I'm A Landmark: Brad Douglass

"Landmark Bank has a deep understanding of business and commerce. They understand the speed of business." – Brad Douglass, Douglass Distributing.

Landmark is more of a business bank. They understand needs and timing. Plus, I can pick up the phone, call my mortgage broker and they can answer any questions. They know their stuff. I trust Landmark. Isn't it time you became a Landmark?

The Family and Business Balance

Brad Douglass and his daughter Whitney (Douglass) Oestreich have a few things in common besides their familial bond. They both work for the family business, Douglass Distributing, and as teenagers, the last thing either of them wanted to do was work for the family business.

"It's the golden handcuffs," Douglass says about the pull to work for the company. Ultimately, the benefits outweighed his hesitation to tie his career to his family. Judging by the company's recent celebration of 35 years of business and annual sales of $300 to $350 million, the decision to forge his career with Douglass Distributing was a smart one for Douglass and the entire family.

Brad DouglassBrad Douglass

With Oestreich now part of the team, Douglass Distributing is a three-generation family-run business, including Brad and Whitney; Diane McCarty, Brad's sister; and the family patriarch and company founder Bill Douglass who – at 80 years old – still comes into the office every day.

Building a Family Business – and a More Preferable Life

Douglass Distributing is a wholesale/retail petroleum distributor, annually moving more than 130,000,000 gallons of fuel, plus operating 22 convenience and fast food stores in Texas.

The company was born in 1981 when Bill Douglass, following a 22-year career with Exxon that led him to high-level management in the international holding company, bought out the Exxon consignee in Sherman, Texas. Bill says he was a "corporate nomad" before settling in Sherman.

"I was working for Exxon in Rockefeller Center in New York City, and we'd moved eight times before that. I knew the next move for us would be international," he says, reflecting on his decision to leave the corporate management life.

Living in rural Connecticut suburbs known for their high-end homes and corporate exec families, Bill commuted to the city each day, leaving home at 6:15 each morning to catch the train and not returning until 7:15 each evening. Weekends were his only opportunity to be part of the family.

"It was a hermetically sealed world, very compartmentalized," says Bill. "You took a train full of people in an aluminum compartment and hustled into Grand Central Station. You didn't talk, then you walked eight blocks to Rockefeller Center to a high-security building that had everything you needed – and you didn't go out again until it was time to leave."

Bill was ready to make a major lifestyle change. The family chose Texas and made the transition from Bill's disconnected corporate life to an all-in family entrepreneurial effort.

Brad Douglass of Douglass Distributing.Brad Douglass of Douglass Distributing.

In the early days of the company, the workforce consisted of Bill and his wife Joan, Brad (working his way through high school and college) and an accounting assistant.

"I didn't even have a desk," Brad says. "I worked at the edge of my mother's desk."

His father was in charge of sales and company growth, while his mother was in charge of the finances. Brad says the close quarters with his parents and the lean start-up years taught him a lot, including communication, risk-taking and an appreciation for every dollar.

He remembers learning marketing during his junior year of college and bringing the principles he picked up back to the business.

"Dad gave me leeway to implement ideas right away," he says. "Instant gratification. We were developing new products, new services. It was a lot of fun, and I knew that if I joined a big company, I wouldn't get that kind of instant feedback."

Investing in the Family Legacy

"When you get experience at the grass roots level, it gives you a distinct advantage – a good foundation to understand the operation," Bill says about how Brad entered the business.

Today, his granddaughter and Brad's daughter Whitney is gaining the same kind of on-the-job education, but with a unique perspective of literally having grown up with Douglass Distributing, which was founded eight years before she was born.

With the family collectively invested in the success of the company, her upbringing was likewise an extended family effort, and she speaks with appreciation about the close relationship she has with her grandparents.

"It was an awesome experience," she says. "I was very close to my grandmother because we spent so much time together. I want that same thing for my own kids someday."

That close blending of work and family life wasn't always appealing to Oestreich, however.

"When I was little, I wanted to be anything – a vet, a chef, a doctor – but working for my family," she says.

Despite her family's desire to have her forge her career plans around Douglass Distributing, she had a different passion and vision to pursue. With plans to become a police officer, she received her undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Brad DoulgassBrad Douglass

Following college, however, she ended up in the management program for Enterprise Rent-a-Car, which she notes is another family-owned business. From Enterprise, she worked for a fourth-generation Cadillac dealership, where she realized that her success in sales was helping another family build their legacy – instead of contributing to her own.

"It made sense to go back home," she says. "I love it. It's good 98 percent of the time. But it's definitely annoying when Dad starts telling a story about when you were younger and taking your toys away."

Today, Oestreich is gaining experience within the company, similar to how her dad rose through the ranks under her grandfather's tutelage. She is currently the credit manager, described by Bill as the toughest job at Douglass Distributing.

"We've tried to give her the most challenging assignments," Bill says. "And she's already improved our credit ratings and collections."

Before working as credit manager, Oestreich gained key insight into the challenges of logistics by working in dispatch.

"Delivery – that's where the customer needs you," says Bill. "It all revolves around this logistical area."

Good Business Depends upon Quality People

How well Douglass Distributing serves the customer is crucial. Brad says that, as a "true commodities business," service is Douglass Distributing's only differentiator in the marketplace.

What makes the company successful in great customer service? "The quality of our people and the training we provide," he says.

With some of their employees counting more than 30 years with Douglass Distributing, the company enjoys the benefits of a workforce with longevity.

"Folks here have significantly more training than average," says Brad. "They develop deep skill sets. The folks that answer the phones can answer the questions."

Brad says he appreciates that same type of service from Landmark Bank. Personalized service helped Douglass Distributing make the decision to move from a competitor bank to Landmark.

"I can pick up the phone and Angela can answer any questions," he says about working with mortgage broker Angela Krieger at Landmark. "She knows her stuff."

Bill says he has high trust for Landmark, their reputation and integrity. It's their business acumen, however, that solidifies his relationship with the bank.

"Landmark Bank has a deep understanding of business and commerce," says Douglass. "It's more of a business bank. They understand needs and timing. They understand the speed of business."

Landmark's community involvement has solidified Douglass Distributing's relationship with the bank, according to Brad: "Landmark is part of the fabric of our community. They support community events like no other bank."

Blurring the lines of business and community – upholding a culture that supports success in both areas – mimics the blurring of business and personal life that Bill Douglass sought when he first relocated his family to the Sherman/Denison area.

"Here, we have an integrated life with work, friends, charity involvement. I choose to be active in the community, and my life never disconnects," he says. "It's all part of this blend I live. I am never far from someone I don't have a good regard for."

Bill says that life in an urban setting, during his Rockefeller Center days, was quite different.

"You felt like your whole life was your job. [The company] constantly moved you, and you didn't get to establish relationships – you knew they wouldn't last, that you would only be there a year."

In New York City, he says, everyone is always in a hurry, pressured by the environment and living in a compressed way. In Texas, the slower pace and connection between business and family has allowed him to live what he calls a "whole life, totally integrated."

"I can go to lunch with Whitney and Brad at any time, and we don't always talk about business. I just enjoy keeping up with them. I never think I have to take a train and go through a couple of compartments to get to the world I enjoy."

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