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Key Idea: Put People Ahead of Profits

Judi Jacobsen says you can provide good work for people, help them succeed and at the same time make plenty of money.  More...

Key Question:


Hire people others may overlook.  At Madison Park Greeting you will find a number of deaf employees, several immigrants from the Pacific Rim and also a handful of what Judi calls "displaced homemakers." Judi feels the most rewarding part of running a business is providing jobs for people who would otherwise struggle to find a employment.

Why would any business owner take time to learn sign language to be able to communicate with the deaf? Why bother hiring people who don't speak English?  

A: Judi's business is a reflection of her own personality and values, as any business reflects the owner. However, hiring "disadvantaged" people seems to be a very smart business decision. In her case, the deaf workers are excellent at staying "on task." They concentrate and are perhaps more accurate than their hearing colleagues. The immigrants who came to Judi not even knowing English have proven to be devoted and bright. The "displaced homemakers" in general lacked confidence but had excellent communication skills and turned out to be great with customers. By taking a small risk, Judi has proven that when you put people first, the profits will quickly follow.

Madison Park Greeting does not employ a sales force. Independent sales representatives handle its product line and the reps are paid a commission for orders placed. Madison Park has 5,000 regular customers and another 4,000 who order occasionally. 

Q:  Why doesn't Madison Park hire sales people? 

A:  At this time, independent sales representatives are more cost effective. Also, this is a standard practice for many manufacturers. Independent sales representatives specialize in a market niche and will provide to the retail shop owner a variety of the products found on their shelves. It is efficient for both the manufacturer and the retailer. Being an independent sales representative is a viable way to be self employed and not have the head aches of owning a business.

A near-by high school is filled with students who need jobs. Judi formed Club Studio, a separate greeting card company, to hire students. Actually, it is a business the teenagers run themselves. They design their own line of cards, supervise the process, then sell the cards locally. Her concept is not just to hire students, but, to teach them how to run a business. 

Q: Why is helping others a good idea?

A: Running a business is not just about making money; it is about making the world a better place. When we do something good, good does come back to us. Club Studio is a part of the corporate culture of Madison Park and having this program inspires the employees. The greatest reward comes from watching a student learn. Judi says... "I have always decided, if it's people or profits--I choose people." 

Think about it

Would your employees say that you put people ahead of profits? 

Clip from: Madison Park Greeting

Seattle, Washington: In this episode of the show you  meet Judi Jacobsen and her family at Madison Park Greetings. She started this business in 1977 with just $200.  Judi bought a vacant building, moved in, and by bringing the building back to life, the entire neighborhood improved.

This company produces greeting cards and sells them to consumers through over 5,000 gift shops. Also, they create private collections for retailers including Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, and, they distribute the graphic products of other artists including Larkspur and Sara Schneidman.

We first met Judi in 1995 in Washington DC when she was being recognized as the Small Business Person of the Year from the State of Washington.  

Good to her word, Judi put a succession plan in place.  In 1995, son Brian and long-time employee, Glen Biely, took over the leadership of the business. The good news is that the young men are growing a much bigger company and are having plenty of fun. 

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Madison Park Greetings

Judi Jacobsen, Founder

1407 Eleventh Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

Visit our web site:

Office: 2063245711

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1976

Put People Ahead of Profits

JUDI: I think one of the key things is communication. We meet every morning at 8:00. Everybody meets in my conference room. We go over any business, we tell how sales are going, and then we ask...

HATTIE: (Voiceover) You have a daily meeting?

JUDI: (Voiceover) Every morning. Believe it or not, we ask any concerns anybody has.

You know, anybody's sick, anybody have any concerns, and then we actually pray for 'em.

HATTIE: OK, good.

JUDI: And we...

HATTIE: So you start with prayer.

JUDI: Yeah. And we try to tell people that, you know, they don't need to participate because we have all dif--but it's just something we want, and if that offends them, they just kinda stand--and we just make it real brief and just but it's interesting, if they're going through a crisis, they really want to be included.

I really feel one of the best things you can do for people is giving them meaningful work.

(Voiceover) We had refugees from Cambodia that didn't speak English, but they could package cards. Now we have deaf people.

HATTIE: If there was some particular advice you might give a woman who wants to start and grow a business, what would that advice be?

JUDI: Well, I think I've been very successful at not having to be successful. Does that make sense?

HATTIE: Yes. You're not money-driven.

JUDI: No. And I don't feel like I have to be in control so much. I think one thing that's really meant a lot to me is that people count more than bottom line, except the balance of it. If your business isn't successful, no one's gonna have a job, anyway. And I think one of the toughest things is, you know, when you've had a flat year and you have to downsize a little, you know, dealing with people. But relationships being really important, that balance. You have to have your business doing well in order to accomplish the goals of helping other people, giving people jobs. And so it's that balance. But I think if it ever came to putting profit before people, I'd have to always choose to put people first.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) This is my favorite card. It's from the photography series they call Rewind, and Charles Blackburn, the photographer who freelances and offices here at Madison Park, took the picture. And it says, `Amazing! Happy Birthday to one amazing woman.' But here's the most fun thing about the way this works. The same picture's on the back, and there's a die-cut envelope, so once you get everything in the right place, which I'm having trouble doing because the tape is rolling, the person receives the card and gets a little preview of what's on the inside. Put the address here, and there's the amazing woman.

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