Over the next year, we're celebrating the Countdown to our 100th Anniversary by sharing our stories from our past. The history of our founder, Titus B. Schmid, and all those that impacted him, play a vital role in the creation of Crescent Electric Supply Company. Join us as we take a stroll down memory lane in preparation for our Centennial celebration in April, 2019!
Story 12: Part A - Thanks to all of Crescent’s employees, then and now!
Little did Titus Schmid know in 1919 he was building a team culture that would sustain the business for 100 years. Innate in Titus’ DNA was the understanding that life’s achievements depend on an ability to work well with people. He was quick to appreciate what each person brings to the table. We have seen in previous vignettes that Titus, and his sons’ after him, spent their lives building relationships, giving their all to their business associates, and the communities in which they lived.
This vignette focuses on the appreciation our founder Titus, his sons, and the entire Schmid family have for the employees of Crescent. As we learned from our grandfather, “BUILDING AND SUSTAINING A BUSINESS TAKES GREAT PEOPLE.”
Titus, in his self published book, The History of Crescent Electric Supply Company 1919-1964, speaks often of his appreciation for employees. He ends the book with thanks to the many great employees who contributed to Crescent’s success over the years:
Not only did Titus speak highly of the employees, he created a culture where employees also understood the value of working together. In April of 1969, Iowa Business & Industry did a feature article on Crescent Electric Supply Company in honor of Crescent’s 50th year in business.
Mel Deitz, then head of Marketing, was quoted in the article talking about the talent of the employees.
Titus did not just speak in public about the value he placed on his employees. He often wrote about his appreciation for the “talent of the team” in private letters to his sons.
In August of 1975, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald published an interview with Titus Schmid. Titus, as usual, praised the employees, “You have to surround yourself with good people,” he added. “That’s important. It’s good people that make a business.”
In 1981, in another letter to his son, Titus again addressed his confidence in the team:
“Yes son, we are experiencing some very tough business times and this requires the best thinking and efforts we all can muster. That slogan of “make it happen” is so very appropriate at this time and I have the confidence in all of our crew that we can weather this storm as well as any firm can”.
This sense of appreciation for employees was passed on to his children. In the “State of the Company” letter sent by Jim Schmid in late 1989, Jim had this to say about the employees:
In 1992, Jim Schmid was interviewed in the Tri-State Business Times: “People. That’s what makes for a successful operation,” Schmid said. “If you don’t have good people, you won’t make it”.
April of 1994, The Business and Industry Magazine did a feature article on Crescent Electric Supply Company in honor of Crescent’s 75th year. In that article we found a quote from Jim Schmid, the President of Crescent, and Wayne Alderson, the Treasurer. Both men were commenting on the value they place on Crescent’s employees.
Wayne Alderson, Crescent’s Treasurer, also weighed in on the importance of the employees.
Bill Schmid also put employees first as can be seen from this heartfelt letter Ken Dolan sent to him.
In an interview with Ken Doland this past winter, Ken again repeated he was so very thankful Bill invested in him. Bill taught him how to build and maintain a great customer relationship. Ken also spoke fondly about the time Titus stopped by the branch. Titus introduced himself to Ken, joked with him a bit and then asked him two questions: 1) what are we doing right, and 2) what are we doing wrong? Titus left him with this advice: It is always about the customer relationship. If you are good to the customer, the customer will be good to you.
Tom and Libby Schmid, Mary and Jim Schmid, and Carrie and Dick Schmid all entertained MANY employees (and customers and vendors) at their homes over the years. We have records that show Mary Schmid planned these events with great care writing down details in the many notebooks she kept from those years. Here are invitations from two Christmas parties hosted by Mary and Jim. We found the pages from Mary’s notebooks that reference the preparations for the company Christmas party in 1974 and 1998, and every year in-between. Yes, that is 24 years of party planning and hosting!
Party planning list for the Dec. 13, 1998 Crescent Employee Christmas party.
Party planning list for the Dec. 11, 1974 Crescent Employee Christmas party.
While there are too many employees to highlight them all, I want to share a few pictures and notes that have been shared with me over the past year.
Carol Hoffman from our General Office is our longest tenured employee marking 54 years with the company this July!
Jack Schmid thanks
Carol for her
50 years of service
on behalf of the
at a Shareholder Meeting in 2015.
The Schlader family is the second longest serving family employee group for Crescent, clocking in at 90+ years of combined employment. This is just a few years behind the Schmid family!
Don Schlader worked at Crescent for 38 years.
Ron Schlader has been at Crescent for 44 years.
John Schlader worked at Crescent for 6 years.
Natalie (Schlader) Joiner, daughter of Ron, has been at Crescent for 2 years.
Josh Holtan, an employee in our Minneapolis branch, has a large and growing collection of Crescent memorabilia shown below and in this video:
Ti Schmid stopped by the Minneapolis branch to talk to his friend, Mike Proux, who has worked at Crescent for 33 (now 34) years!
John Schmid talks about his first job as a Warehouse Foreman. John acknowledges the fantastic work of his predecessor who helped John ease into his warehouse job.
John Schmid hired Marty Burbridge, the current CEO of Crescent. Did you know Marty quit but then asked John for his job back a few months later? John tells the story in this video.
There were many employee events over the years. From the first annual picnic in 1928, it appears the employees have had fun ribbing each other and the Schmid’s they worked with.
Micki Parkin, (hire date 3/8/1974…third in line as most tenured current employee) shared the following poem which poked fun at some of the employees in the corporate office.
Micki goes on to write:
“We had a blast in those days. This poem was something I wrote one year and we recited it during Caroling. It got a good laugh. Nancy Patrum [Editor’s note: Nancy Patrum is tenured current employee number 4, right behind Micky] would play her flute. So funny to think of now.
We used to have “kids” Christmas parties. Ken or someone would dress up as Santa and take the kids to a venue somewhere and Santa would show up and hand out candy.
Volleyball and softball tournaments with other branches and bus trips to Wrigley field.
Those were the days.
We have stories to tell that is for sure.
Take care and good luck with your project.”
Help Desk Coordinator
Crescent Electric Supply
Story 12: Part B - 100 Years of Growing Together Through Customer Service
Crescent Electric Supply Company
Titus started his electrical distribution company because he recognized the importance of quality service to the customer. When his vendor failed to deliver the electrical supplies Titus had promised his customer, the idea of Crescent was born. Titus simply did not want to be on the receiving end of a missed customer order ever again. The best way Titus saw to solve the disappointed customer problem was to become the supplier who would provide the service the customer deserves. And that is what Crescent employees have been striving to do for the past 100 years, starting with Titus and his first salesmen, Tom Kelley, to all the employees working at Crescent today.
In the April 1969 article in Iowa Business & Industry magazine, Tom Schmid and Mel Dietz speak specifically to the importance of customer service.
The tradition of entertaining not just employees but customers began with Titus. Titus makes frequent mention in his letters to his children about the lunches and dinners he and his wife Doden were hosting for customers, even after he turned over the business to his sons to manage. And in a letter written by Mary Schmid in 2005, she references the many dinners she and Jim, and Tom and Libby before them, held at their homes for vendors, customers and employees in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
Mary’s notebooks tell the story of entertaining vendors, customers and Crescent employees. Here are some sample pages from Mary’s many notebooks highlighting the guests, dates and the traditional menu she served.
This page lists a Bridgeport customer visit.
Bridgeview Customer Visit
Wednesday, July 30th, 1986
Denny Therauld - Manager
Bill McMillen - Salesman
John Segalon - Salesman
Followed by the names of all the guests
Mary recorded every customer visit, including the date and each guests name. Going through the pages of these notebooks captures the role Mary had in helping Crescent maintain the personal touch from our family business.
While entertaining customers at their homes was commonplace for Libby and Tom, and then Mary and Jim, it appears to have been not as common for customers. At the 85th Anniversary in 2004, some customers in Mason City asked the Branch Manager to post on the internal company board a special thanks to Jim and Mary Schmid. This is a picture of the internal memo, along with an enlarged excerpt below, which includes a special shout out to Mary and Jim.
In Mary’s now infamous notebooks was a letter from a customer sent in 1995, thanking Jim for his help in her time of need. This compassion and generosity speaks to the values of our family and who we are as a family owned company.
Matzinger Electric is still a customer of Crescent. Jeff Matzinger wrote this celebratory note to Jerry Tucker, Western Region RVP in May 2018:
Customer service is the basis on which the company has grown. Dick Schmid, a 3rd generation family member and an employee of Crescent, said it best in an article from Business and Industry magazine in October 1996.
This concludes our series of vignettes documenting the history of the Company and its most important asset – its people.
Thanks for taking time to read and view some of the highlights of the history of Crescent Electric Supply Company and the family behind it.
The greatest strength of the Company remains its large dedicated group of employees.
Our family is ever grateful for those who have chosen a career with our family owned company. We look forward to the next century with all of you by our side.
About the Project as Explained by the Author:
Author Mary Schmid Daugherty is a third generation Schmid family member. Content for this Project, a historical narrative, was selected from the personal archives of many members of the Schmid family. The narrative itself required the author to cull and categorize hundreds of pieces of information (old newspaper articles, photos, interviews, movies and physical memorabilia). She then fit the pieces together to share this story of the Schmid family and Crescent Electric over the past 100 years. The resulting Project is a series of vignettes, of which this is one. She hopes you enjoy reading and watching these vignettes.
To learn more about the Author’s professional qualifications visit her website: https://www.stthomas.edu/business/faculty/directory/daugherty-mary.html
© Mary Schmid Daugherty May 2018
Click here to subscribe to future articles and stay up to date with Crescent Electric.