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 1987. I can’t say that I’m sorry the days of big hair and shoulder pads are behind me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The picnics weren’t elaborate but they sure were fun.
The leadership team never missed an event and participated in the activities with enthusiasm and delight.
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”
Ike and Tina brought down the house with “Rolling on the River”
The night wouldn’t have been complete without the Pointer Sisters and “I’m So Excited”
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.
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.
4 thoughts on “What’s Missing in Today’s Corporate Culture? A Lighthearted Walk Down Memory Lane”
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.
Thanks Steve 🙂
It sounds like your experience is another example of serendipity at work!
What a terrific thing to do – let people know the good things about a company. Well done!
Thank you! It was a great company in it’s day. 🙂