In each “On Leadership” column, Allen Lima Leadership Executive Director Matt Childers talks with a regional business leader. This week, he profiles Tracie Sanchez, owner and president of Lima Pallet Company Inc.
Matt: How would you describe your early years?
Tracie: I was born and raised in Lima, attended Bath schools, grew up with two sisters and a brother. My mom was a homemaker , and Dad worked as a salesman for a beverage company and then discovered Lima Pallet.
Matt: Can you describe your parents’ influence on you?
Tracie: Work ethic was always huge. Mom and Dad were all about hard work. We had chores; we mowed grass; we helped around the house. We came from a very blue-collar, hard-working environment.
Matt: Do you know what you wanted to do as a professional?
Tracie: Yes! I wanted to be a school teacher. In the neighborhood, we would play school, and I was always the teacher.
Matt: What were some of your early years like in the professional world?
Tracie: When I was in school, my dad started Lima Pallet in our garage. I would help dad out in the evenings and weekends. Upon graduation from high school, I went to college for about two quarters to become a school teacher. As Lima Pallet grew, my parents asked me to work full time. The company started growing so fast that I went where I was needed. So I left school and to work for Lima Pallet full time.
Matt: Why pallets for your family?
Tracie: It started in the back of the garage with one customer. My dad was able to help a friend out in the food distribution business, and that is how it all was born. From that, the company started growing, and we moved from the garage and a small family business. As we continued to grow, my dad left his full-time job, and we would get customers from word of mouth.
Matt: Tell me about the first time you started managing someone.
Tracie: I worked from the bottom up. I worked in bookkeeping, to driving a forklift. I built pallets. So as a leader, there is nothing more important than to gain respect from the people you lead, than when you can get your hands into it and do exactly what your employees are doing. I can always say, “I have done your job.” I work right alongside them. Leadership is not about telling people what to do, it is asking them what to do. We now employ over 60 people!
Matt: How would you describe Lima Pallet today?
Tracie: You are only as good as the people who work for you. Every Monday, we have a company meeting, and I thank my employees on a regular basis. I am only as good as they are. We are also a second-chance employer. We hire felons to give them a second chance. As leaders, we are trying to build lives and trying to make them good citizens. For all those that were down and out and no one would give them a second chance, we are here for them.
Matt: What do you see successful companies do?
Tracie: You have to get your employees’ buy-in. They have to feel important. We have 11 supervisors, and we do leadership training with all of them. Your morale changes when you give compliments, and they will respect you and they will do more for you.
Matt: How about your time management with Lima Pallet and all the community boards you help?
Tracie: I still have the little black book to keep me organized. I sit on seven different boards. I am picky about what boards I serve on. I want to serve and be able to make a difference. In terms of time management at Lima Pallet, it is a balance. What I love about Lima Pallet is I have such a great team, and I find that I work more on it than it! As a leader, you cannot micromanage. I have great leaders at Lima Pallet.
Matt: Let’s talk about your commitment to our community. Why is that important?
Tracie: I think it is very important for every business to invest in the community, especially the community you live in. I am a member of Rotary, and I have been working on the amphitheatre in downtown Lima. Part of Rotary is investing and believing in your community, and that is what we are doing, what we can do to aid economic development and work together. I say… Lima has come a long way! As for the amphitheater, our goal was to have a great greenspace for the community and a space to bring people together.
Matt: What do you say to the critics who say things can’t be done here?
Tracie: The “naysayers” have to just go away! Honestly, we have so much to be excited about in Downtown Lima. I think we are finally coming together as a community. People are getting excited about the momentum we have, and I think you are going to see a huge transformation in the next two years in Lima!