The late great management guru Peter Drucker reminded us that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.
No one expressed this belief more consistently than the storekeeper on the left, E.J. Hesselschwerdt, from Kalona, Iowa.
E.J., the fourth of seven children from first generation immigrants, Wilhelm, and Katherine Hesselschwerdt, was born to serve customers and others alike.
In this photo, he is serving an Amish customer, one of many who frequented his Kalona store, that he owned and ran for over six decades.
Hesselschwerdt served a wide range of customers at his general store, yet his respected standing with the Amish could have started because he was, as well, deeply religious and his ability to speak Pennsylvania Dutch, (a variety of West Central German dating back to the 1600s).
While these characteristics helped him start business relationships with his Amish customers, what kept them coming back for over six decades was his commitment to respecting and serving his customer’s needs, without trying to guide or convince them otherwise.
After 88 years of abundance life, E.J. passed on. During the eulogy, Dr Dendy Garrett, related that he had prodded Hesselschwerdt many times to upgrade his store, or risk losing his clients to the new self-service supermarkets that were the talk of the town.
E.J. smiled and replied, “My Amish friends need a general store where they can feel at home.”
Purpose simply said.
It was 46 years ago this week that E.J. Hesselschwerdt, my grandfather, passed away, yet his purposeful living, and purposeful business practices remain with me today.
Image Property of the Kalona, Iowa Historical Society