Curtis Lumber

127 Years Old

A business that has been in existence for four generations must be doing something right.

The key point of the article was company culture – “It’s not unusual to walk into a Curtis Lumber retail location and speak with an employee who has worked for the company for 25 or 40 years. Retaining employees this long is a dream for businesses owners!”

The other key point and perhaps related to company culture is an extensive contact list with names….and email addresses.

“Curtis Lumber is dedicated to providing our customers with superior customer service. Please feel free to contact us with any comments or complaints you may have. The following e-mail addresses are now available and put you in touch directly with our salespeople as well as our corporate and executive offices. We are always appreciative of our customers’ input and will work with you to resolve any discrepancies you may have.”

Unfortunately most businesses don’t provide that level of contact….however most should!

Mattress in a Box


We did an excellent job of selling bedding (mattresses/box springs). We had three primary brands….Serta, Restonic, and Richards of Grand Rapids. They all made good bedding….eventually Restonic became our better brand and Richards our medium brand.

However, the bedding industry is evolving with the Mattress-in-a-Box concept.

From Business

There are several companies that now sell the box mattress….even one with a spring/foam combination. While the mattress in a box is a good idea….there still is the need for a foundation and maybe something more than pieces of plywood.

A good foundation is just as important as the mattress….that is why we were very clear that the foundation was also innerspring just as the mattress (I.e. 312 coil mattress and 312 coil box spring). 

While the box mattress is innovative….there is a good case for a well-made innerspring and a well-made/designed box spring.

Midwest Express Comeback?

The Best Care in the Air

A recent article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel indicted an investor group is trying to resurrect Midwest Express.

Midwest Express was flying as it should be….excellent seating….well prepared meals….and its famous chocolate chip cookies. For many years….we traveled between Michigan and North Carolina on Midwest.

Obviously, the air travel market is different from when Midwest operated….It would be nice if they could develop a market for that type of travel again.

The Best Care in the Air wasn’t just a marketing slogan….it was The Best Care in the Air.


Best Advertising

One of the better forms of marketing/advertising is referrals. Some businesses do not recognize the value of a referral….after all there is little cost in gaining a potential referral customer. 

If we spent $600 on an ad and got 20 customers in the door….the cost was $30/customer. A referral costs $0.

Two key points:

  • Appreciate the value of the referral
  • Reward in some way the referer


March 31, 1975

It was impossible to save everything from our business….however one financial report has survived from 42 years ago.

Interesting is the inflationary adjustments from 1975 >2017:

  • Sales –  $327,554 > $1,488,751
  • Advertising –  $34, 298 > $155,886
  • Salaries/Wages –  $42,213 > $194,132
  • Net Income –  $5,926 > $26, 934

We didn’t meet goals in 1975 of Sales of $360,000 and net income of 10% or $36,000. The most significant expense other than salaries/wages was advertising. In 1975, it was 80% newspaper and 20% radio/tv. What would be the mix in 2017?

A $1.5M business is indeed a small business….yet in 42 years there would also need to have been a growth component. Could the business have grown at 10% a year? It’s something to ponder.

Our building was valued at $200,000 in 1978….with inflation the 2017 value, $750,000. With the improvements made by the owners today….it surly must be valued at several million dollars.

Fisher Barton

Specialty Manufacturer

Sometimes unnoticed are specialty manufactures that supply components to original equipment companies. These specialty businesses are the backbone of manufacturing.

The Fisher Barton Group is one of these suppliers located in Watertown, WI.

“As the group parent of ten independent global subsidiaries based in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Vietnam and Ireland, we are an active Midwest-based, privately-owned holding company.”

There are many such firms such as Fisher Barton….they all have unique specialties that contribute to a larger manufacturing process.

News Roundup

July 2017

+ Where are they now from July 2012

+ Seth Godin: Why not make it more generous, more fair, more insightful than it needs to be? Why not deliver the service with more flair, more care and more urgency?

+ Robot made pizza:

+ Brand differentiation – Clothing named after Michigan cities:

+ Leadership is pure art, not mechanical. – Tom Peters

+ Leadership at Southwest Airlines:

+ Leadership Insights;

+ Speedy Response – Unbeatable Edge: