Hand-crafted shutters adorning prominent buildings and homes throughout the U.S.
Rick Skidmore is the CEO and founder of Timberlane Shutters. Since 1995, Timberlane has furnished its customers’ homes and business buildings with built-to-order, hand-crafted exterior shutters and hand-forged hardware. The company has created shutters for prestigious clients such as the White House, Disney, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and its products are favorites among set designers for major Hollywood motion pictures. Timberlane has been featured on PBS, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Curb Appeal, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, and Katie Brown Workshop. Aside from leading Timberlane, Rick is also the bestselling author of Smart Business Growth: 12 Case Studies on Ways to Grow Your Business in a Timely, Yet Prudent Way, for Small Businesses.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You’re very active in giving back to the community, especially in terms of hiring special needs employees. Where does that passion originate?
RICK SKIDMORE: As an entrepreneur, I tend to work a lot, but I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work. Besides some outdoor activities that I love to do, one of the things that I’ve been passionate about is—actually, I have a special needs sister that has some intellectual disabilities and she’s been the soul of my family for 47 years. And, you know, the older I get, the longer I’m in my business, I’m trying to figure out: How I can give back, not just by cutting a check—but how I can give back in a way that is personally meaningful to me? I’ve watched my parents over many, many years struggle to try to find jobs and opportunities and programs for special needs adults.
So, my second big lightbulb went off about a year or two ago when my sister was in a challenge and my parents were trying to figure out a way around that, and I realized there’s a massive business community out there that can solve an incredibly big need if they just step up, and this is kind of a forgotten segment.
This has become a new passion of mine: to try to figure out a way to integrate special needs adults, whether it’s in physical disability, intellectual disability—whatever it is, they can serve a very meaningful function to an organization and really allow that company to give back in a direct way, not just by giving a hand out, but by letting this group of people actually do something that they want to do, which is actually work and contribute.
If I could expand on that for a second, we had a customer about 11 years ago send a letter in thanking us for the great job that we did for them with their shutters. They lived in Kentucky, I believe. The homeowner called me after the letter and wanted to thank me. She was delighted we did well. In that conversation, what came out was that she noticed our address and where we were located. She said, “You know, I have a brother who lives in a group home right around the corner from you—what a small world.” And I told her, “I actually have a sister that’s a special needs adult as well.”
I invited her the next time she visited her brother around the holidays to stop in. She did, and she brought her brother in and her brother was basically just like my sister, so I knew what that was like. She started talking about how he just needs a sense of purpose and wants to belong somewhere.
So, we hired Steve, and Steve worked with us for probably 10 years until he retired about a year and a half ago. I saw the profound impact that it had, not only on Steve and Steve’s family, but on our company, because Steve didn’t work a lot and Steve didn’t do a highly complex job, but what Steve had was pride, and Steve showed up to work whenever he showed up with a smile on his face, with a ton of gratitude, and I saw how that permeated through our organization. That’s something I haven’t forgotten, which is also what I have referenced back to when I realized there is a bigger opportunity here.
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