Gary Steinhafel is president of Steinhafels Inc., a third-generation family furniture business started in 1934 by his grandfather. Gary works alonside his sister Ellen Steinhafel-Lappe (CFO) and cousins Mark (COO), Steve and Tom Steinhafel. Mark's son, Andrew, recently joined Steinhafels as IT director. Steinhafels operates 17 retail stores in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The company has more than 600 employees. Here, Steinhafel shares valuable leassons he has learned during his career.
"Retail is a complex and ever-changing business. Survival depends on competence in many disciplines. Having the right products and the right price is only the starting point. Convenient locations, great display, operational excellence and developing a team that is focused on the customer experience are all critical elements to success.
"The following is a list of lessons I have learned that might help any leader or organization:
- Always treat your customers and co-workers with respect. Be fair and transparent to your associates.
- Attracting, developing and retaining quality associates is imperative. Company loyalty is no longer a given. Hire talented individuals who are passionate about engaging in a winning strategy.
- Don't be an avoider. You must be willing to provide direct, timely and honest feedback to your associates. Denial is not a strategy.
- Strategic alignment will ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction. Share the vision with all associates. Identify your organization's core values and use those values to recruit the right associates.
- Focus on the long-term vision and the strengths of the individuals you lead. Admire the differences in individuals and value their opinions.
- Embrace change. Take calculated risks and learn from your mistakes.
- Be humble enough to 'know what you don't know' and network with others in your industry who don't compete with you. When in doubt, look about.
- Celebrate your victories. Have fun.
"Finally, great leaders today need to be authentic. Be true to who you are. Be humble and trustworthy and your company will be more likely to survive this ever-changing business climate."