The Power of One

Posted by on Apr 21, 2011 in Wine Nutch Blog | Comments Off

This is supposed to be primarily about wine, but I can't pass this up.

What if I told you that a 225 employee-owned shoe company in Merrill, Wisconsin provides the shoes for just about all uniformed government personnel in Barbados (as well as a few other countries)?

That's right...Merrill, Wisconsin:

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The firm: Weinbrenner Shoe Company.

Their international sales manager started in 1999. The company had no website and international sales accounted for...0%! This is the kind of story I like: he had no MBA, none of the straight-laced ivy-league square box nonsense required to lead business at most corporate juggernauts (actually, some of these have been summarily and ...bureaucratically...put of business). What he did have was a singular vision and the nerve to make it happen.

After the website was launched he started receiving emails from individuals abroad who were interested in their shoes. Every time he got an international inquiry he placed a pin on a map of the world. After that map was noticed he presented in front of the company's board...and he was off and running.

He built relationships with distributors, individuals who know the culture and have the contacts. Over time the international business has grown into about 10% of their business. Their shoes are worn in most parts of the world. Additionally, he refuses to do business in countries guilty of human rights abuses and other misdeeds. Can you believe it? Business with a conscience.

Anyway, my favorite slide of his was one in which he spoke about clients doing business not with his company, but with him. His relationships are what mattered, in some cases taking years before one purchase. His company was patient enough with him to let these relationships flower. He obviously enjoys his work...and he should. He has faith in the 224 other colleagues in Merrill to provide quality which backs his word...and the orders keep coming.

Now this company isn't going to blow the socks off of the big boys, but not one worker has been laid off since they ventured abroad. That's saying a lot in this market.

The power of one! Pass it on...


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