LancasterThrivingSummerFall2017 - 7
FAILING FORWARD NUGGET #4: PURPOSE
n business, there is no such thing as "set in stone."
Change is constant, but surviving and thriving through
change requires leaders with both a vision to seize future
opportunities and a flexibility to shift focus. For Mary
Kohler, President of H&H Group, life has provided plenty of
opportunities to develop these two attributes. In fact, she'll
be the first to tell you that in business and in life, her path
hasn't always been smooth.
"If you would have told me when I was younger that I'd be
running a business, let alone a print business, I would have
said you were nuts," says Kohler, whose parents, Phil and
Camilla Huepenbecker, began a Lancaster branch of a Sir
Speedy quick-service copying franchise in 1973. "I hated the
business when I was a kid."
After graduating from high school, instead of joining her
parents, Kohler opted for a path of her own by enrolling
in college and assuming the day-to-day management of a
horse farm. However, it wasn't long before she realized that
she couldn't sustain a living with horses and found herself
back in Lancaster reluctantly asking her mom for a job. "I
was doing bookkeeping and customer service, which was
definitely not a part of my life plan," says Kohler. "But the
more I got into it and realized I had a knack for working with
customers, the more I developed a passion for the business.
And it wasn't long before we grew into the number one Sir
Speedy franchise in the world."
But challenges existed almost from the beginning. "Coming
into a family-owned business isn't easy," she says. "At the
same time, I was a woman in a very male-dominated industry.
I have plenty of examples where my mother and I would sit
in meetings to buy equipment for $100,000 or more and the
salespeople would focus all of their attention on our general
manager, who was male and about the same age as me."
She says with a smile: "We'd politely inform them that he
wasn't the decision maker, we were."
As attitudes about women-owned businesses evolved, so
did printing. By the 1990s the industry was facing a new
threat with the rise in popularity and affordability of desktop
computers. "We were a staple for all businesses, because
they needed us to print forms," explained Kohler. "With
the proliferation of computers, that part of our business