The History of Dixie Sales Company
“The challenge is not just to build a company that can endure,
but to build one that is worthy of enduring.” Jim Collins
Every business has its own history. Most business histories are short or moderate in length. For any business to survive for a hundred years or more is an extremely rare occurrence.
An organization’s life cycle consists of four stages: startup, growth, maturity and decline. But a life cycle is not always a continuous journey in one direction. Companies, like products and industries, tend to go through multiple cycles of growth, maturity and decline as new products or services are introduced, new or adjacent markets are penetrated and/or new businesses are acquired.
Vicki TenHaken, a professor of management at Hope College in Holland, MI, determined that of the 6,022,000 active businesses listed in the 2006 Census, only about 540 or .00897 percent were over 100 years old. She believed that if her data base were consistently updated, the total percentage of companies more than 100 years old would never approach a half a percent of the total.
Her study determined there were five common attributes that help account for business longevity:
- 100 year old companies have a strong core ideology and corporate values that drive their business.
- They protect core/unique strengths through a balance of maintaining tradition with continuous improvement and innovation.
- They develop true partnerships with their constituents and constantly learn from these relationships.
- They make Investments in developing employees, with a particular emphasis on leadership succession.
- They practice conservative financing.
Surviving and Thriving - Positive Response to Change
I believe that Charles Darwin’s statement about the survival of species translates easily to the survival of businesses. Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one most responsive to change.”
Ordinary men like Frank Snyder and his son-in-law Jack Starmer and family members and managers that followed them met change head-on: They survived an explosion in 1922 that would have put most companies out of business; they faced The Great Depression and the personal and business lean times that came before and afterward; the economic and personal effects of World War I and II; they changed the focus of the company to automotive parts and accessories and drive-in general automotive service from the tire business in the 1940’s and 1950’s; they refocused the business on outdoor power equipment parts and accessories in the early 1970’s; and reached the pinnacle of national reputation and success in the Outdoor Power Equipment industry in the 1990’s into the early 21st Century. They took prudent calculated chances and accepted occasional failure as a part of their growing and learning experience
Even today, with professional management in place, the Company is challenging the old buy-sell model between a distributor and a manufacturer with a focus on providing product and brand value-added service support from which manufacturers, retailers and their customers receive great value and benefits.