For employees at Waukesha, Wis.-based Lakeland Supply Inc., work — like the rest of life — should be enjoyable. President Vince Schmidt recognizes that his employees’ jobs are just one aspect of their lives, and by no means the most important. In fact, the first line of the company’s mission statement says maintaining families and faith should be top priorities in life. It’s only after sustaining balance in these areas that employees can truly help the company achieve success.

Lakeland Supply was founded in 1984 by Vince’s father Larry, who started the company by selling printed placemats and napkins out of his house. Four years later the company opened its first warehouse and began expanding its product base. Today, the jan/san distributor sells janitorial supplies, foodservice items and paper and packaging materials.

Vince joined Lakeland in 1991 and became president in 2004. The family business also includes Vince’s brother, Larry Jr., who is CFO. Both sons began handling day-to-day operations in 1997 when Larry Sr. started backing out of the business.

Schmidt’s efforts to make Lakeland an enjoyable place to work have not gone unnoticed. In 2010, Lakeland Supply was named the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year based on its financial and employee growth, customer focus, employee relations and community service efforts. That same year, the Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee recognized Lakeland Supply with a Top Milwaukee Workplace award for its positive work environment.

Q: How do you make Lakeland Supply a great place to work?

A: When someone joins Lakeland Supply they become part of the Lakeland family. We have developed a culture that is founded upon treating others as you would want to be treated.

During the year there are many team-building events such as bocce ball tournaments, bowling outings, grill-outs and chili cook-offs. We also have company updates on how the company is doing so that everyone knows how their role contributes to our overall success.

Q: How can jan/san distributors best motivate their workers?

A: A positive work environment keeps employees motivated because they look forward to coming to work everyday and helping [the company] grow. We give our employees autonomy to make sound business decisions that are in the best interest of the company and we listen to ideas that help make us a better, more efficient organization.

Q: Your company philosophy stresses the importance of family and faith. How are these two points incorporated into company culture and the workday?

A: All company meetings begin with a prayer. We understand that we are not perfect and that all of our success is not of our own doing, but a gift that we have been blessed with. Having the proper balance and perspective in life leads to greater productivity and appreciation for what we have.

Q: How did your emphasis on employees help you through the recession?

A: Lakeland has never had to layoff an employee and we are grateful for that. When the recession hit, we made a commitment to increase our sales efforts to continue to find more customers we felt we could help and provide value for. Our goal is to leave all who we meet better than they were before they knew us. We achieve that by offering creative solutions that exceed the expectations of our customers.

Q: You frequently display an inspirational Christian message outside your facility, which is visible to motorists traveling the freeway. What have been some of your favorites?

A: Some include:

  • One Nation Under God
  • Can’t Sleep? Try Counting Your Blessings
  • Serve the Lord by Serving One Another
  • We Don’t Change God’s Message — The Message Changes U.