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  • Writer's pictureNick Andriacchi

How to Survive in Business for 154 Years

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Adam Kroner Hardware, La Crosse, Wisconsin has been in business 154 years. That is one hell of an achievement. Countless small (and large) businesses have come and gone during that time frame, but this one survived.

Good decisions had to have been made to stick around for this long. Think about the tremendous amount of change that occurred in the last century-and-a-half.

Many great decisions were made but I can boil it down to 3 main ones:

1) Make Changes & Be Decisive

2) Leverage Knowledge

3) Stable Staff & Clear Succession Planning

It’s the same in the staffing world. As the market changes, a staffing company needs to adapt, or they’ll just go out like yesterday’s newspaper.

How Kroner Hardware Rolled with the Punches

La Crosse, WI originated as a northern prairie trading post along the Mississippi River. The town incorporated in 1856. Twelve years later, Adam Kroner started a hardware store and the business grew.

Change came slowly as the town grew. The first 90 years of business, Kroner Hardware was primarily a retail store. They sold everything from appliances to toys. A cultural change occurred in the United States with the advent of the interstate highway system starting in the late 1950s. The downtown area, where Kroner Hardware is located, slowly began to lose customers to the “big-box” retail sites that were built along the interstate highway. Population also started to shift to the outlying areas of La Crosse in line with much of the rest of the country. This meant extinction for many of downtown traditional retail businesses. But not for Kroner Hardware.

They rolled with the punches.

Make Changes & Be Decisive

They survived that and by scaling back the retail aspect and focused on the wholesale contracting business. Jim Kroner (Adam Kroner's grandson) studied architectural hardware consulting which led to Kroner Hardware being a prominent supplier of hardware to contractors for commercial and institutional construction in the La Crosse area. In 1958, Jim was one of the founders for the La Crosse Area Builders Exchange and served on its original Board of Directors.

They saw the writing on the wall earlier than other merchants in the downtown area. Not only that, but they made a strategic decision to scale back in one area of their business and focus on a new opportunity.

Leverage What You Know

Whatever business you may be in, you must be willing to adapt to a changing marketplace. And you never know when you might be able to leverage your abilities and end up at the top of the food chain in an emerging market.

Internal Stability & Leadership Succession

Kroner Hardware had and still has a very loyal and stable workforce. Some of the employees have worked there for over 50 years. This stability gave their customers confidence that the “know-how” is there and the business is here to stay.

As far as leadership and succession planning is concerned ……. A fourth generation Kroner is running the business today.

Evolution of Staffing

Think about how staffing has evolved from the “Kelly Girl” days. Most temp jobs were low skilled labor and administrative help if an employee was absent. Today, contract positions are available for blue, white, pink, green, red and new collar jobs.

Heck, lots has changed since I started in the industry. For example, paper was king in 1992. Paper checks, timecards, applications, file cabinets full of resumes, W4’s etc. Manuel candidate search, in person interviews and filling jobs meant lots and lots of phone calls (sounds like "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel). Most of these functions are now automated and staffing phone apps will become the norm at some point.

The staffing industry is always changing and with careful planning, staffers can take advantages of those opportunities.

How is your segment of the staffing industry changing?

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