Drive success under any condition. When the Depression began in the 1920s, Helzberg Diamonds didn’t sink—it flourished. This company is living proof that even under difficult economic times, a company can still succeed as long as it has the right people pushing it. Even during World War II, Helzberg churned out advertisements with patriotic themes and marketed its “Certified Perfect” diamonds to get ahead of the competition.
Be sure to analyze (and reanalyze) your target market. Helzberg Diamonds was a company that focused on growing—and in order to grow, Helzberg had to branch out. The company retrenched to the suburbs in the 1960s and 70s in order to target a new market. This changed Helzberg’s image as well—they were finally portrayed as a “youthful” business. Additionally, Helzberg began offering mail-order business in the early 1950s for rural customers.
Revamp the company. Helzberg reinvented itself over and over again. One of its biggest makeovers was during the 1980s when most stores were introduced in “superstore” format. Helzberg stores became some of the biggest jewelry stores in the nation. It’s something that made Helzberg different than its competitors.
Take that leap of faith. Henry Bloch stumbled upon a pamphlet in the Harvard Library that illustrated the challenges facing America’s small business in the early 1940s. After reading this message, Henry wanted to help small companies succeed. In his mind, he imagined a company that provided comprehensive services for small businesses. And directly after he thought of the idea—he took the leap of faith.
You don’t have to start with a lot. Henry Bloch started with $5,000 which he borrowed from his aunt. In 1946, Henry and his brother, Leon, opened the United Business Company which provided bookkeeping services and rented offices right on Main Street in Kansas City. After nine years of hard work, Henry saw success when he began doing income tax preparation as part of the business and the company became H&R Block.
Focus on quality. In JC Hall’s autobiography, he wrote, “If a man goes into business with only the idea of making a lot of money, chances are, he won’t. But if he puts service and quality first, the money will take care of itself. Producing a first-class product that is a real need is a stronger motivation for success than getting rich.” JC never let a greeting card reach the market without his stamp of approval—he wanted to be hands-on so that Hallmark would create the best, most quality greeting cards.
Reinvent and renew yourself. JC Hall made things happen. He once said, “I don’t like to sit around and wait for something to happen, it’s more fun making it happen!” This attitude is what led Hallmark to invent modern wrapping paper, and later branch into a television network and develop e-Cards.
As three of Kansas City’s most successful "H" companies, Helzberg Diamonds, H&R Block and Hallmark have many lessons to teach. Take these lessons into consideration when starting up your own business. You never know what will Happen!
Keep tHinking big!
Written by Allison Way. Allison is a writer and videographer for Think Big Partners and bizperc, two of Kansas City's newest entrepreneurial resources. To read more of Allison's work, check out the Kansas City Entrepreneurship Examiner.
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