A Spencer man has written a book about a successful Iowa businessman who perservered through the Great Depression, a world war and a devastating fire.
Eric Johnson’s book tells the story of E.P. Arnold, who was working as an accountant for the Spencer Grocer Company in 1926 when he was considering the concept of going into business himself.
“He said later in an interview that he was interested in the idea, but he was afraid to let go of his job and so that’s something that I think entrepreneurs can relate to,” Johnson says. “It’s not easy to leave a pay check and a job and head off on your own.”
Arnold and a partner had $300 in cash and a $200 loan in 1927 when they started the company now known as Arnold Motor Supply. A few years later, Arnold bought his partner out to run the company on his own.
“They signed paperwork the day before the Spencer fire to dissolve the corporation,” Johnson says, “…and so the first day everything was his, Arnold Motor Supply was the last building that was destroyed in the Spencer fire and he lost everything.”
That fire happened in 1931. Eric Johnson, the author of the book, is an employee of what is now known as The Arnold Group of Companies. Johnson began this project by trying to boost the company’s on-line profile, but after 10 months Johnson had the makings of what he bills as a biography of Arnold. The title of the book is “You Build a Business with People.”
“Rather than just keeping all the profits for himself, he very quickly brought his store managers and some of his leading people into the company as partners,” Johnson says, “You know, really gave them ownership and let them know that the things that happened to the company would affect them individually and not all the money would go in his pocket.”
In 1960, Arnold built an auto parts warehouse in Spencer. It’s known as The Merrill Company. The Arnold Group sells auto parts and accessories and runs auto service stores in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, and Illinois.
By Ryan Long, KICD, Spencer