The inception of the Roscoe Company is great insight into the values that the business still holds almost 95 years later. George Buik was a ‘gate waiter’ in the 1920s; waiting at the gates of factories, taking home the workers’ clothes to clean, and bringing them back early the next morning. George revolutionized the industry by changing his business model to owning the clothes and renting them to the workers. That commitment to longevity and to the community, culture of innovation, and vision for the future are still vital elements in the Roscoe Company today.
COMMITMENT TO LONGEVITY AND THE COMMUNITY
Fast forward to 1991: Jim Buik is now the third generation President of the Roscoe Company (one of the first, third generation presidents in the industry) and the business is operating in two buildings with seven family members involved. Like many Roscoe team members, Jim worked his way up from the bottom. In 1979, Jim worked part-time doing painting, maintenance, driving service trucks and office work. Roscoe’s culture has always been to promote qualified team members and Jim’s father, Don, started the 20-Year Club which honors team members with 20 years of service. Every year, active and retired 20-Year Club members gather for a celebration. Many team members reside in the neighborhood that Roscoe operates in, Lawndale.
The Roscoe Company has a history in the Lawndale neighborhood since 1926 and has always been fully-committed to the community’s well-being. Jim has played an active role in the Lawndale Business Renaissance Association which is committed to bringing in new business and retaining business in the area. It allows family businesses in Lawndale (there are many) to have a place to meet, connect, build relationships, and create a network of trust. Jim describes it as very similar to the CFBC (Chicago Family Business Council) community.
As a family business, Roscoe sees the value of small business and would say that family and small businesses are the “sweet spots” of their clientele. Jim says that the connections he has to fellow business owners are much deeper because of the personal experiences and commonalties connecting them. From these personal, face-to-face relationships, there is more of an opportunity to engage with forward-thinking leaders. Group involvement such as the LBRA, CFBC, WPO (World Presidents Organization), and the Business Executive Association helps the development and innovation within companies.
CULTURE OF INNOVATION
Innovation is no stranger to the Roscoe Company. Just like George’s innovative idea to revamp the laundering industry in 1921, Jim and his father Don carried on the legacy within the company. In the 1960s, Don integrated computers into the business and implemented a customized software. In 1972, Roscoe was part of the first water treatment system in the industry worldwide. In the 1980s, Jim wrote the industry’s first CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program on an IBM Personal Computer and moved to streamline and modernize the entire operation. In 1991, Jim saw an opportunity to innovate by purchasing a Motorola bag phone to help the professional communications of the company. Even when Jim’s father told him not to buy the phone, Jim went ahead with it anyway because he was able to see the benefits of integrating the technology. Like his grandfather, Jim had a vision for the future and a plan of execution. In order to keep the company in the Buik family and ultimately consolidate to one building and modernize the plant, Jim bought out his parents and siblings in 2000. With the support of his wife, Teresa, and his leadership team, Jim leads a great organization that services over 2,000 customers with uniforms, mats, towels and restroom product services.
NOW: VISION FOR THE FUTURE
The innovation that George Buik began in the 1920’s carries on today at Roscoe. The plant completed its modernization plan in 2009, making it one of the most sustainable and efficient operations in the nation. Roscoe is constantly improving their social media and SEO (search engine optimization) to help them get ranked on internet search engines, such as Google. Roscoe has found that blogging and participating in social media has helped communicate the company’s community involvement while also providing helpful information to customers and fellow business owners, such as information on fire safety.
With the heritage of innovation, community involvement, and vision, what does the Roscoe Company’s future hold for its 95th Year Anniversary in 2016?
Right now, Jim is preparing to position the company for what’s next. His two children, Julia and Dan, may be interested in joining the business in the next few years. From the CFBC, Jim learned that it is important to have the children work outside the family business before entering the company. Currently, Julia works in accounting at Tandem HR in Westchester. Dan will finish his degree at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2015.
Even if his children decide to pursue a different path, Jim is still confident in the future success of Roscoe. There is a strong team of senior leaders who have worked at Roscoe for as long as 25 years that can carry the company forward for many years.
When reflecting on the past, Jim is often asked why he decided to take on the risk of buying the business from his family when he could have sold it and walked away. Jim’s response? “The benefits and opportunity for my family and other families along with the personal satisfaction of working with my team and solving problems is far greater than the benefits of leaving.”