90 Ideas in 90 Minutes: Marsha Mather

Co-owner, Laacke & Joys


The following are the ideas presented by Marsha Mather, co-owner of Laacke & Joys, at the BizTimes Media 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event:

1. People make companies


“My husband and I purchased Laacke & Joys almost 22 years ago and implemented some basic fundamental philosophies. One is that people make companies and putting them in the right positions and giving them the freedom to be successful in those positions is the most important element of sustainable success. Our task was unique, as Laacke & Joys is both a retail and manufacturing company. Each division has its own challenges, major initiatives and differences, however, the underlying common denominator that people make companies is that we empower them to be decision makers and make them accountable under our TPEE Plan, which is Think, Plan, Evaluate & Execute. It is a methodology or framework that allows for successes in both divisions of our company.”

2. Core values

“We focus on this so that we can deliver to our customers. In retail those values are their needs and wants and in manufacturing it is the ability to make a profit for our customer. In our strategic planning sessions, the focus is continually finding new and better ways to fulfill those values to our customers.”

3. Respect

“Our management philosophy is centered on the mutual respect that we have for people’s independence and freedom to be successful individually, functionally and corporately. Everyone is given the freedom to make mistakes, be creative, and to find better ways and then to be rewarded when the company is successful.”

4. Mistakes are common with continual growth

“We accept them and look to turn them into a positive, which is the best method to success. An example is our exposure of all of our financials to our employees. They create and have an impact on every line item. Each month we have a financial analysis meeting and the negative variances are discussed with two basic themes: what is the reason for the variance and how to fix it.”

5. Product diversity

“This is either a problem or a blessing. We have embraced controllable diversity, meaning we have our eggs in more than one basket, but not so many that it cannot be managed. Retail has two seasons and manufacturing has two very distinct markets. Each year the markets and consumers change direction, which allows us to put assets into the changes needed. In the last five years it has been buying a new synergistic company and a new building to support that growth. In 2012 we purchased Concept Seating, a 24/7 seating company. Every part of this chair has been redesigned and engineered to be a world class product that rides like a BMW and is built like a tank.”

6. Leadership development

“Maintain your investment in your people by allowing them and helping them to grow and participate in the planning stages and execution of your business. They are your biggest asset in enabling the successful growth of your company.”

7. Communication

“Through our weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings, we are collectively able to set priorities and direction for the weeks, months and years ahead of us, which keeps everyone focused.”

8. Profiling your customer

“We have two distinctly different businesses and must think from two different strategies, but governed with the same 5,000-foot approach. Retail profiles who the customer is and then applies the product, service and merchandising that fits. It is important to know when the customer wants freedom and when they want help. Our belief is NOT to sell products, but to FULFILL the customers wants and needs. This sets us apart as a retailer.”

9. Manufacturing changes over 174 years

“The cut and sew division has been a part of the company since they were making and repairing sails for the commercial sailing fleet on the Great Lakes. The customers and products have changed, but the cut and sew has remained. The business of today is driven by the ability to support OEM customers with in-house engineering and design capabilities. The core of our products is unique with a considerable emphasis in the leading-edge health care markets.”

10. Trust

“We trust all of our people to make good decisions and to do the right thing on behalf of the company. In turn, they trust us to treat them well, compensate them fairly and support them both professionally and personally, which would account for why we have such longevity in our teams!”

Click here to see a video of Mather’s remarks at the 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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