Harriet Stephenson’s name rings a bell most often for the business plan competition named after her, but her influence and impact have touched many other lives outside of Albers.
When Janene Siers’ parents died unexpectedly in a tragic car accident, she was faced with an enormous challenge.
Their family business, Atlas Supply, was thriving—it had recently hit its first $1 million in revenue and was a designated master supplier of Dow Corning. Between her older brother, who had schizophrenia and alcoholism, and herself, she was the more logical choice to step up and run the business.
There was just one issue. At 27 and having only worked there as a salesperson for 13 months, Siers was uncertain whether she could fill the very big shoes her parents, particularly her father, had left behind.
It was possible with the right support team. Siers’ future husband, John Ittes, at that time earning his MBA, connected her with Harriet Stephenson. The Albers professor put together a team of students to assist and guide her in her new leadership role. A veteran sales manager, Don Edwards, generously worked with Siers and shared his institutional knowledge; he continued working for Atlas as a consultant for a year and a half past his retirement. And Ittes eventually became Atlas’ president and general manager.
It’s important that whatever job you’re in, don’t be afraid if it’s not a good fit. It’s okay to explore and look for something more.Janene Siers Atlas Supply Inc.
In 2017, Atlas Supply celebrated its 100th anniversary. When it was sold in 2018 to Beacon Roofing, it was a $38 million family business. The company had successfully pivoted to construction supply under her watch. Today, Siers is retired and her son and daughter are still employed at the business that had acquired Atlas, continuing their family legacy.
Siers looks back on her days at Atlas with gratitude for the help that Stephenson and the students had provided in those early days, turning what was then uncertainty into confidence. It’s one of the valuable lessons she took from that experience.
“Have some knowledgeable people whom you can trust if you need help,” Siers says. “I was very fortunate to have had Don Edwards … we also had a woman who was the bookkeeper who was very trustworthy, and I know she was also looking out for me. Most importantly of all I am grateful for my faith that God was with me in my darkest times.”
The other lesson is not to fear change. “I’ve held seven different jobs between the time I was 14 and retirement,” Siers says. “It’s important that whatever job you’re in, don’t be afraid if it’s not a good fit. It’s okay to explore and look for something more.”