Kirkwood Community College American Greetings Corporation Reading Questions 1. What is the learning opportunity for you from reading: American Greetings Corporation (attached)2. How might you benefit from evaluating corporate entrepreneurship to integrate innovation and effect change. How will that affect you in your career now or perhaps in the future?3. Based on the supplemental reading this week, do you believe you are more of a thermostat or thermometer type leader? Briefly explain your choice in the context of organizational culture. (Attached)1 page per question. References required. For Question 1
Scenario: American Greetings Corporation
American Greetings Corporation, the largest publicly traded greeting card company in the world, was
started in 1906 by a Polish immigrant, Jacob Sapirstein, who moved to Cleveland, Ohio. He borrowed
$50 to buy a supply of penny postcards, which he sold to drug stores, novelty shops, and confectioners.
After the first week, he had sold enough cards to repay the loan and had an extra $50 to fund the
following week’s business. Soon thereafter, American Greetings Corporation became a family operation.
In 1921, family business sales totaled $11,500, equivalent to approximately $100,000 today.
In 1929, American Greetings introduced the first self-serve greeting card display fixtures. This innovation
is still the standard worldwide display for greeting cards today. By 1936, the company was printing its
own cards. The company achieved significant growth in 1952, leading to its first public offering of stock
with the sale of 200,000 shares at $12 per share. In 1956, American Greetings operated nine plants in
Cleveland, turning out 1.8 million cards daily, and acquired Carlton Cards. In 1957, American Greetings
introduced a new kind of greeting card, Hi Brows, which featured short, comic punch lines and cartoon style artwork. In 1967, American Greetings introduced Holly Hobbie, whose peaceful patchwork
captured the fancy of millions. By 1977, Holly Hobbie was one of the most sought after female licensed
characters in the world. American Greetings purchased Feliciataciones Nacionales in 1968. American
Greetings established AG Industries, Inc., in 1978 as the largest display fixture company in the nation. In
1979, American Greetings purchased Plus Mark Canada, a manufacturer of Christmas wrap, boxed cards,
Strawberry Shortcake, a new character personifying spunky innocence, made her debut in 1980. By
1981, the rag doll–style character generated $500 million in retail sales. In less than one year, over 600
different Strawberry Shortcake products were available. In 1980, American Greetings purchased the
rights to Rust Craft Greeting Cards of Toronto and acquired Celebration Arts Group Ltd. (CAG), based in
Corby, Northamptonshire. In 1982, they created the Care Bears. In the first five years, Care Bear
merchandise accounted for over $2 billion in retail sales. In 1986, the company reached the $1 billion
milestone. The acquisitions of John Sands in Australia and New Zealand and S.A. Greetings in South
Africa strengthened the company’s international presence. American Greetings launched its own Web
site in 1996, featuring paper greeting cards, electronic cards, candy, flowers, and gifts. Currently, AG
Interactive offers one of the largest creative selections available on the Web through its flagship site,
Ameri canGreetings.com, as well as its family of other sites, including Egreetings.com and
BlueMountain.com. The company introduced DateWorks in 1998 as a separate business unit to market
and distribute the company’s calendar line. In 2002, the Care Bears reemerged from Care -a-lot, and in
2003, Classic Strawberry Shortcake was reintroduced as “Strawberry Shortcake and Friends.” As a result
of mobile technology in 2004, AmericanGreetings.com announced the formation of AG Mobile, the
company’s new wireless division. Because of the expansion into a new medium, the company changed
its named from AmericanGreetings.com to AG Interactive. In 2008, American Greetings purchased
PhotoWorks and Webshots, two online photo sharing and personal publishing sites. In 2009, American
Greetings acquired the Recycled Paper Greetings and Papyrus brands.
American Greetings constantly innovates ways to reduce waste, create environmentally friendly
products, and explore options to make its operations more energy efficient. It promotes sustainability
• Communities. Supports the United Way of Greater Cleveland with a variety of local organizations
through donation drives, volunteering, and select sponsorships.
• Associates. Helps associates reduce waste and energy consumption through a paperless
communications system and corporate sponsored events.
• Retailers. Values sustainability and has several initiatives including the introduction of a new car fleet
for the sales force to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
• operations. Ensures that a sustainability program runs throughout its business chain.
• Final product. Ensures a more sustainable final product through initiatives around waste management.
For Question 3
Thermostat or Thermometer
A thermostat sets the temperature whereas a thermometer merely reflects the
temperature. Entrepreneurs are like thermostats setting an appropriate climate conducive to
success. These thermostats, or entrepreneurs, are responsible for setting the vision of an
organization. The climate they set includes trust and respect for others, as they know that
without either, communication will break down and the climate will be uncomfortable for
everyone. Whether in times of calm or of high stress, leader heroes seek better ways to show
others that their best days are yet to come.
As a thermostat does, an entrepreneur who perceives that the climate is no longer comfortable for
everyone will take action and adjust the temperature as needed to ensure comfort for everyone
involved. Knowing when to change the climate setting is critical because entrepreneurs can
sense when such changes are needed and can then take the necessary actions to make it happen.
Other leaders, like a thermometer, reflect and understand the climate and are entrusted to follow
through, maintain, and achieve the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness to accomplish
the vision of the organization as set by the thermostat or leader hero. These intrepreneurs
develop the mission steps necessary to maintain the climate using their followers and
processes. Although these intrepreneurs leaders are not responsible for changing the climate,
they can and often affect whether or not the current climate is the one needed for the good of the
organization. They work within the level of the organization wherein communication problems
commonly occur, so they best know when to inform the leader hero that a climate change is
True leaders move beyond maintaining the status quo and are always looking to move well away
from a kind of “box thinking” that hampers creativity and innovation. The “thermostat” leaders
will be the entrepreneurs who are first to the marketplace with a new product or service, one that
soon becomes a cultural norm. Steve Jobs, with his vision for Apple products, was one such
example of a thermostat leader.
Kleenex™ is an example of a cultural norm. Although many others similar products now exist,
most people still refer to the soft tissues as Kleenex regardless of the brand. John Kimberly was
president of Kimberly Clark in 1924 when the brand name “Kleenex” was coined. Kimberly was
an entrepreneur hero because of his visionary marketing strategies, which established the cultural
icon now known as Kleenex. Steve Jobs and John Kimberly were examples of visionaries able
to conceive new ideas and ways to do things differently to get better results.
Looking to solve the complex problems of tomorrow, entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs purposely
look to the future and set out to create a new or better product or service to eliminate problems
before they become a reality. Some leaders are also known as futurists, who, with their intuition,
can foresee the needs of people before the people themselves even know it. Futurists are
systematic thinkers who look to make the future a better place through the development of
breakthrough strategies. Not sure who is a futurist, check it out
You are welcome to reply to this posting. If you do, all postings will count toward class
participation but you must still answer each discussion question this week.
(the above information was adapted from my book, that I own the copyright to Everyday Leader
Heroes: 10 Leadership Characteristics in Everyday People.)
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