|L. Gale Lemerand speaks to LDI participants.|
“The most important aspect of leadership is to lead by example, to not ask any of your employees to do anything you wouldn’t do, and to be fair and honest in dealing with them and your customers,” he told the group of more than 50 participants in the college’s employee development program.
Lemerand answered questions posed by LDI participants on a wide swath of subjects that included current and past business ventures, how he got started as an entrepreneur and what motivates him.
“The key to the entire thing has been surrounding myself with great people,” he said. “If you do that, give them some direction, then get out of their way and let them do what they do best, you greatly increase your chances of success.”
Lemerand grew up in a working-class family in Michigan. After serving in the Korean War, he returned stateside and began a career at Williams Insulation in Chicago in 1968. At 40, he bought out his partner and renamed the business Gale Industries, moving the company to Daytona Beach in 1978. By 1990, the corporation was the largest insulation contractor in the nation, with more than 100 locations in 23 states. In 1995, he sold Gale Industries to the Fortune 200 company Masco Corp. and stayed on as CEO and president until 2000.
His business career has not, however, been without its share of setbacks, and Lemerand offered the LDI group advice on how to avoid some of the pitfalls of today’s business climate. In particular, he stressed the importance of a college education, something he never achieved.
“In my day, very few people had a formal education, so I was able to get by,” he said. “You can’t do that today, especially with all the technology used in business, these days. I think that instead of starting my business at 40, I could have started at 25 if I had a formal education. Experience is very important, but most important is education.”
He also encouraged group members to strive for a balance in their professional and personal lives.
Lemerand also is a co-founder and majority owner of Stonewood Grill & Tavern restaurants, and owns major interest in 29 restaurants which, in addition to Stonewood, includes Peach Valley Café, Houligan's, Perkins Family Restaurant and Bakery, The Dish and Ormond Wine Company. He also is the inventor of Sanidoor, a touch-free, germ-free restroom door system, and is the subject of “To Win in Business. . . Bet on the Jockey,” a biography which focuses on his life as a businessman and entrepreneur.
As a philanthropist, he has donated to Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona State and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He is one of the top donors at the University of Florida, and has served on numerous local community boards, including SunTrust Banks, WDSC TV 15 and Ormond Beach Memorial Hospital. He also supports a wide variety of local groups and charities, including Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, March of Dimes, the Volusia Council on Aging and the United Way.
LDI originally was conceived from a recognized need for succession planning and professional leadership development at the college. Its goal is to educate and prepare college employees for the institution’s leadership positions of tomorrow. Headed this year by Dr. Eileen Hamby, associate vice president of the College of Business Administration, LDI is structured as a three-year program where participants focus on individual development in year one, team dynamics in year two and an individual practicum to demonstrate excellence in year three.
In introducing Lemerand to the group, Daytona State President Carol Eaton urged LDI participants to reflect on the reasons why they are studying leadership and to understand that leaders are needed at every level of the college. “You shouldn’t be doing LDI because you want to be promoted. Maybe, yes, but there is a limited number of jobs,” she said. “I hope what you get out of this is the satisfaction of learning your own skills and abilities and where those skills and abilities will take you. What’s going to happen will be inside you, and that’s the best thing of all.”