HOF 05 Surviving Day by Day -- Donald Samuels
"I got a phone call from my dad, who said if I didn't come back to the family business now, there might not be a family business to come back to," Samuels says. "It was 1974, there was a recession and the business was struggling. So I decided, gee, this is the best time to come back to the family business."
(Though Samuels never did return for his MBA, he has taken executive education programs at the business schools of both Harvard and Stanford.)
A Bite of the Big Apple
Day by day and week by week, Samuels and his brothers have pushed forward in the highly competitive New York metro marketplace. Samuels prefers to surround himself with co-workers he deems as being smarter than he is and who bring different elements to the company table. Hiring the right people to do the right jobs, he stresses, is especially important.
When it comes to his views on the current state of competition in his back yard and beyond, Samuels turns to Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times writer and author of the book, "The World is Flat," for perspective. The book looks at, among other things, the impact of global outsourcing on a changing world.
"There's a quote in the book that basically says, every morning a gazelle wakes up in Africa, having to outrun the fastest lion," Samuels says. "And every morning a lion wakes up and has to run faster than the slowest gazelle. Otherwise, he'll starve.
"That's basically what we face. We have to be more nimble and more competitive than our biggest and strongest competitors, which are now all publicly held companies. And we also have to outrun and be more nimble than the smallest shops."
One person who is fully aware of Samuels' survival skills is Bob Weil, president of the distribution group at Gould Paper. Weil has known Samuels for roughly 30 years and finds him to be a person taken at face value.