Brian Elias is founder and president of 1-800-HANSONS
He began his journey in the summer of '88, selling pots and pans from the trunk of his car. After realizing school wasn't for him, his father introduced him to a friend in the window business and he began door-to-door sales and marketing. His persistence and attention to customer service set him apart. Once he obtained his builders license, he created 1-800-HANSONS with $5,000 and grew the company one job at a time.
We wrapped our 1-800-Hansons Sing-A-Jing Contest last month and the response was amazing! The contest is not only a fun promotion, but also a way for people to participate in the musical process and interact with our company. I started the Sing-A-Jing three years ago because people would come up to me on the street saying "my kids always sing your jingle" or "we always have your jingle in our heads". I really wanted to get people excited about 1-800-HANSONS. This year was different from years past because we involved schools and teachers by awarding individual winners with scholarships and their schools with funding. We approached music teachers and principals hoping they would help get kids and parents involved – you obtain a lot of buy in when schools back a project and this year the involvement was tremendous and the financial aspect was so important because schools are struggling right now. It is extremely moving to watch these children give a project their all. When you see the video submissions, the look of pride on their faces is overwhelming.
Pursuing the community's involvement as a method for growing a business is a long-term strategy. Goodwill will give revenue a boost because many people and businesses prefer to buy from and work with trusted local companies when they can. If these parents, teachers, administrators and eventually children need the products and services I provide, they'll contact my company first.
The economy is tough right now and everyone is impacted by it. We care about our customers and we also care about our employees. When your business is viewed as a good corporate citizen by supporting local groups, you attract and maintain higher quality employees as well. During hard times 1-800-Hansons has not had any layoffs because we live and operate by a few important rules:
My pay is cut before my employees. As the owner of a company, I will go to 0 before I cut someone else's salary. A good policy is to downsize from the top down, not the bottom up.
Trim fat where you can. Before I eliminate a job, I will try to cut down on hours within a department, that way everyone still has an income.
Tackle obstacles as a company, not an individual. Each person knows when we are doing well and when we are not. When things get tough we come together and face the challenges as a unit. Before we can do anything we have to make sure there are funds to operate. We are constantly inventing and reinventing. A business is an ongoing experiment and as the economy changes we have to look at new ways to achieve a desired result.
We care for our employees the same way we care for our customers. When the foundation is caring for customers, it pays you back every time.
Community involvement plays an important role when running a local business. Developing an identity, marketing products and services on budget and generating a positive word of mouth campaign is a priority, especially in today's economy. Giving back to the community is a no-brainer because people like to do business with individuals who have similar concerns. Customers feel indirectly connected with you, a product and/or service when you have the same priorities in your community and business.
The goal is to become responsible, involved, and approachable to your community. Bonding with your customers helps with strategic networking and linking with potential clients and business people. If you have professional success, you should use that to promote community success. At 1-800-Hansons we encourage local buying as much as we can - first we buy locally and then we buy American. If I can buy Michigan products it's a bonus because cycling business through the community is just a good policy.
I look at personal and professional involvement in community as one in the same. We engage with organizations relating to cancer and children. My mother battled cancer so that cause is very important to me, and children are the meaning of life. We work with the American Cancer Society, ORT of America, Habitat for Humanity, Friendship Circle, Yad Ezra and The Jewish Federation. If you are passionate about a cause those are the organizations you should engage, you will be more active that way.
Being a good neighbor, no matter the size of the neighborhood is extremely important. We service all of Michigan and parts of Ohio so we have a large area to maintain. Recently, Mojo in the Morning of 95.5 WKQI approached us to help a family in need this holiday season. A listener had brought the struggles of the woman and her family to the station's attention and asked for their assistance in granting a Christmas wish to provide assistance for this deserving family. This mother is taking care of 7 children, some are adopted and foster children she has taken in since her mother passed. Mojo and the station were an integral part in giving this mother and her 7 children a generous Christmas and they asked that 1-800-HANSONS help by providing new windows for her home. The family's home was missing windows and they were trying to keep the cold out by covering the missing windows with plastic. We donated a whole house full of windows to warm this mother and her family up for the holidays and beyond.
Being part of a solution in the community shows good will and people will remember that. Philanthropy and community involvement are not only a business strategy but should be part of a life strategy. Giving back is everyone's responsibility; the question is whether or not you step up.