In May, Magnet partnered with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to host "We Never Go Out of Style" at their newly renovated, doubled-in-size Odana Road store. Their seven area thrift stores provide approximately half of the funding needed to support a large food pantry, charitable pharmacy, housing programs and other charitable efforts in the Madison community. Ralph Middlecamp, Chief Executive Officer with more than 25 years of SVdP experience, discussed the biggest lessons he learned while directing one of Madison’s largest charitable organizations.
The event started with an informal store tour. Members learned about sales techniques, store design, pricing strategy and recycling efforts. The company adjacent to the store recently went out of business, and after selling their property to SVdP, the charitable organization doubled the size of the store, making for a more open and attractive customer buying environment.
The event continued with dinner off the grill: hamburgers/veggie burgers accompanied by chips, fruit, drinks and some addictive chocolate chip cookies. Members enjoyed the meal while chatting with Ralph and listening to him describe five principles that assisted him as he grew from volunteer to CEO of the organization.
First, Middlecamp shared that believing in your own career and your own work is important. You should feel that whatever product you are creating, sharing or selling is worth your time and energy to promote to others. Second, surrounding yourself with positive people and people smarter than you will help both you and your organization to grow. While some people are threatened by having those more intelligent or experienced working for them, Middlecamp noted that if he had been too insecure to hire Shopko’s former senior vice-president as SVdP’s former Director of Retail Operations (recently retired,) the organization’s stores would not be where they are today.
Middlecamp’s final three recommendations centered around focus and relationships with others. Do not let personal excuses control the organization’s destiny; instead, provide opportunities for employees to own their work and hold them (and yourself) accountable. Pick your battles. Know which principles and facets of the organization are most important and protect those, but be willing to bend at points that are less crucial when necessary. Finally, cooperation and collaboration with others leads to a better community result and ultimately a stronger organizational result.
The event finished with the Style Wars. Attendees had a limited amount of time to scour the store for clothing and accessories to complete a professional-style outfit. The winning ensemble sported a spring flair. Gift cards to an SVdP store and a box of cookies served as prizes.