Shop was another business) 

In 1961, our family business began in a cinder block 3,000 square foot building. A few years later, it expanded into the adjacent 3,000 sq. ft building. We  eventually added on with over 24,000 sq.ft.

I came into the business in 1969….learning the ins and outs of small business….quite different from what I had been doing the prior five 1/2 years (4 1/2 in the Air Force, a year at the University of Michigan-MBA).

Starting a business presents great opportunities….yet with risks associated with entrepreneurship. I don’t have a lot of mementos of the business. It’s nice to have a few  reminders of the challenges of preserving and growing a successful business. 

Fleet Engineers



Manufacturing will always be a major segment of the economy….and will always be a part of the Muskegon economy.

Founded in 1963 (shortly after our family business) and employing over a 100 folks….Fleet Engineers is the standard for manufacturing basics. It manufactures parts and accessories for tractor trailers.

Not a large company….yet a business that has been in existence for 50 years manufacturing products for the transportation industry

Fleet Engineers web site is very well done with a big plus for the contact page… generic contact form….complete names and telephone numbers.

Caribou Coffee

Significant Change


The European company that owns Caribou Coffee just announced that it is restructuring Caribou. What makes it more interesting is the same company owns Peet’s Coffee & Tea….my favorite coffee.

Caribou is closing underperforming stores and converting some other locations to Peet’s. Peet’s would be considered a premium coffee and Caribou a second tier brand….though in reality the coffees are similar.

Here in Cary one Caribou will close. The other is a busy location that seems to have a loyal following….quite different from the Starbucks a few blocks away.

The plus side of the change is that Peet’s expands its market….the downside is that Caribou resizes its market.


Leadership Crisis

Times Change

leaders wanted

A recent letter addressed a leadership crisis for a non-profit organization that I am quite familiar with.

The group has been in existence for almost 110 years! My father was actively involved for well over 40 years and was in major leadership positions. If no leaders step forward….the organization will dissolve.

I suspect that the old guard has moved on….and a younger group has not been developed or recruited. Organizations such as these were popular in the past….younger folks no longer want that type of involvement. It’s easy to understand why no leaders have come forward for this group. The population base for members more than likely has also changed….a small number of people to draw from.

Perhaps the focus of this organization has to be redirected….more in tune to 2013. Or perhaps this group will fade away like other similar groups.

If a leader does come forward:

The first responsibility is to define realty – Max DePree



The Sale


Businesses depend on the sale whether it’s a product or service. Often in making the sale….benefits/solutions are well stated….yet the sale isn’t made.

One of the more difficult aspect of selling was the ability to Ask! for the sale. Selling a high-ticket item not only involved product quality….asking helped the customer to make the decision. In fact….most of our sales required that asking in one form or anther was a major part of the sales presentation.

“Did you prefer this one or that one?” ? We can deliver it the next day….would that work for you?”  If we are confident in our product….relate to the customer….then there is no reason not to Ask! for the opportunity to do business with a customer. 


Business Asset


Your brand. A brand isn’t a logo. It’s a promise and an expectation. When you overdeliver, you earn trust, trust that can bring you repeat business, access to new opportunities and the privilege of being able to count on your customers coming back. – Seth Godin

For many businesses….your name is your brand. A name is what customers depend on….and means a good/product/service can be expected.

We closed the family business in 1978….yet I would suspect (and trust) that some folks still remember our business and what we stood for.

Some businesses/organizations don’t take their brand/name seriously enough. That’s a big mistake. Protect the brand like any other asset.