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America has been and is a country of opportunity and promise. It is the best place to be born, to raise a family, to live your life and pursue a career. America’s business has historically been driven by the creativity, hard work and innovation of entrepreneurs and inventors who bet their last dollar on bringing their big idea to life. If Henry Ford or the Wright Brothers listened to all the naysayers, where would we be now?
These ordinary people created extraordinary ideas and built companies that employed people, paid taxes and helped many live the American dream. No magic involved here, just successful, innovative ideas that built businesses and created jobs along the way.
For many years, we have looked at national unemployment numbers kissing 10% week after week and eyes keep turning to Washington, DC for the answer. Instead, the only real long-term solution for what ails us is a new enlightened crop of entrepreneurs with big dreams, big ideas and broad vision to create products Americans want to buy.
Michael Gerber, successful author and entrepreneur, once wrote, “The entrepreneur is our visionary, the creator in each of us. We’re born with that quality and it defines our lives as we respond to what we see, hear, feel and experience. It is developed, nurtured and given space to flourish or it is squelched, thwarted, without air or stimulation, and it dies.”
The housewares industry since its first show called HOME Furnishings Goods Exhibition, held in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1906, has had an insatiable thirst for big ideas that make the American consumer’s life better. Many of these big ideas have stood the test of time and will travel to future generations through product improvements, new designs and improved engineering.
• In 1907, James Spangler who worked as a superintendent in an Ohio department store, put a few parts together and the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner was born.
• In 1922, Stephen Poplawski invented the kitchen blender and the real number sold could be measured in the billions.
• In 1928, Ivar Jepson invented what became known as the Sunbeam Mixmaster, a product that can still be found on retailer shelves throughout America.
• In 1973, Carl Sontheimer, an engineer, thought the American consumer was ready for a new tool in the kitchen and began marketing Cuisinart, a brand that has become synonymous with food processors.
Entrepreneurial stories like these have defined the history of our industry and are shared equally by suppliers and retailers. We as an industry need the business, sales and creativity that entrepreneurs make happen.
What are the most important traits of successful entrepreneurs?
• Love what you do and you can get lost in your passion forever.
• Plan every aspect of your business, and pay attention to all details.
• Have a well thought out financial plan that deals with sales and profits.
• Make customers and your relationship with them your personal focus.
• Be responsible for making the sale personally.
• Always be positive and have that as a part of your image.
• Hire the best business team possible and pay for the very best people.
• Become an industry expert.
• Make your customers your friends and partners.
• All your products have to have demonstrable competitive advantages that benefit the consumer.
• When a customer calls, always be available. A customer’s call is always a priority.
• Build the best reputation in the industry. Everyone wants to work with the best.
• Master the art of listening and the art of negotiation. They are both very connected.
• Get as close to the consumer as possible and understand their needs so you can create products they will buy.
• Stay focused and very organized.
• Make friends with the press and do things to help bring about big stories about your products and brands.