Here is some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and established executives: If you seek a Stanford education, then visit Midland, Michigan.
More precisely, travel to the offices of Stanford LP Gas, headquartered in Midland, which is also home to Chemical Bank and the Dow Corning Corporation.
In this community of canopied stores, public parks and personal philanthropy – amidst 110 acres of gardens, ponds and rolling hills, in this horticultural tribute to Herbert Dow, whose black-and-white photograph is a portraiture of dignified leadership, Midland is just as beautiful as anything upon which Leland Stanford's officious image casts a shadow in Palo Alto, California.
Midland's Stanford, the source of my Stanford education, is a lesson in preserving the integrity of a family-run business, where a person's word – nay, the strength of a handshake – is, indeed, more powerful (morally) than any collection of signed documents and receipts. Simply stated, paper is no substitute for flesh and blood; for the look in a merchant's eye or the approving nod of a homeowner.
Trust trumps the trusts, so to speak. Or: I will take a Midland Stanford over a late industrialist of the same name – the two are unrelated – because the former is the inheritor of a great legacy, while the latter, though acclaimed and world renowned, is a place of theory and speculation, not action.
And, while my Stanford education does not come with a framed, wax embossed certificate signed by so many regents and trustees, it gives me wisdom about how to run a company and satisfy a diverse array of consumers.
An additional note of clarification: Since I work with several family-run companies, and thanks to the time I spend exploring the towns and cities where these businesses operate, I have a sense of the tradition that fuels the fuel industry, pun intended.
That is, I know that the perpetuation of certain customs, along with a commitment to high-quality service, imbue a name with pride and authority. But it is the simultaneous willingness of these companies to adapt – and adopt – new technology that keeps these firms profitable and efficient. Such is the case with Stanford LP Gas, which has nearly 60 years of longstanding roots in Midland.
I should also remind readers that, as always, I write these words from experience, where, in my role as Vice President of Digital Dispatcher, I provide companies with the real-time intelligence necessary to oversee, redirect and streamline the delivery of propane and other forms of energy.
Flexibility and Fidelity to Growth: Applying These Principles
The lesson from Stanford LP Gas is, by virtue of its regional success and ambitious culture, very straightforward.
That moral consists of ten words: Remember the past, so you may flourish in the future.
For it is Dale Stanford's legacy, his bespectacled appearance visible across the veil of years, that says:
“We have a responsibility to our customers, which is far greater than making a sale or pushing a product. We owe the community our best, which is why we will give our clients nothing less than our personal best.”
That reputation echoes across Michigan, land of the Spartans and Wolverines, the Great Lake State.
It reverberates among individuals and corporations, and penetrates a multitude of schools and civic centers.
It is a reminder of timeless values, and a primer about business insight.
It is the spirit that drives a family-run enterprise to excel.
It is the reason behind a community's faith in a company, and that company's faith in its community.
It is, in short, a Stanford education with a Midland pedigree.
This guest post is courtesy of Bill Stomp. He is Vice President for Digital Dispatcher