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Q&A: Danny & Jennifer Matthews

Tell us how the two of you met.

Jennifer: Danny and I met at church.

Danny: Jennifer caught my eye at church while sitting in the row in front of me. She was with her entire family and I had no idea she was single until after a few weeks when she introduced herself to me over coffee at a greet and meet before service.

Why do you enjoy working together?

Danny: For me, it’s a sense of pride. Jennifer is smart and very business saavy. She doesn’t give into drama so it keeps me focused, plus she is fun to have around. Growing up, I saw my grandmother and my mom work with my dad and grandfather, so for me it just seems natural.

Jennifer: How do I narrow it down to one reason I enjoy working with Danny. He supports and believes in what I have brought to JLMCO. We are very different people and I believe that is what makes it work. But we're also very alike when it comes to the presentation of JLMCO and our desire to serve our customers with incredible customer service.

If you think about the defining moments over your time with the company, what stands out?

Jennifer: 9/11, Osha Rulings, and the passing of Joe Matthews.

Danny: J.L. Matthews was a mail order house in the early days. There were no computers, fax machines, credit card terminals to operate, or the internet. All we had was a paper catalog, a rolodex, telephone, and a type writer. It’s hard for the Millennials to imagine, but in some ways I think it was better and more simple. The internet at first was just an information tool which helped with product searches. Today, it is a different beast and I feel it has hurt the relationship side of the business but has become a necessary part of conducting business. I don’t see that changing. OSHA is definitely another defining moment. OSHA has always been around but for the most part, had left the Electric Utilities alone. It wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 90’s that people began hearing about them. This was also the time of Shock Absorbing Lanyards (Deceleration Lanyards), Full Body Harnesses, Arc Flash Rainsuits, then Daily Wear, and most recently Wood Pole Fall Protection.

When you think about how the business is run today compared with back in the day, how are things different?

Jennifer: I would have to say the main change has to be online shopping. We started as a catalog company but the internet has taken over so much more of the way our customers make purchases.

Danny: The Internet, just-in-time inventory and relationships with your customers and vendors. Back in the day, if you needed a question answered or if your customer had a question, you picked up the phone and had a conversation. You could talk about the features and benefits of a product while connecting on a more personal level. Today with the internet, you are competing with the world and everyone wants it yesterday. For all of the great things the internet offers, I feel like the relationship side is missing, which is a very important part of conducting business.

Just-in-time inventory has become a very popular term and is still practiced today (even if no one talks about it). Customers do not want to carry a little emergency inventory, distributors don’t want to stock inventory because they have become order takers, and manufacturers are only building the items when they receive purchase orders. So, you have an entire world that expects it yesterday, yet there is no back up system and the customer wants to pay bottom dollar. We do not play this game and continually ensure inventory of the most popular items are always in stock. My goal is always to educate the customer on our stocking inventory and how it correlates to productivity. If we do not invest in inventory, then our customers are not successful. Of course, inventory does come with a price. Our customers must understand that even though we may run thinner margins, we cannot afford to always sell at the lowest internet price or match prices from someone not stocking or drop shipping products with zero dollars invested. These are conversations that have to be discussed.

What areas of the business have you worked on that might surprise people?

Jennifer: As for me, I have to say manual labor. I have scraped our floors and painted walls. I love Craigs List. I have been in more dirty old warehouses than I should have been in. I love to work in our store front and I love to repurpose things and give them a new use. We've updated and remodeled the store several times over the last few years. My goal is to do anything that I ask an employee to do so I try to do it all. But, I wont climb a pole...

Danny: 70e and tower erection. People don’t really truly understand all the moving parts in these 2 categories. With 70e for example, it's so far reaching and affects all industries and so many people. J.L. Matthews Co. wants to be the go to place and we want to not only be able to outfit you, but also help walk you through the process. It’s not always about the sale, it’s about educating the customer and helping them make the right choices.

Tell us one thing that’s happened that you never expected to see happen.

Jennifer: Fall protection rules with OSHA.

Danny: The selling of PPE equipment has always been specialized. You have to understand different situations, voltages, heights, cal ratings, OSHA and ANSI standards. J.L. Matthews has always been a very niche business and we specialize in PPE (tool & safety equipment). That's all we do and we are the best at it.

What differentiates you from the competition?

Jennifer: For me, it's that we have been in business for a solid 70 years. We have been family owned and operated for 70 years. The competition will say they have a combined employee experience of 50 years or so, but this is all we have done for 70 years. We're also very dedicated to educating all of our customers.

Danny: We educate and help customers make good decisions. Their life is on the line and I take ownership of this, I know this is our mission. I think that is what sets us apart from the competition along with our inventory and treating our customers as friends.

J.L. Matthews Company Inc. has a long history of giving back to the school and community. Why is this important to the company and to you personally?

Danny: Jennifer and I are servants of God; we have a desire to serve others. No one can do it alone and it takes many to be successful. Over the years we have been blessed as a couple and a company. We have the ability to help others and as a company, have a long history of giving back. My grandfather served on the Salvation Army Board as well as the American Legion all his life. My dad is presently on the Salvation Army Board and has been involved in the Lions Club his entire life. I have served on the YMCA Board and Advisory Committees for many of our Lineman Schools, as well as the Southwest Christian School. The community around us has become economically depressed and we want to be a beacon and provide to the children, whether it is the Back Pack Program, After School Program, or Summer Programs. It’s just the right thing to do!

When you’re not working, what are you doing?

Jennifer: Family is the most important part of our lives. We have children ranging from 15 to 25 years of age. We try and support each of them in any way we can. College plays a huge role for two of our children right now. Taylor Matthews is attending UA in Arkansas. McKendree our oldest son, attends Texas Tech which happens to be where Danny attended school. Our youngest son is currently a freshman at South West Christian School and is on the football, basketball and track team. So, lots of sporting events! 

Danny: When I am not working I enjoy being with my family, going to see our two children in college and attending our youngest son's sporting events. I also enjoy hanging out with Jennifer, working outside, going to the lake, sking and hunting.

What is one thing people would be shocked to learn about you?

Jennifer: I am more of an introvert than people realize.

Danny: That I have a very close circle of friends. I have lots of acquaintances but very few close friends. I enjoy cooking and it’s one of my love languages.

What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Jennifer: Lighten up, I have always been too serious.

Danny: Pay cash, invest more, don’t take the small stuff too serious, and don’t always automatically trust people.

What’s been the highlight of your career?

Jennifer: Working with the love of my life! Being able to see how the things I learned years ago in my previous career have come to be such a benefit in business today.

Danny: Still looking for it, every day is a new adventure and I don’t know if I will ever find it.

What are some of the things that you love about working in Fort Worth, Texas?

Jennifer: I love Fort Worth Texas, we both were born and raised here. We both moved away from Fort Worth and returned back to FTW. FTW is changing so much and we both look forward to all the amazing things that are going on in this town. We took a day a few weeks ago to just get out of the office and drive all around the town to take in all the new areas that are being revitalized. FTW seems to have the same value we both do, it's a family town and we're a family owned and operated company.

Danny: Fort Worth is a great family place, we don’t take life so serious and you can walk into the nicest restaurant wearing jeans and boots. We have a wonderful zoo, downtown, and entertainment district. Also, you always run into someone you know, whether their from High School, College, or just life.

How do you see the roles of your children changing within the company over the years? Will there be more generations leading the J.L. Matthews brand?

Jennifer: Yes, each child has worked at the company in one way or another. They have played a huge role in keeping JLMCO relevent with social media, computers, and being re-latable to the younger generation.

Danny: This is a great question and I really don’t know. I know personally, I wanted to do my own thing first and I was never pressured to work here. I also knew eventually it was my place and obligation to continue the business into the 3rd Generation, so it was on my time. In a world where more and more family owned business are being gobbled up by "Big Corporate America" and ourselves are becoming more important than past history, I am really not sure. I can tell you this, three of our four children have worked in the business and they all take ownership and family pride.

What are you most excited about for the future of J.L. Matthews Company Inc. in particular?

Jennifer: Watching the next generation joining us. We have four children with two of the four in college now. They each have strengths and weaknesses also. I look forward to each of them finding their strengthens to assist JLMCO stay family owned and operated for another 70 years.

Danny: We are Celebrating our 70th Anniversary, my grandfather started our company in 1946 in a single car garage. This is a very exciting 70th year for us. I am most excited to see what the future holds. I truly believe we are positioning J.L. Matthews Company to be a leader in the Arborist, Tower, and 70E sectors.

How would you finish this sentence: "The last 70 years..."

Jennifer: Have paved the way for the next 70 years.

Danny: Have been fulfilling from personal growth to company growth. I can’t wait to see what the next 70 years look like!


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