On Wednesday, March 25, as part of the M&M Mars Executive Lecture Series, Steve Barnes and Jeff Stauffer of Stauffer Glove & Safety spoke to Elizabethtown College students about success in business.
Stauffer Glove & Safety is a family business in its 108th year and fifth generation of operation. Jeff Stauffer is the current vice president of the company, and Steve Barnes has been the vice president of sales since 1994. The company has strong ties to Etown as presenters; their wives are graduates of the College; five of their managers are Etown grads; and, in the near future, the company will be taking on their first interns since Steve Barnes, who originally turned down a position at the company in 1993, senior and Etownian advertising manager Jordan Moser and junior Shane Cochran.
According to the Stauffer and Barnes, the presentation, entitled “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow),” inspired by the Fleetwood Mac song, can be summed up by a quote from Max McKeown: “All failure is failure to adapt; all success is successful adaptation.” The presentation was business oriented, but filled with cartoons and anecdotes from their time at college or the years working for the company, at one point showing a picture of Stauffer and his wife in front of the Thompson Gymnasium on his graduation day in order to show that change does happen.
Stauffer Glove & Safety is a company which manufactures cotton work gloves. It was founded in Palm, Pa., in 1907. One such work glove, which is used for industrial uses and as protection against heat, was passed around during the course of the presentation. In 1955, the company relocated to its current headquarters in Redhill, Pa., and in the 1970s, things changed, as Barnes put it, and the company began selling other products. The customer base evolved with them. “You can’t just tread water; you’re either going to grow or sink,” Stauffer said. This change was due to the implementation of OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) in 1971, which meant that employers must now provide protection for their workers “from head to toe.” Stauffer Glove & Safety became a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Distributor as a whole new market had opened up, and the company now had the opportunity to sell glasses, boots and respirators.
Stauffer also spent some time speaking about the two types of expenses: the raw materials used to create the product and Maintenance Repair Operations (MRO), which ensure the company manufacturing the products remain operational. Stauffer Glove & Safety provides products to Fortune 500 companies across the country. As such, the business faces the “Wal-Mart Effect” where the competing MRO companies sell a wide variety of products, a challenge Stauffer described their company overcomes because “[their] greatest advantage or differentiation [from the other companies] is expertise.” Another challenge they have faced recently has been vending machines, which surfaced about 15 years ago, and solve MRO problems within companies because they create a record of how much of a certain product each employee takes. They added a vending program three years ago and strive for differentiation by educating their customers on what the product can do for them.
They closed with a quote from Charles Darwin on adapting to change. Stauffer saying that as a company, “[they] had to … If we hadn’t we would have long been out of business.” They also advised students to keep an open mind. There is a 95 percent chance that one’s current career choice is going to change, according to Barnes. As fewer than three percent of family businesses survive five generations or more, Stauffer says he was very fortunate, made good choices and essentially got lucky. “[There is] always gonna be a challenge in front of you. It’s how you respond. It’s how you react [that matters]” Stauffer said. He advised the students to make the most of their four years here at the College and wished them all the best.