What is the best advice you have received in your career?
Turning problems into opportunities. When I first started in business, my father told me two things. First being that a problem is never a problem unless you do nothing about it. I have fostered relationships with many loyal clients by listening to their issues, understanding their concerns, and then taking informed action. The second piece of advice was that every person you meet should be treated with the utmost respect. You never know where a new opportunity will come from.
How does community have a role in your professional career?
I’m a big believer in the double bottom line theory, which seeks to extend the conventional bottom line (traditionally measuring only fiscal performance) by adding a second bottom line to measure performance in positive community involvement. People want to do business with companies that are involved in programs that have a positive social impact.
What does leadership mean to you?
A true leader knows they would be nothing without their people. Leadership means having the tact to surround yourself with others that have skills that you lack, and always giving credit to them for successes.
What are you excited about solving or leading in the next 2–5 years?
Despite approaching retirement age, I am still very excited to come into work every day. My goal is to have Gelberg Signs be the most recognizable sign company in the Mid-Atlantic. Not only for our project accomplishments, but also our ongoing philanthropic activity.
What has been an invaluable learning lesson from a challenge you’ve confronted in your career?
Gelberg Signs has been in business for 80 years, with my brothers and I at the helm for over 30. When we took ownership of the company, Marriott accounted for 70% of business and we made signs primarily for their restaurant division. However, shortly after we purchased the company, Marriott sold all of its restaurants. So, the lesson learned there is the importance of diversifying your clients. Of our 100+ active clients, no one client accounts for more than 20% of our business and our top client changes annually. Through strategic marketing, we’re constantly growing our roster.