TOP 100 2013: Epic adventurers span centuries, turbulent seas
These companies are on an epic adventure, remaining on and near the top of the Top 100 list year after year. But the companies themselves have tales that go way back to romantic times of sword fights and pistol duels, or at least a time when televisions weighed hundreds of pounds and had tubes. The horror! The excitement! Read on if you dare to join these enterprising souls on their voyages.
Does D&H see itself as a "hero" in its business epic? How so?
I would not say we see ourselves as heroes. We see ourselves more as a working-class roll-up-your-sleeves type of company. It's more of a resilient team. A team that consistently makes the playoffs but doesn't have an all-star or a prima donna. The sum of the parts is greater than an individual.
What have been the greatest beasts D&H has slain in its rise to one of the most prolific companies in our area?
The biggest monsters we've had to overcome is going from a regional RCA and Whirlpool distributor to a national technology distributor.
Being in business for almost 100 years, there's a major monster you have to battle every decade. One was RCA canceling us as distributor with 90 days' notice. In the 1990s, we had three companies we separated with that reflected a large part of our business. In the 2000s, it was the Great Recession. It's one of those things where our guard is never down, and we come in ready to fight and improve the outcome.
Epic protagonists often find themselves adrift, searching the seas and their souls for the path back home or to greatness. Has D&H ever found itself adrift? If so, how did it get back on its path to greatness?
The core of our DNA is our nimbleness and forward-looking attitude. We tend not to look in the rear-view mirror a lot. You don't need a revolution. We make regular course corrections so we don't get off course. I'm proud to say I can't think of any time when we were adrift at sea.
Who is the "unlikely hero" in D&H's book? Who is leading the company to greatness without a kingly title?
It's really the people who have the day-in, day-out combat, interaction, the feet on the street. So it's the sales reps, the warehouse (workers). If you looked at it as a battle, it would be the entire regiment. It's really everyone who finds new customers, solves an issue each day.
What would be the title of D&H's autobiography?
"A Century of Innovation, Evolution, and Transformation." Because we're always looking around the corner, and we've had to change our business multiple times over history. So it always challenges our success. We not only keep up with the times, but we stay ahead of the curve. "Ahead of the Curve" would be another good one.
Does Rutter's see itself as a "hero" in its business epic? How so?
We're just a long-term family business. Our family farm goes back to 1747, so it's been handed down through 10 generations. It lays the baseline for a longer-term perspective than other companies have. It's not as if we don't want to grow and grow fast. Having it handed down through generations helps you keep it inside the lines and grow.
What have been the greatest beasts Rutter's has slain in its rise to one of the most prolific companies in our area?
Our competition has always been historically bigger than us. In any given decade, our No. 1 competitor is multiple times bigger than us. Although people think we're a big company, we've never really been the biggest, whether it's our dairy or our store side.
Probably the complexity of the tax laws, particularly the transitioning of family business, has been one. It's more complex than necessary. Our families have been able to hand the companies down, but it's become more complex and challenging in recent years than in all those other centuries.
... Has Rutter's ever found itself adrift? If so, how did it get back on its path to greatness?
I can't say that we've ever been adrift. We've tried some different areas, some that were successful, some that weren't. You need to try new areas and recognize that when they're not successful, you just move on. We've made mistakes, but it's part of life and part of business.
Who is the "unlikely hero" in Rutter's book? Who is leading the company to greatness without kingly titles?
There are so many, I wouldn't want to name just one.
What would be the title of Rutter's autobiography?
"Work Hard and It'll Pay Off." It's a 24/7, 365-days-a-year business, so it's always moving. If you work hard, it pays off. So much of our legacy is in agriculture and farming, so anyone that's been in that world knows you have to work hard. And dairy and convenience run constantly. Our cows don't stop milking, and our stores don't close.