This Company Has Been Around for 135 Years. The Key to Its Success? Customer Service.

How far are you willing to go to offer great customer service? Andy Spearing of Portland's Pike Awning says he'd rather lose money than make a customer unhappy.

learn more about Jason Feifer

By Jason Feifer

Andy Spearing's company is 135 years old, and he knows exactly what's kept it alive that long.

It's customer service.

"We'd rather lose money on a job than the customer be unhappy," Spearing says. "Unhappy customers pretty quickly will ruin your business. It's hard to get to 135 years of history with unhappy customers."

Spearing and his team now have a big job ahead of them: As the owners of Pike Awning in Portland, Oregon, they must reinvent their legacy business — drawing in new customers while keeping the old ones just as happy as before.

Spearing is part of a new generation of leaders at Pike Awning. When the company opened in 1891, it sold a wider range of products — but over time, it zeroed in on custom awnings that it serves to customers who are mostly local or regional. Now the company faces a pivotal moment, with new leaders, many of its longtime employees retiring, and the realization that to truly grow the business, Pike Awning will need to expand the products it creates and the customers it serves.

Spearing says that he, his siblings, and his cousin — who have taken over from the family's previous generation of leaders — are excited for the challenge. But they're taking it slow and steady.

"We definitely want to and need to ensure that we're being stable," Spearing says. "We're not changing things too much for right now, because there's already so much change in the business between people, personnel, and everything." So instead, he says, he's speaking to his employees about incremental improvements. "Let's look towards the future," he tells them, "and let's think about what else we can do that we haven't."

To hear more about how Spearing and his team are managing change at such an old institution, watch the video above.

Jason Feifer

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief

Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and host of the podcast Problem Solvers, which is about entrepreneurs solving unexpected problems in their business. Outside of Entrepreneur, he is the author of the book Build For Tomorrow, which is an action plan for embracing change and adapting fast, as the host of the podcast Build For Tomorrow (yes, same name as the book), which is about the smartest solutions to our most misunderstood problems. He writes a newsletter about how to find opportunity in change.

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