A lot of the lessons America's larger companies have to offer aren't that helpful to budding entrepreneurs. Sure, small companies would love to offer all their employees free lunch to boost morale (Google, Yahoo) or make splashy acquisitions to get attention. But spending lots of dough often isn't an option for America's smaller and scrappier startups. That's why it was so heartening to read Ben Kesling's profile of Tootsie Roll Industries in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.
The Chicago company, which also makes Blow Pops, Junior Mints, Razzles and a few other beloved old-timey treats, is super secretive yet somehow has managed to grow and stay true to its roots over a 100-plus-year history.
Resling's story delivers some fascinating information about Tootsie Roll, which is run by one of the country's oldest CEOs.
We pulled out five takeaways for small business owners:
Employ Your Spouse
Tootsie Roll CEO Melvin Gordon runs the company with his wife Ellen. Other well-known husband-and-wife run companies include Kate Spade LLC, Clif Bar and Amy's Kitchen Inc., notes <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703293204576106070417989688.html" target="_hplink">this <em>Wall Street Journal</em> story</a>.
According to the <em>WSJ</em>, the company, founded in 1896, doesn't talk talk to the press or hold earnings calls with analysts. Secrecy also works famously well for Apple, which keeps a tight lid on company activities. See some more <a href="http://247wallst.com/2010/08/27/eight-of-americas-most-secretive-companies/" target="_hplink">famously tight-lipped companies</a>.
Limit Spending On Ads
Remember the last big Tootsie Roll ad? The one with the owl? That came out a long time ago, my Gen X friend, but Tootsie Roll hasn't much needed to update its marketing strategy since. The company's success is inspiration for any business interested in experimenting with more unconventional marketing tactics. Here are some interesting "<a href=".http://mashable.com/2010/10/06/guerrilla-marketing-videos/" target="_hplink">guerilla marketing</a>" campaigns.
Don't Acquire Businesses That Don't Fit
The company started with Tootsie Rolls, then bought related candies, including Sugar Daddy's and Junior Mints, according to the <em>WSJ</em>. It's a lesson tobacco-maker Altria and Kraft Foods seemed to learn the hard way. Their merger didn't last, and the two companies <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2007-01-31-altria-jraft_x.htm" target="_hplink">broke up in 2007</a>.
Have Elderly Leaders
We're not sure about this one, but it's certainly working here. Melvin Gordon is 92 and his wife Ellen is 80. Neither have indicated that they plan to retire. Old age suits <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Buffett" target="_hplink">Warren Buffett</a>, too.