Redlands, CA

American Futures

Redlands, CA

James Fallows is a prolific journalist for The Atlantic Monthly magazine. A current series is American Futures….exploring the economic opportunities in mid-size and smaller American cities. He recently visited Redlands, CA.

This American Futures story was about the remaining orange packing plant in Redlands. In the early 60’s….we lived in San Bernardino, CA….the center of orange production in Southern California….Redlands being adjacent to San Bernardino.

Often we would drive over to Redlands….visiting the University of Redlands….shopping in the quaint downtown area….attending events at the Redlands Bowl . Redlands is very nice community and the home of ESRI (geographic mapping software).

IMG_1413Fifty years ag0….I purchased this  pair of Bostonian Shoes in Redlands….they are still like new and a nice reminder of our time in San Bernardino/Redlands, CA.,_California

Problem Solver


Problem Solving

“Solving problems—actually solving them, not just claiming you do—solving perceived, urgent problems, is a surefire way to get the world to beat a path to your door.” – Seth Godin

For almost all busineses….solving problems is why that business exists….the objective of being in business.  In our family business, it wasn’t selling products….it was solving a larger problem for the customer….making their home nicer….better….comfortable….all within a budget. Of course, back then we may not have seen problem solving as our business….yet implictly it was our objective.

Steelcase ll


Steelcase Old Truck

From Mlive:

A follow-on to the 01.20.14 Steelcase post….”5 things to know” and my perspective:

  • Business books – There are business books that have had great impact – Those from Peter Drucker….Tom Peters….Jim Collins are all worthwhile. Learning is a constant from business to non-business.
  • Apple iPhone HQ: All  Steelcase office systems is a nice accomplishment.
  • Often companies must ask what are they really selling….team spaces for creativity vs. workstations to do day-to-day tasks.
  • A significant change in the Steelcase strategy – Integrating technology with office systems
  • Steelcase is 100 + years old. Peter Wege the founder engineered steel boxes from folding layers of metal.

Successful companies change and adapt to the market place and in some cases create new markets. Businesses can learn especially from a company that has been in existence for over 100 years.


Model Shift


I did some consulting work at Steelcase in the 80’s (along with Herman-Miller and Haworth)….Western Michigan being a leading center for the Office Systems/Furniture industry.

Steelcase, the largest manufacturer had to make a dramatic shift in its business model beginning in the late 1990’s.

Some business can be successful with one business model others have to change –  Jim Hackett, the CEO stated: “I was trying to make the case that if we weren’t modern, we are going to be dead”

The new business model (integrate technology into its products) has been successful – 2012 sales $2.75B profit$56.7M. The change also resulted in major plant and personal disruptions. Businesses require difficult decisions. As in the case of Steelcase….the business model change positioned the company for longer-term growth.

Fruit Sorting

BBC Technologies

BBC Sorting

From New Zealand:

Processing is a vital component of the agricultural industry. The Honeycrisp apples I like come from Western Michigan and have had a consistency of product this season. These apples were of uniform size and without any blemishes.

I’m not sure if the apple producers in Western  Michigan used fruit sorters similar to those from BBC Technologies.  What makes the story unique is that companies globally make some very good and innovative  products.

Note: BBC Technologies sales office –  South Haven, MI


Leadership ?


Cheating – From The Air Force Times:

I wrote before (11.25.13) on a similar issue with the ICBM force. While the above investigation is happening at the operational level….two flag officers (one Navy, one Air Force) were recently relieved of duty for personal infractions.

It is extremely disappointing that these junior officers….whould cheat at all on  tests. Perhaps it is the times….yet for some reason the sense of honor has been lost. They will be retested and most will pass. That really doesn’t solve the problem….honor is often all we have….for those that cheated that honor is lost.  

Leadership is certainly involved in these incidents. That is  something senior officers need to take a hard look at.




It seems that courtesy has lost some of its importance in today’s world.

Whether in business or personal life….being courteous gets positive results. In our business it was not only necessary but the right thing to do for our customers. After all they paid the bills.

The scout rules: Trustworthy….Loyal….Helpful….Friendly….Courteous….are as important in 2014 as they were in 1954.




Recently on the way back from Chapel Hill, we made a late lunch stop at the Chick-fi-la in Apex.

Three observations:

  • A large sign at the entrance – “Closed on Sunday”
  • Very clean dining area and restrooms
  • Engaging people at the counter

There is a different fast food culture at Chick-fil-A. While it may be easy to duplicate….it also takes a determined effort.


Good Business


All we have, as in all, personally or professionally, is the quality of our relationships!” – Tom Peters

One of the most important things I learned in entering the family business was that the key to long-term success was developing a solid relationship with our customers.

Of course we had to have the products….competitive prices….good service. Those were necessary to just open the door in a very competetive market.

The very first encounter with the customer started the relationship process. That meant a clean store….professional appearance….and “hello, how are you”….my name is…..

We had to sell the product….and we had to build a lasting relationship with our customers. After all they were the reason we were a success.


Geerpres, Inc


I knew Geerpres, Inc. was started (1935) in Muskegon….however it is a fairly small company with a rather common floor maintenance product line.

Geerpres products are not hi-tech….in fact they are rather basic….the downward pressure mop wringer for example and….assorted cleaning equipment.

What makes a business like Geerpres unique is that it has stood the test of time making high-quality products. About 25 employees and most suppliers in western Michigan.

Doing business isn’t difficult: just make quality products….provide excellent customer service.