WESLEY H. LOOMIS III
the story of the magnificent sales organization which
Wesley H. Loomis III created at the General Telephone
Kansas City on July 29, 1913, Wes Loomis grew up in
a business environment. His paternal grandfather was
an old-fashioned American entrepreneur who established
various businesses including a petroleum distribution
company which pioneered the concept of the tankcar.
His maternal grandfather was the legendary Theodore
Gary who built the famed Gary Telephone System. That
system included both telephone exchanges and a telephone
equipment manufacturing business known as the Automatic
Electric. It eventually became a key part of the General
founded an advertising agency in Kansas City. Shortly
after World War I he became involved with telephone
directory advertising. He also experimented with transportation
advertising and was a co-founder of the National Association
of Transportation Advertising.
earning an industrial engineering degree at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Wes went to work as a management
trainee for Monarch Services in Kansas City. From
there he moved to Chicago where he first worked as
a trouble shooter at the Automatic Electric Company.
Then he joined the Methods and Betterment Department.
years at Automatic Electric proved valuable to him.
They taught him how to anticipate and solve problems.
And he developed a strong belief in the need to constantly
search for better ways of doing business.
World War II, Wes Loomis went to work for his father’s
advertising agency. It was to be a short association,
for father Loomis died in 1946.
over the family business and set about the task of
building up both the Yellow Pages advertising sales
and the transportation advertising business.
the Theodore Gary Company merged with the General
Telephone Corporation. Wes Loomis was invited to merge
his own advertising firm with the General Telephone
Directory Company, and become president of the merged
In January, 1956, he arrived at General Telephone
Directory Company’s Des Plaines, Illinois, headquarters
to begin a new career.
which Wes took over had some definite strengths. Founded
in 1926, it became part of General Telephone in 1934.
Its president, Frank Davies, had constructed a printing
plant which was generally thought to be a losing proposition.
But Wes Loomis eventually found it to be a valuable
asset. Loomis also found a number of talented people
who were to become part of the Wes Loomis success
the time Wes Loomis became president, the Directory
Company was in trouble. There was a serious communication
problem between the production and sales ends of the
business. Morale was low. The situation called for
a turnaround expert. As Wes Loomis himself put it,
years later, “The organization was fragmented. Various
department heads worked behind closed doors, and were
not speaking to each other. My job was to put the
whole thing together. We established an open door
policy and I hit the road to find out what the Directory
Company really was. The people were there and once
we all realized our potential, we took off. The end
result is now history.”
a history it is! During the next 22 years the Directory
Company’s sales grew 3,107 percent while net income
rose 2,704 percent. The percentage of advertising
revenues given to the telephone companies by the Directory
Company rose from 35 percent to54 percent. The percentage
of the revenues coming from outside the General Telephone
system rose from a negligible amount to over 50 percent.
And the percentage of business done outside of the
United States rose from zero to over 50 percent. With
only 1.4 percent of General Telephone’s employees,
the Directory Company contributed from 10 to 14 percent
of General Telephone’s profits during the later years
of the Loomis era.
this occurred because Wesley Loomis was able to put
together an achieving organization with an awesome
esprit de corps. The man who followed Loomis as president,
Rhett Butler, described it this way, “I found the
organization very psyched up. It was achievement oriented.
There was no political infighting and there was much
good will. Confidence levels were high and there was,
as a result, a great willingness to change for the
sake of even greater achievement.”
Wes Loomis achieve this amazing turnaround? Six factors
appear to explain his success.
and foremost, was the competitive spirit which Wes
possessed. To him it was important for the company
to excel and achieve its full potential.
seeking from each employee a commitment to excellence,”
he would constantly tell his people.
he added, “We must adopt a philosophy of change with
which we will lead dynamically, think creatively,
aspect of the competitive spirit is the willingness
to take risks. This was ability which Wes Loomis possessed
in abundance. Many associates say that his biggest
gamble was the decision to seek business in foreign
countries and foreign languages. This successful venture
began with the publication of directories in the Philippines.
Then in 1965 and 1966 the company acquired publishing
rights for Hong Kong. Those contracts required the
publishing of both English and Chinese language directories.
Some so-called experts said that a Chinese language
directory couldn’t be done. But Loomis and his associates
did it anyway. By the time Wes Loomis retired, the
company was selling yellow page ads and printing directories
in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore,
Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, 6 of 7 states of Australia,
The Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Belize and New
key to the success of Wes Loomis was goal setting.
As one management associate once put it, “Wes established
sales goals far beyond what we considered possible.
But year after year the impossible revenue and accuracy
goals were met or surpassed.”
this success was the belief that most people aren’t
challenged to achieve up to their potential. In the
case of the Directory Company, this belief proved
to be correct. Once Wes Loomis began to set challenging
goals, the Directory Company sales force proved able
to meet and, often, to beat them.
objective established by Loomis was simple. As he
often explained it, “Our people are treated better
and paid better than is the case with any of our competitors.
In return, we expect our people to produce more than
the objective required setting specific short run
goals. The basic sales goal set by Loomis early after
his arrival in Des Plaines was a 16 percent annual
increase in net new and increased sales dollars. This
goal was then broken down into easy to understand
daily and weekly goals for individual salespersons.
On some occasions there were even hourly goals.
were also set for management personnel. Some were
very specific such as the requirement that each management
person come up with a least two new ideas a year.
Other goals were more general such as Wes Loomis’
instructions to printing plant manager Frank Broniarczyk
to, “Make our printing operation a technological leader.”
key to Wes Loomis’ success was staffing.
was this more visible than in sales. As vice president
for sales Edward Jordan put it, “Wes Loomis initiated
an important upgrading of the sales force and salesmen/saleswomen
compensation doubled three years after he took over.
Of course, their quotas also doubled, and only the
of Wes Loomis to staff the organization with talented
people was also apparent in management ranks.
Jordan was brought in to headquarters from California
and soon became a legend in his own right as the vice
president in charge of building up the sales organization
and making it perform.
Price was brought in to develop a public relations
program and soon had communication flowing effectively,
both internally and externally.
proved to be an effective controller. He developed
a thorough knowledge of all facets of the rapidly
expanding enterprise. His creative talents were of
particular value in the use of computer technology
to efficiently mechanize the production functions.
was brought in to develop the personnel function.
His performance became a source of great pride to
of other talented executives were brought in. Soon,
they, too, were setting new performance standards
for the company.
key to Wes Loomis’ success was communication. Wes
had been trained as a professional manager and had
learned the art of written communication. But he preferred
to communicate on a person-to-person, face-to-face
basis. He was constantly dropping into the office
of home office workers; he regularly went out to lunch
with key employees; and he constantly called salespersons
and management personnel on the telephone for a chat
about the company.
management committee meetings but made extensive use
of sales promotional meetings and management retreats.
At such gatherings a little bit of fun was always
mixed with a heavy dose of motivational presentations.
communications tool used by Loomis was public relations.
He often said, “I have a theory that you can take
over any company with a lawyer, a controller, and
a public relations man.” And so, one of his first
moves at the Directory Company was to bring in public
relations man, Duncan Price.
view of Wes Loomis, public relations had two aspects–internal
and external. The internal aspect involved letting
employees know what the company was all about; why
employees should be proud; and what they should seek
to be doing. The internal public relations message
relentlessly stressed the Loomis request that every
employee make a commitment to excellence.
public relations effort had three major target groups–customers,
suppliers, and the communities where the company did
business. Customers were both the parent General Telephone
Company and telephone companies not affiliated with
key communications tool used by Loomis was frankness.
Wes believed in speaking his mind. As Ed Jordan put
it, “In his speeches, Wes pays credit where credit
is due. But he can also be very critical. He feels
that these managers deserve to hear it like it is
. . . and are big enough to take it . . . . If there
is an area of the operation that requires improving,
he is very blunt in pointing out the deficiency and
equally explicit in outlining what must be done to
correct the situation. Invariably there is also a
key to the success of Wes Loomis was motivation. The
major motivational tools which he used to spur his
people on were good pay, recognition, identification
with a winning team, and friendship.
kept his promise to pay his people more as a reward
for more production. Wes himself took great pride
in the resulting rise in the standard of living of
his employees. As he once put it, “It’s a great thrill
to go into the home of one of your employees and see
the material signs of their success.”
at his best when it came to recognition. Sales awards,
production awards, management excellence awards-whatever
the employee’s job classification, Wes Loomis saw
that there was an opportunity to earn an award in
recognition of outstanding performance.
made the awards far more meaningful by personally
presenting a large number of them.
often burdensome. In February, 1973, for example,
he interrupted very important work at the home office
in order to make a 25,000 mile trip to Kuala Lumpur,
where he presented the coveted President’s Trophy
to division head Ken Noble. The award recognized the
Malaysia Division as the best overseas division for
1972. And Loomis’ trip to present the award symbolized
the importance which he attached to the work that
Noble’s sales organization was doing.
biographer and employee, Don Briggs, once evaluated
the impact of the recognition dinners and luncheons
in this way, “The actual cost has been substantial
. . . but their impact has been truly immense. These
affairs created an atmosphere of intimacy with higher
management in a rapidly growing international organization.
They caused people in whatever department to set forth
afterward with their spiritual batteries recharged.”
also often appeared at sales drive kick-offs. A typical
result was reported thus by a division manager, “His
impact on the sales force and client was immeasurable.
How can we say it any better than when the president
takes his time to appear?”
with a winning team was the third motivational technique
used by Loomis. He created the winning team image
through a stream of up-beat newsletters, sales meetings,
management retreats, and the biannual publication
of a “yearbook” which reported all of the success
stories over the past two years.
1960's Wes and Ed Jordan conceived the idea of linking
the company performance with the story of the then
world champion football team, the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers had been a losing football team until
coach Vince Lombardi arrived. Lombardi quickly turned
the team around and made it a perennial world champion.
He did it with techniques similar to those used by
Loomis. Hence, the analogy seems appropriate and Wes
Loomis sought to have Directory Company employees
see themselves as the Green Bay Packers of the directory
was the fourth motivational tool which made Wes Loomis
an effective leader. Wes came from a wealthy and prominent
family and was prominent in his own right. Yet, he
was humble and caring in dealing with his employees.
associates marveled at his ability to write letters
of thanks, send congratulatory birthday cables, or
make a special telephone call to extend his sympathies
in an employee’s moment of family illness or death.
incident is the following story reported by Herb Markley,
head of the Madison, Wisconsin, division:
“In 1970 the
GET Board of Directors and Stockholders were
holding their annual shareholders’ meeting in
Madison, Wisconsin. I met Wes at the airport
to transport him to the Sheraton Hotel where
the meeting was taking place.
My wife, Yvonne,
had a short time before suffered a fall which
resulted in a brain concussion. For a long time
she was between living and dying. Wes must have
known of this because, immediately upon getting
into the car, he said, “Herb, I heard about
Yvonne’s accident. Let’s go directly to your
home so I can see her and tell her personally
how happy I am that she is recovering so well.
The GTE shareholders meeting will have to wait.
Wait it did.
What empathy! What timing! We still get choked
up when we think of it.”
year the Madison Division won the coveted president’s
trophy. Yvonne Markley, having fully recovered, attended
the award ceremony, and in a moving speech at the
ceremony said, “We won this for you, Wes.”
of Wes Loomis’ cultivation of friendships with employees
was his ability to ward off unionization attempts.
Four times during the Loomis years union elections
were held. All four times Wes Loomis actively opposed
the union by making the election a contest between
himself and the union. “Nobody can take care of you
as well as I can,” he would say. He won all four elections.
be a mistake to view Wes Loomis’ cultivation of friendships
as a calculated management technique. The man truly
cared about people. This is evidenced by the fact
that he would often look up people who had been terminated
by the company, and encourage them to have faith in
and final key to the success of Wes Loomis was his
system of controls. He insisted that performance measurements
be made frequently and that lagging performance be
quickly corrected or the performer removed from the
not tolerate a successful employee resting on his
or her laurels. A person who had produced in the past
but who began to slip would be moved to a less demanding
assignment. A person who failed to perform from the
beginning would quickly be terminated.
expected commitments to be carried out. Printing plant
manager, Frank Broniarcyzk, put it this way, “If you
gave him a date, that date was kept. I remember one
occasion when the printing plant was falling behind
schedule due to problems beyond our control. I went
to Wes and told him that we might not be able to make
delivery on time. I expected a sympathetic ear. Instead,
he said, ‘I’m sure you will have it done on time!’
spirit, goal setting, staffing, communication, motivation
and control–Those six factors were the keys to the
success of Wes Loomis at the General Telephone Directory
were, in addition, two facilitating factors that are
an important part of the story. One was the presence
of Polly Loomis. Wes’ wife, Polly was an active participant
in the countless social functions which Wes used to
build organizational spirit. Hundreds of the friendships
which Wes forged with employees were also friendships
between the employee and Polly Loomis.
facilitating factor was Wes Loomis’ unique power position.
Although Wes was employed as head of a subsidiary
of the General Telephone and Electronics Company,
his position was actually more like that of the president
and owner of an independent company. This was partly
due to the fact that the Loomis family was a large
holder of General Telephone stock. Hence, top management
at GTE had to look at Wes not only as a hired manager,
but also as a stockholder. More important in enlarging
Wes’ power base was the fact that he committed himself
to a permanent, long-term tenure as president of the
Directory Company. Wes had no interest in “moving
up” to an executive job with the parent company. Hence
he could base his actions solely on what was good
for the Directory Company, with no regard as to what
would help him obtain a promotion.
retired in 1978, after 22 years of leadership, Wes
Loomis made one last contribution to the company which
meant so much to him. He found a successor who could
lead the company successfully into the new competitive
environment of the 1980's. Then Wes Loomis left the
premises for good, in order that new president, Rhett
Butler, could lead with full authority.
was the right man, in the right place, at the right
time. He seized his opportunity and made the most
of it. In doing so, he created the opportunity for
hundreds of other persons to achieve success in their