The Journey To 25. From Lincoln Archives President, Bill Palisano
I can’t believe it. Twenty-five years ago, I started Lincoln Archives, Inc. Twenty-five years. Where has the time gone? It’s been quite a ride. Starting a business is never easy. Running a business isn’t either. Keeping a business relevant and growing is a continuous challenge. But, I have to say, the experience has been very rewarding, and I’m not talking specifically about financially. The journey itself has been rewarding. Here’s a condensed version of how I started the company…
I was twenty-seven years old, newly married (and way under-capitalized). I mean WAY undercapitalized. At that time, I was running our warehousing & distribution operation, Lincoln Distribution (as a result of writing a computer software program (on a student version of DBaseIII, borrowed from my class at UB) that fully automated that operation), and at the same time selling and managing our Buffalo Sales Team for another of our companies, Lincoln Moving & Storage of Buffalo / Atlas Van Lines. Two completely different jobs for two completely different companies. I had two separate offices.
Office #1 was on the 1st floor of our facility. This was my role as Vice President of Sales for Lincoln Moving & Storage / Atlas Van Lines. My office was the last one down a wide hallway. From my desk looking down the hall, I had 3 salespeople in 3 separate offices on my left, and 3 inside sales/sales support people across from them, on my right. I had a receptionist, and I had my National Accounts Sales Coordinator who assisted me with hundreds of corporate relocations throughout the US, and internationally. It was quite a team. A wild bunch who tested this young managers’ skills, patience, and at times, my sanity. We won many sales achievement and volume awards, although we operated out of Buffalo (considered a “small market”). The Lincoln Moving Co.’s (we had 5 of them at that time) became very well known throughout the Atlas Van Lines system during the 90’s. But, after I started Lincoln Archives, I worked out of this office only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Office #2 was on the 2nd floor. This is where Lincoln Archives, Inc. was “born.” It wasn’t even an office – it was a cubicle, in an open office area used for accounting, payroll and admin for our parent company, Lincoln Securities Corp. I worked out of this “office” on Tuesdays and Thursdays and focused solely on building Lincoln Archives. My father graciously co-signed a $20,000 loan from Norstar Bank, “gave me” 4800 Sq.Ft. of warehouse space (he didn’t charge me any rent until we could pay it), and we were off and running. Initially, I had my brother Mike, my brother Johnny and I. We didn’t own a single truck. I chose the name Lincoln Archives, Inc. to (hopefully) ride the coattails of our well known Moving & Storage company, and give us a little bit of credibility. The first few years were about one thing: survival. If I did not produce results, my father would have pulled the plug, no question about it. He was a serial entrepreneur, opened at least 14 companies (that I can remember), and closed the ones that did not produce. It was just business, never personal. And I wanted to build something new, and put my name on it. I wanted to be successful based on starting my own company, not working for ‘daddy’. To survive, I had to generate revenue. I was focused (actually obsessed with) targeting prospects, meeting with, proposing solutions, closing sales, providing valuable services and developing long-term clients. Little by little I/we achieved some successes, and after a few years, we broke even. Once ‘over the hump’ we brought in new team members, bought our own equipment and trucks, and began to build the business. Growth has been slow but steady ever since. We’ve been fortunate. And I strive to keep us humble.
While building client base and revenue is still a cornerstone of our survival, I have also kept a keen eye on changes in information technology. It’s interesting to me. Over the past 25 years, I have seen so many changes. My team and I have introduced many, many new, related services to stay relevant and to continue to grow. So far, it’s worked.
I have seen risks to information, data loss and threats from natural disasters give way to man-made, machine learning and artificial intelligence threats. I have seen many clients totally flourish while many others have perished. I have read hundreds of news articles about successes of WNY companies and smiling, have said to myself: “yep, they’re our client” proud to be a part of their success. I have seen many competitors come and go, some were good people and organizations. Some were ‘hit and run’ operators who came in, signed clients at any cost only to make a quick buck by selling off to national companies; their ‘clients’ were nothing more than a revenue multiplier for their planned sell-out. I have seen very sharp team members ‘grow up’ within my organization and become the leaders of today (and tomorrow), while others struggled with life challenges, and fell from our ranks. I have had team members die. And, I have taken every opportunity that I can, to celebrate all of the personal successes of team members and all of the milestones my company has achieved. If you can’t enjoy your business life, your career, your job, what’s the point? Celebrate, we have and we do.
It’s now 25 years later. With hard work, many dedicated people, maybe a little luck (and at times, a leap of faith by clients), Lincoln Archives has survived and prospered. My wife, Tracey, and I now have 3 kids, all in college. Lincoln Archives has not only provided for us but now provides for about 20 other local families. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of: We made something out of nothing; we built a business. It’s helped our clients succeed and flourish. It’s supported so many families. And it’s allowed us to support many local charitable organizations and give back to our local community. And despite tough times, it’s actually been fun. My grandfather passed this adage down to my father, who passed this down to me: “If you don’t have any problems, you don’t have any business.” I believe this, and I pass this down to all current and future leaders of my company and to all current and future leaders of our group of (Lincoln) companies.
To all of our past, present and future clients, team members, leaders, and friends: Thank you for making Lincoln Archives what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow.
To our next 25 years – Cheers!
by Bill Palisano