Tips for building a successful business

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The Wake Forest Schools of Business Family Business Center and Business North Carolina magazine presented North Carolina Family Business of the Year Awards on April 28. Honorees are Prentiss Baker III (’65) of Baker Roofing Co., Russ Stephenson (’60) of Stephenson Millwork, Philip Kelley Sr. (MBA ’77) of Salem Printing and Roger Vaughn (’74) of Ruff Housing.

Wake Forest Magazine asked the winners to share tips for building a successful business.

1.     Employ and retain quality people (who we are).

2.     Customer focus delivering world-class customer service and quality installations.

3.     Truly care for our employees and customers.

— Prentiss Baker III (’65 ) of Baker Roofing Co. of Raleigh, third largest U.S. roofing company and employing eight family members among the 750-person work force.

1.     A successful family business needs to regard all employees as part of the family. You demonstrate this with benefit programs that are concerned with the well-being of the employee’s family unit with safe and comfortable working conditions, and a verbalized appreciation for each employee’s specific contributions to the success of the company.

2.     You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Set realistic goals and standards of performance and make sure that process includes input from those who will be responsible for meeting those targets. Then make sure you have a good feedback system.

3.     The founder of our company, my dad, always reminded us that if we concentrated on the quality of our products, sales would always follow.

— CEO Russ Stephenson (’60) of Stephenson Millwork Co. of Wilson, a third-generation architectural millwork family business, with 120 employees.

1.     Communicate clearly and frequently to customers and to employees. Most problems can be avoided or minimized if there are open lines of communication. Listen closely. Plan every job. And do it right the first time, with a sense of urgency that exceeds that of your customer.

2.     Surround yourself with great people. I have been lucky to have worked with, simply put, The Best. People who want to be successful, who are treated with respect for the successes they create, always take care of our customers when they are given the proper tools, equipment and working conditions. We surround ourselves with smart, motivated people who quickly become part of our family.

3.     Take care of the customers. Every customer is a privilege. Meeting customers’ escalating demands for better quality, shorter lead times and lower prices in a global economy is an opportunity to improve both the company and the stability of the workforce. Loyal, long term relationships lead to profitability for us and especially for our customers. We work hard and we continually invest in the latest technology to make sure we bring a higher level of efficiency and productivity to our customers.

— Philip Kelley Sr. (MBA ’77), vice president of Winston-Salem-based Salem Printing Co., which has four family members among its 80 employees.

1.     Focus on the customer (convenience, transparency, safety, value).

2.     Build a staff that shares the vision (recruit carefully, train, reinforce).

3.     Take a long-term view (invest for the future in technology, infrastructure, etc.).

— Roger Vaughn (’74), owner of Ruff Housing of Winston-Salem, specializing in doggie daycare and boarding and with a work force of 40, including three family members.

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