Only once in its 107-year history has the Spangler Candy Co. not turned a profit.
That’s a solid run of success, especially considering the challenges that have come and gone across a century of American history.
Profits, after all, are essential for a company’s success. But when leaders at Spangler look to their goals, they do it with an with an eye to the future and to their community.
Dean Spangler, chairman of the board, said Spangler wants what he calls “adequate” profits, not maximized profits. For example, Spangler could save $17,000 a day on sugar costs by moving production of its signature lollipops from its home base of Bryan to Windsor, Ont.
“We’re not going to do it, because our people, we view them as capital, not resources. They’ve invested in us for 107 years, and we’re not going to abandon them,” said Mr. Spangler, who is also the company’s former chief executive officer.
Mr. Spangler was one of the featured speakers at Lourdes University’s second Joseph M. Magliochetti Leadership Summit. The event focuses on highlighting how principled businesses have found success, while pushing a message that real business leadership is about more than driving profits.
“I really think there’s a hunger in the community to hear this kind of message, that business can be a positive force, and in our community that business is a positive force. Of course, there’s exceptions to that, but there’s also a lot of good people doing a lot of good things,” said Dean Ludwig, vice president of enrollment at Lourdes.
Mr. Ludwig, formerly the dean of Lourdes University’s college of business and leadership, said last year’s program got such a positive reaction that the university decided to stick with the same basic idea for this year’s event.
Essentially, the idea is that when business leaders act as they should and carry private-life ethics into the boardroom, they help the common good and build community wealth.
In Spangler’s case, that means more than just cutting a check to a local charity.
Mr. Spangler said after levies to build schools in Bryan were defeated three times, the company decided to do whatever it could to support a levy — no matter the cost or time. The company’s marketing team got involved; even executives went out to drum up support. The levy ultimately passed.
“I’m convinced that election was because our company committed to that process, the common good,” he said. “You have power in your communities greater than you can imagine, and power to do good.”
Part of what allows Spangler the freedom to do such things is that it’s privately owned.
But officials from the J.M. Smucker Co. in Orrville, Ohio, say even publicly owned firms can put principles before profits.
Paul Wagstaff, a fifth-generation Smucker family member and the president of U.S. Retail Consumer Foods for the company, said officials answer to six constituents: consumers, customers, employees, suppliers, the community, and shareholders.
“We feel very strongly ... if we take care of the first five, the sixth one, the shareholder, will be automatically taken care of,” Mr. Wagstaff said.
J.M. Smucker has about 4,500 employees in North America, including about 2,000 in Ohio. The company owns a plant in Toledo that makes Pillsbury dry mixes and frosting. The Toledo plant employs about 230 people.
Also speaking at the summit at the Toledo Club was Vincent Byrd, J.M. Smucker’s president and chief operating officer.