ImPAct Interview: Mary Kohler, H&H Graphics

Chat-256Editor’s Note: Today, we continue our series of entrepreneur interviews featuring many of the leaders recognized for having “Entrepreneur ImPAct” at this year’s Governor’s ImPAct Awards. We have prepared five questions for each speaker related to the nomination criteria, and each entrepreneur has been generous enough to share their answers with us and our blog readers.

Below is the fifth interview in our series featuring Mary Kohler of H&H Graphics.

Entrepreneur ImPAct Award Finalist: Mary Kohler, H&H Graphics

What are some ways you drive creativity in yourself and your team?

We drive creativity amongst ourselves by always asking one another “what would you do in this case?” That creates a sense of value and purpose. People feel as though their voice counts. And they often have great ideas. Why not foster the great ideas of our team members?

We also talk all the time about “thinking outside of the box”. If we don’t do that, we will not innovate, improve or change as quickly as when we ask everyone to look for new and better ways to do things.

And we talk about not wanting a “lid on our box”. With a lid, you can only go as high as the lid. You can be impeded by having a lid. So it is an analogy we use a lot. “Let’s not get stuck with a lid on our box. Let’s keep growing, changing, improving, and innovating.”

If the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to continue to grow as a hub for business innovation, where should its leaders be focusing their attention to further fuel that growth?

Only recently have I heard the word Innovate on a regular basis. That was through the Lancaster Chamber as they work on innovation for the betterment of that organization. As I started hearing them talk about innovate and innovation, I realized that we all need to think that way. I think the state of Pennsylvania needs to promote “Innovation” in all communications.

What entrepreneur or other prominent leader has had the greatest impact on your approach to managing and motivating your team?

I have had three inspirations that have had an impact on how I approach managing and motivating my people.

First, Ed Staub of Staub and Associates in York. Ed is a Sandler Sales and Management trainer and owner of the business with his daughter, Kate Kohler. Everything Ed says and does is done with integrity and with the end goal of bettering people’s lives.

Secondly, fellow business owners that I rub elbows with. I learn all the time from people that want to create a great culture in their business. That is who I like to hang out with – movers and shakers that are great people persons.

Third, my mother, Cam Huepenbecker. She always modeled treating people well. It was probably one of the most important lessons learned.

How do you go about fine tuning and improving your leadership skills?

To fine tune and improve my own leadership skills, I am open to being coached. I read a lot, attend sessions, and go to workshops and conventions. I am always listening to what people say, watching how people run businesses and treat people, and always considering how to apply the best of what I see and hear into my own business.

Briefly detail a challenge that your business has faced in the last three years. What was the tipping point that led you to tackle the challenge head on? When did you realize your business had survived the challenge and that things were going to turn around?

The greatest challenge I have faced was two and a half years ago. My 17-year-old daughter was in a serious auto accident. The doctors at the hospital told me she was brain dead. I was holding her hand and telling her that God loved her. She moved her head and started to breath over the vent. The doctors rushed her into surgery. With the traumatic brain injury that she suffered, she forgot all things physical. She had to learn how to move her arms and legs, walk, talk, and dress herself. After five weeks in intensive care and 66 days in rehab, she walked out of the rehab hospital to continue rehabbing at home.

As you can imagine, I didn’t know how to deal with this situation. It was out of my hands. But I learned a great lesson. If you have a good team around you, and you and your team support one another, then you and your team can get through the worst of situations.

I now do all I can, not only empower and trust my team, but also to train and grow them and cross train for roles so that we can continue with business when in a tough situation.

(My daughter is now in college part time, including driving herself to school. She has short term memory loss and she still is improving physically, but walking well without assistance.)