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On the Job with Austin Turner, co-owner of Turner Furniture

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

"On the Job with...." is a weekly Sunday Inc. series, spotlighting area business owners and executives. Today's interview is with Austin Turner, co-owner of Turner Furniture.

Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?

A. I would decide what profession I would like to pursue. Then, I would identify the leaders in the community in that profession. I would research their company or organization to gain as much knowledge as possible. I would contact the owner or president of the organization personally and ask for permission to meet with them to learn more about their organization.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. It has been too long for me to remember.

Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I think the best way to keep employees motivated is communication. Let them know where they stand, give them the support and training they need, recognize their successes and let them know you appreciate what they do.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I am the fourth generation owner in our furniture business, so the first job I had was working in the warehouse delivering furniture when I was a teenager. The first job I had outside of turner Furniture was working the dock for the freight carrier Conway Southern while I was in college. I had fun and worked hard at that job, and I do not miss being at work at 5 a.m.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I was fortunate to grow up in the business and my father was very supportive. He never insisted that any of his children worked in the business because he wanted us to pursue the career of our choice; however, when I decided I want to work in the company he gave me the opportunity by starting in sales in 1990. He gradually allowed me to assume more responsibility over the years as sales manager then a store manager in Albany and eventually into the overall management of the company.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. My father, Wright Turner. He has taught me so many things like the value of hard work. How to live a financially conservative lifestyle. The importance of reinvesting in the company. How to operate in a very conservative manner with very little debt. The importance of operating with a low cost structure in order to provide the vest values for our customers. How to have a strong attention to detail; and, the importance of taking care of our customers and employees.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. The biggest lesson I learned from this recession is that your people will rise to the occasion and do what it takes when presented with a challenge. We have been fortunate to be able to make it through this recession without laying any employees off, cutting wages or cutting any employee benefits. And, we have managed to remain profitable thanks to the hard work and dedication of our people.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?

A. I would not see any of it go away. Technology creates great efficiencies in our business. One example of this is the routing software that we use for our deliveries. It takes on person about one hour to route 120 deliveries on 10 trucks that cover South Georgia and North Florida.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. The Blackberry.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. A John Grisham book. I like to read Norman Vincent Peele books daily.

Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I am usually up by 5:15 each day. I go to the YMCA for about an hour then have breakfast and I am on the way to work between 7 and 7:30.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. My favorite hobbies outside of work are anything outdoors. I like to take my boys fishing at Alligator Point, hunting and water skiing at Lake Blackshear.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I don't have any regrets. Things usually work out for the best. Even the difficult times like when our Albany store was flooded in 1994. Our employees rose to the occasion and we were a better company after dealing with the adversity.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. The people -- employees, customers and suppliers.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. The most difficult thing is balancing work and family time. The retail business can be very demanding of your time.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. English. I had a great professor who made it fun to learn and I use what he taught me each day.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. My dream career would be a head basketball coach for an ACC team. There are so many parallels between sports and business. A lot of what you learn as a youth in sports like teamwork, dedication, hard work and a never-give-up attitude are characteristics that are required to be successful in the business world.

Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...

A. Being productive and spending time with family and friends.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. The ability to approach problems as an opportunity. When you keep your cool and work through a problem something positive almost always comes from it.

Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. I think the economy today is the new normal for the near future. I think we will see slow growth for several years before we start to get back to the pre-recession economic activity.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I don't have an iPod, but if I did it would have a variety of music.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I hope there will be even more emphasis on improving our education system so that there are more capable individuals entering our work force.

Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?

A. The best vacation I've taken recently was a trip with my family to New York and Boston. We were able to see so much history and be together as a family.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The biggest changes I have seen in the furniture business over the past few years is the domestic manufacturing of furniture moving to foreign countries. There is still a lot of product we sell that is made in the USA but more and more is being made overseas.