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What’s Missing in Today’s Corporate Culture? A Lighthearted Walk Down Memory Lane

I started my career at a family owned business in Omaha Nebraska over 25 years ago (yikes!). I actually worked in retail and sold life insurance before that, but consider my job at Lancer Label to be my first “real” job.

This group picture was taken sometime in the late 1980’s, my guess is 1986 or maybe 19787. I can’t say that I’m sorry the days of big hair and shoulder pads are behind me.

Lancer Label Group Picture

Photo by Bud Phillips

It’s hard to believe that when I started there people could smoke at their desks. Smoking was eventually limited to the break-room and then banned completely, but back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to see the owner of the company walking throughout the offices and press room with cigar in hand. He once started a dumpster on fire with an unfortunate flick of hot ash.

Harry Riley, the owner and founder of Lancer Label, was a man who recognized his own strengths and limitations, saw the best in others, and cared deeply about his employees.

Lancer Label_Harry Riley

Harry Riley – Photo by Bud Phillips

John O’Brien was the president of the company while I worked there. I know I’m not alone in saying he’s the best business mentor I’ve ever had. He was tough but fair and had a talent for giving a person feedback that was constructive, sincere, and spot on.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he knew everyone by name; he managed the company by walking around. He took the time to stop and talk to people no matter what their position was; sometimes to tell a joke and other times he would just listen.

Lancer Label_John OBrien

John O’Brien – Photo by Bud Phillips

John and Harry created and nurtured a culture of respect, quality, continuous learning, and fun. To this day, some of the best training opportunities I ever had were during the time I worked for Lancer Label. They spent money investing in people and providing resources to help us all succeed together.

It wasn’t unusual for them to initiate a company-wide training initiative and then celebrate the successes that came from what we learned.

Lancer Label Company celebration in the lunch room - Copy

Lancer Label Company celebration in the lunch room – Photo by Bud Phillips

They believed in recognizing people for their contributions and every year at the annual holiday party awards were presented to a few individuals for their outstanding performance.

Lancer Label Holiday Party_ employee recognition

Lancer Label Holiday Party Employee Recognition – Photo by Bud Phillips

John and Harry also believed in putting family first and having a good time. The annual company picnic was held in a different place every year and always included activities that were fun for both kids and adults.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The picnics weren’t elaborate but they sure were fun.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The leadership team never missed an event and participated in the activities with enthusiasm and delight.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The highlight of the year (at least for me) was the holiday party. My favorite memory is the year we put on a “concert” that featured a few of our favorite rock stars.

ZZ Top treated us to “Hot Legs

Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Topp - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Topp – Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Holiday Party  ZZ Top Hot Legs - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Top Hot Legs – Photo by Bud Phillips

Ike and Tina brought down the house with “Rolling on the River

Lancer Label Holiday Party , Ike and Tina Turner - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Holiday Party , Ike and Tina Turner – Photo by Bud Phillips

The night wouldn’t have been complete without the Pointer Sisters and “I’m So Excited

Lancer Label Holiday Party the Pointer Sisters - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Holiday Party the Pointer Sisters – Photo by Bud Phillips

And of course the ladies went wild when Elvis entered the building. His body guard had to work hard to keep them from storming the stage.

Lancer Label Holiday Party Elvis - Photo by Bud Phillips

Lancer Label Holiday Party Elvis – Photo by Bud Phillips

It’s no wonder that the company was awarded with the “Best Managed Company” in our industry niche multiple years in a row. They invested in and cared about their employees and it was returned to them tenfold.

I will always feel fortunate for the experience and for the people who touched my life while I was there. There is no better example of how a business should be run than depicted in this walk down memory lane.

Photo Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Bud Phillips for posting these wonderful pictures on Facebook and giving me permission to use them in a blog post.

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4 responses to “What’s Missing in Today’s Corporate Culture? A Lighthearted Walk Down Memory Lane

  1. What a great story. I had the pleasure to work a company like that at Nutri System as my first MBA job. But I sure learned a lot and they were very supportive. When the company went bankrupt because of lawsuits, the fleeing executives took me to my next job in marketing, and that set the stage for my company today. I recently sent one of my Nutri mentors a thank you email for believing in me.

  2. What a terrific thing to do – let people know the good things about a company. Well done!

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