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A Synergy of Business Strengths

In 2003 I interviewed Steve Antisdel for a story about how they were embracing the Internet at the family furniture store. I had been contacted by a trade association he was a member of and told that he was one of their most forward thinking members. I ended up with something a lot more exciting than that when I found out they were taking their online business to outside investors.

As it turned out, they were one of the first privately owned mainstream retailers to jump into the deep water of the Internet - at a time when everyone else was funded with virtually unlimited resources. Not only had they taken their five decades old furniture store on line, battling and winning against huge odds (they were the last player left standing after the dot com bubble burst) but now they were bringing in a group of venture capitalists. The story was also exciting because maybe this option would become a viable exit strategy for other Main Street companies.

Two years passed and I heard from Steve again. He and his brother and cousin had created a consulting and investment company, taking what they had learned building the ECommerce application for a traditional retailer, and were helping other businesses leverage their companies online. By the time we connected again they had come across a company selling apparel to working people. You know, like factory workers buying metatarsal boots & shoes to protect their feet in a hostile environment, steel toe logger boots, a full line of Carhartt clothes and Timberland boots, even (I am not kidding) steel toe tennis shoes. I loved it.

So often all you hear about are Internet marketers selling stuff nobody needs or big companies selling glamorous items only a few can afford. They found a a company, located in a town of 400 people, Lakeville Indiana, not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but they could see it from there, that had become a destination for working people from all over the area. Plus a company that has a truck carrying 1,000 pairs of work shoes and boots that visits plants in a sixty mile radius, selling and servicing its customers when they are on break or coming off or going on their shift. Now the people who took a furniture store online have done the same thing for this tiny store, extending their reach nationally. Only one out of four successful companies outlive their founder. Why is that? Evidence points to a lack of leadership and management skills in the person who is charged with the responsibility to grow the business in the second generation.

I asked Steve what the key ingredient in their decision was that motivated them to join forces with Eric Deniger and The Working Person Store to apply what they had learned taking the family furniture store online. Steve said, "If it hadn't been for Eric, there is no way we (North Main Ventures) would have gotten involved in a deal and applied ourselves to it like we have. Without someone who 'just knew it' it wouldn't have been the right partnering opportunity - and Eric's the guy." Leadership, management, and effective communication are the focus of our next series of interviews with Main Street. Our objective is to shine a light on best practices by today's and tomorrow's leaders.

My hunch was right when I agreed to interview these two guys. Steve was featured in this month's Internet Retailer and Eric has just received an award by the Governor of Michigan as a company to watch.

Wayne Messick wants to interview successful business owners. Here is A Synergy of Business Strengths in its entirety.

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