Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Early in my finance career, when the loss of some local business to the “experts from out-of-town” was visibly gnawing at me, one of my mentors said, “Paul, don’t let it bug you so much. It’s just business. It’s not personal.” For better and for worse (mostly better), I’ve never been able to follow that advice. To me, business involves people and people are what it’s all about in life – so it has to be personal. I’ve always believed in taking a personal approach to business, particularly when it comes to management and customer relationships.

So, when one of our biggest supporters in the web-community AskAndyAboutClothes.com asked to see us make a pair of shoes for him -- I jumped at the chance. When he asked to bring his young son along for the experience, I was doubly enthusiastic. Our guest, Gerard Toohey, who drove up from Chicago for the tour, turned out also to be an excellent writer as well as a big fan of our shoes. He chronicled his time in Port Washington better than we ever could have anticipated. If you’re at all interested in how shoes are made, I encourage you to click here to read Gerard’s terrific web journal.

Gerard seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people. Over 8500 people have logged-on to the “thread” and experienced Gerard’s photos and writing. For many Allen Edmonds customers, their shoes are highly personal and the reasons they purchased them are as varied as our many styles. They may wear AE shoes because the superior fit has a custom-made feel or because they remember how their dad or a trusted mentor may have unforgettably introduced them to AE. Wearing Allen Edmonds shoes may be a part of their professional image, or they may have a special pair that they bought for their wedding day and still enjoy after years of wear and a few recraftings. For some it’s just the value found in supporting a great American product with an authentic and rich American heritage.

That day with Gerard was a real business highlight for several of us here at the plant. We enjoyed having the two of them here as much or more than he and his son enjoyed the visit, I’m sure. Having only interacted with him via email before the visit, it was great to put a face, a life story and a name together. He’s a good man and now a friend. It may be business, but it’s definitely personal.

Best wishes,

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation