From this week’s local Seattle-area Puget Sound Business Journal. Thanks to Bill.
Jeff Brotman is co-founder and chairman of retailer Costco.
Their great grandfather, Edel Brotman, emigrated from Eastern Europe in the 1800s to Canada, opening a wine and liquor business in Winnipeg. Then in 1923, Samuel Brotman, one of Edel’s 10 children, moved to Tacoma, opening Brotman’s Trading Post on Commerce Street under the slogan, “We buy and sell anything of value.”
Samuel’s son Bernie and his brothers started a men’s clothing business called Brotman Toggery, which would later become Brotman Brothers. Bernie was the father of Jeff and Michael, and it was obvious from their comments that they learned everything from him and their mother, Pearl Brotman.
The audience, full of retailers and students, was fascinated with some of the comments from the Brotman brothers, who started working at age 12 in the family business. Some of what they learned as boys was most interesting: Struggling is good. The trappings of success can disappear in an instant. Wow the customers by making the store interesting and looking full, even if it is not. Look alive, keep moving. Work hard and pay attention to detail. Be fair and honest — everything good comes from that.
“At Costco, most of the principles we practice we learned at home,” says Jeff. “The way we treat employees, vendors, customers, the world. It’s the same way my dad and mom treated everybody.”
“The lessons began at our dinner table,” recalls Michael. “There was shop talk at every meal. It was part of our culture, and as (kids), we didn’t know we were learning, but all the talk of profit margins and how to make the right deal — it became part of us.”