Original Post from pigeon605.com
A fifth-generation family business doesn’t reach its 135th anniversary alone.
It arrives at that milestone thanks to longevity at all levels – team members who joined the business as entry-level employees and worked their way up to becoming key leaders.
People like Dean Gehrels, who joined Montgomery’s in 1994.
Or Nita Flagtwet, who has been part of the team for 21 years.
“And so many other names in between,” said Eric Sinclair, owner and president of Montgomery’s.
“We are the company we are not only because of our family’s ongoing commitment but truly because of the people who have been part of our team and become part of our family along the way.”
For Gehrels, a Montgomery’s career began with a role as a management trainee in Madison. At the time, it was the only Montgomery’s location.
“I needed a lot of help when I started, but they gave it to me,” he said. “They were patient with me, and while the plan was I would divide responsibility with someone else in the Madison market, when he left, I was left fully in charge.”
He ran the Madison store and then became more involved in the merchandise side of the business instead of daily operations. He now serves as merchandising manager while still helping with sales training and pitching in as needed to cover management shifts at various locations.
“I just really like working with the Sinclairs,” he said. “It’s a great fit for my personality, and we have a like-minded sense of wanting to get things accomplished. I love working with a family business. You’re accessible to top leadership. Anybody can have a great idea, and we’ll study it and put it into play if it makes sense.”
For Flagtwet, a sales manager role originally drew her to Montgomery’s in Sioux Falls. Five years later, she became director of sales.
“The ownership always says if you take care of people, the rest happens, and they’re not wrong,” she said. “Whether it’s your employees or your customers, it’s the people that make your business strong, and it’s a fun culture here. People are always willing to help out, and our owners will help wherever needed. If there’s garbage outside, they’re picking it up.”
She enjoys a lot of longevity on her team too.
“I have people on my team who have been here 10 or 15 years, and in retail, that says a lot,” she said. “It’s not an easy job, but here we’re as family-friendly as we can be. We care for our people, and we’ve had a lot of fun and growth.”
The Sinclairs embrace change and education, which has contributed to the business reaching 135 years, Flagtwet added.
“We have education for the team in our store one day every week for an hour to 90 minutes. And it’s happened as long as I’ve worked here,” she said. “We work very hard on being educated in our field, and that doesn’t just benefit our customers but our employees because we’re investing into them through that training.”
While Montgomery’s has been celebrating its milestone anniversary all year, the past month has been especially powerful.
The company held an employee appreciation week, including notes of gratitude, games, treats and a big party with food trucks, camping and more prizes.
“Every year, we take time to celebrate our staff for an entire week, but because this year is our 135th anniversary, we changed things up a bit,” director of merchandising Jessica Clayton said.
“Every day during the week, we focused on a category we offer. Each day was themed around that category with trivia, activities, treats and raffle prizes.”
In an especially memorable moment, all employees were recognized in a “graduation ceremony” and introduced along with their years of service, while receiving a $135 gift.
“It was super cool, not like anything we’ve done in the past, and it was really nice that every employee at the celebration was called out and personally recognized,” Flagtwet said.
“But we care about those milestones. At a one-year anniversary, employees are taken to lunch with their supervisor. There are other recognitions at five, 10 and 15 years, and often our owners will stop and congratulate employees or email or text them.”
Another core company value is giving back. So in addition to appreciating the team, recent weeks were filled with philanthropy:
“We continually look for ways to give back to the communities that have made us who we are today, and that’s especially true in this anniversary year,” Sinclair said.
“It shows what a perfect cultural fit our employees are that they immediately rallied behind this effort with us, and we’ve been able to make significant contributions to multiple valuable efforts.”
Montgomery’s even was honored for its commitment to the state recently by the South Dakota Hall of Fame, with one of the organization’s Acts of Excellence awards, reserved for extraordinary individuals and organizations who are serving their communities in meaningful ways.
Gehrels views it simply – this is just a reflection of the culture that has helped him at Montgomery’s for nearly 30 years.
“People just do the right thing and treat everyone right,” he said. “That’s the internal cultural. Everyone moves in the right direction and focuses on how to improve. It just makes life as a retail employee a lot easier. I just love the fact that the No. 1 most important thing is to treat customers and treat each other like you’d like to be treated. It’s pretty simple, but it makes all the difference.”