The Vernon Company adapts to the future

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 11:16 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 11:28 a.m. CDT
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(Dave Hon/Daily News)
In a hall in the main building, the Vernon Company will have 111 stories from employees who have served the company.
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(Dave Hon/Daily News)
As part of their adaptation over the years, the Vernon Company starting selling apparel, such as hats, in the 1980s.
Caption
(Dave Hon/Daily News)
A relic from the 1980s, this pen and calendar combo was once sold by the Vernon Company.

As a business, you don’t get to 111 years of service without learning to adapt.

In his 26 years of service at the Vernon Company, President and COO Chris Vernon said he’s seen a lot of changes in the company from when he was growing up.

“It’s just part of the nature of our business that we’re always looking for different and new products,” Vernon said. “So the product is always evolving from what’s popular now to what’s popular from when I started.”

The Vernon Company specializes in promotional products. Basically, anything that can have a label on it, the company can place a label on that product. During their 111 year celebration, the company set up a display that showcased some of their older and discontinued products, one of them being an ash tray.

In recent years, Vernon said the company has moved into promotional apparel for companies. While culture has decided the fate of products like the ashtray, Vernon said adapting is an important part of any business.

Vernon said the company has made significant changes since he was a kid, from products to staffing. These new employees have enabled them to move into new markets.

“I think what’s really changed is the people,” Vernon said. “Just the whole turnover of people from the 80s to now. I was young pup then and now it seems like I’m one of the older people.”

Vernon said another change has been in the demographics in the sales department. A division that was once mainly dominated by older men, now has a majority of women in the workforce.

“Even here in the home office, it’s predominantly women,” Vernon said. “We have a couple dozen guys but really, the rest of it, over 100 women in this office.”

Vernon also said the employees they hire now tend to stay. Vernon said the Vernon Company is a place where people make careers, rather than work a few years then move on. Vernon said 35-40 people that work in the home office in Newton, are a member of the 25 year club, including him.

“We’re like a big family. It’s terrific,” Vernon said. “There’s a lot of change. There’s no question about change occurring.”

As Vernon enters his 26th year at the generational company, he said the Vernon Company isn’t done changing.

“The survival of our business and success is contingent on innovation and adapting to the times and people,” Vernon said. “It’s not just about knowing your product, but you have to have your people and your team willing to experiment and try new things and obvious be sensitive to what our customers want and what our competitors are doing.”

Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at dhon@newtondailynews.com.

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