Interview with L. Gale Lemerand, President and CEO of LGL Management and Sani-Giene.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
LGL Management is a limited liability corporation in which various investments are made through the company. Investments include a lumber company, a home and title insurance company, commercial office buildings, golf courses, land development, home construction and a number of restaurants and bars.
In 2005 I founded Sani-Giene. Sani-Giene offers a touch-free, cost-effective solution for a germ-free public restroom experience. Products include my invention, Sanidoor, a touch-free door opening system, touch-free faucets, touch-free paper towel dispensers, touch-free soap and hand sanitizer dispensers and automatic flushers. We're headquartered in Daytona Beach, FL.
When did you start the business?
I started my first business, Gale Industries, an insulation subcontracting company, in 1974 in the suburbs of Chicago, Ill. I started the business in a barn paying $50 in rent per month. The company expanded into central Illinois and eventually branched out into twenty-three states with fifty locations. In 1995, Gale Industries was the largest insulation contractor in the country.
In 1995, I began LGL Management and in 2005, I began Sani-Giene.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before starting Gale Industries in 1974, I spent four years in the United States Air Force. After leaving the Air Force, I was a sales representative for a building material manufacturer and sold wholesale building materials.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I started LGL Management as a holding company to partner with young entrepreneurs and guide them to success using his past experiences, financing and partnership. I'm a firm believer in the title of the book I co-authored, Bet on a Jockey, meaning put your money on the person running the business.
I invented Sanidoor after I witnessed an elite country club chef fail to wash his hands after using the restroom.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
I hired a business manager and outsourced to lawyers and accountants. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of remaining as CEO when their company outgrows them. Never be afraid of hiring people smarter than you are.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
Yes, green approaches have been taken up in the residential construction businesses that I have shares in. Sanidoor, the touch-free door opening system, helps cut down on the use of paper towels to open doors.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
In the restaurant business, the restaurants that were dinner only are now serving lunch and the restaurants that were breakfast and lunch only are now serving dinner. I and my partners have eliminated the non-essentials with the "less is more" mindset, which means eliminating some jobs and offering more incentives to employees. We are firm believers in cost controls and sticking to a strict budget and business plan so we can keep prices low and competitive for our customers.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I found sitting on boards and giving operators ideas an effective method in helping to grow business. For the restaurant business, my partners and I use grassroots marketing to get the word out.
For Sani-Giene and Sanidoor, I hired AXIA, a boutique public relations and marketing firm, to use its NewsBureau media relations services and social media program to promote Sanidoor. In addition, I hired a company to assist with the licensing of Sanidoor to distributors in Canada and the United States.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I'm not involved in the day to day operations. My advice is to know when to bring on help and start delegating to others qualified in specific areas of expertise, such as knowing when to hire a CEO, an accountant, an attorney, general manager, etc.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I would have obtained a formal education after high school. I've taken some night classes from a community college. For that reason, I'm a big supporter of education.
I also suggest being careful about promoting employees above their potential. For example, someone may be a great sales associate, but a lousy sales manager.
That's a great point, Gale. Judging potential in an employee is important. Thanks for sharing that and the rest of your advice with us.