News In Brief

Candle-making is serious business: A response to our tech CEO story

Melissa Kaplan Aug 10, 2010

Yesterday afternoon Kai interviewed Future Tense host John Moe on whether the nature of the tech industry means tech CEOs are more vulnerable. Moe explained that tech companies are particularly intense, but said that “all businesses are fast-paced — unless you’re running an artisanal candle-making company.”

That statement prompted the following response from Dan Catlin, who runs Middle Davids Artisan Candles, an artisanal candle-making company in Franklin, Ind. Makes you see candle-making in an entirely new light.

Interesting article, but I’d like to take some issue with John Moe’s answer to Kai’s first question. Moe writes: “All businesses are fast-paced, unless you’re running an artisanal candle-making company,” and goes on to lay the foundation (perhaps unintentionally) for excusing bad behavior due to the unique pressure of running a tech company.

I happen to run an artisanal candle-making company, and find it astonishingly fast paced. After fifteen years in sales and management in big companies, including a stint running a $100MM market for a Fortune 500, I now find that the day to day pace leading a small business often brings more challenges than I faced in the proverbial business “big leagues.”

As small business owners, we daily manage finance, product development, sales, staffing, production, marketing, distribution, IT, and more. When I was in the corporate world, I had talented staff that I trusted to handle most of those things. Now it’s me, and a tiny handful of co-workers who are family, friends, often volunteers. We may not face the pressure of launching the next iPad, but every product we do create can risk the whole enterprise.

Running an artisanal candle company is about being very close to the customer, having a literal hand in every product we make, and creating something useful that is live or die for our little business. And like most small business owners, I’m never tempted to mess with the expense report or any of the other shenanigans seemingly so common to high flying CEO’s. The business is more important than me, something that many CEOs seem to forget along the way.

Perhaps rather than excusing these guys’ bad behavior (even if unintentionally) based on the supposed “pressure” they face, we should hold them more accountable, stop the golden parachutes, and demand more integrity, hands in the business, and less celebrity from our top managers. Maybe it’s the pace and pressure of artisanal candle-making companies and those like us, where the leaders live the business, that allows us to be the engines of job creation that we have always been.

Dan Catlin

Middle Davids Artisan Candles

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