Walker Tape Co. is a family-run business. Working at Walker, you feel like a part of the family. When your business works with Walker, we want you to feel like a part of it as well. As a thirty year old business, we have a lot of experience and knowledge to offer those who work with us. We would like to share that knowledge through our new series, Walker Wisdom. During this series, we will be interviewing some of our employees to introduce you to them and share some of our most important business practices. We’ve chosen to start our series with our President, Diane Bonham.
Speaking with Diane is such a joy. She is so full of life, excitement and passion. She grew up in Sandy, UT with her parents and five siblings. Her father, Brent Bonham (Walker Tape founder), and his wife still reside in the Salt Lake Valley. Her siblings are scattered throughout the United States, as far away as Hawaii. She currently resides in Sandy, UT and all three of her children and two grand-children (and another on the way!) live near her throughout the Salt Lake Valley. Diane lights up when talking about her children and all of their accomplishments.
Before coming to Walker Tape Co. twenty-two years ago, Diane was a sales rep for Nintendo of America, covering all key accounts in Utah. She then moved to California and attended Ohlone College where she earned her degree in fashion merchandising and interior design while raising her son, Shane, current CEO of Walker Tape Co. She later came back to Utah and opened her own interior design business, Designs of Distinction.
Diane’s Journey with Walker
In 1994, she was a talented single mother of three with a broad skill-set looking for a more steady income. Her father ‘s company was in need of help as they began to grow. The stars aligned and Diane was able to start work at Walker Tape. In those days, Walker was comprised of four employees working out of the back of a building that housed Brent’s previous business. She started doing customer service and quickly moved into purchasing, then new markets and sales. Her mornings started at 5am teaching fitness classes, after which she would get the kids ready for school and then work a full day at Walker. After work, she taught more fitness classes and returned home to spend time with her children. She was also a room mother at her children’s school, rotating between her children’s classes each year.
That’s right, she’s superwoman! She has now been the President at Walker for five years. Her responsibilities include the things she loves most such as dealing with key accounts, new markets and trade shows. Right now, she is also very excited to be designing the interior of the new Walker building, set to open in 2017.
When asked how she was able to accomplish all of this, she gave credit to the flexibility of Walker and the help of her mother who would help to watch her children. She is incredibly humbled by all of the experiences she has been able to have because of the compassion showed by those around her. Because of this, she tries to pay it forward with current Walker employees and ensure that they are taken care of inside and outside of work.
Eight years ago, Shane started with the company. She was excited to be able to give him some of the responsibilities that she wasn’t as excited about and to be a mentor for him inside of the business. The roles have now somewhat reversed as Shane has moved into the role of CEO and is now a mentor for her. That has been fun for her to see. She says she is “in awe of him” and all that he does.
What Makes Walker Special
One of her very favorite things about Walker is the caring environment. For example, an employee recently lost her father. She was able to take off a month to spend needed time with her family. Her job was waiting for her when she returned. Walker employees not only help each other in the workplace, but truly care about each other’s interests outside of work and push each other to accomplish their goals. This is one of her favorite things that Shane has helped to develop at Walker. He is all about encouraging people and pushing them to accomplish what they want to inside and outside of work.
The employees follow this vision and help each other to succeed with their own side projects. The current marketing director, Tim, helped Diane with her first children’s book, Not Again, Nala!. About her dog, Nala, who recently passed away at the age of eleven. She has another book in the works about her other love, ice cream! She is amazed that she has people at work that are willing to help her with outside projects.
For her, the most exciting thing about working here has been to see Walker move into new markets such as sporting goods, fashion, crafts, and medical. She enjoys being able to be a part of all of these industries and attend trade shows and conferences for them. She enjoys being able to build relationships with people from different industries.
One of her favorite experiences with Walker Tape was being able to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania with Shane when they had half a day free on a business trip. She was also excited when she was able to go behind the scenes at a major production company to see how they use Walker products for their costuming.
Lessons Learned from Brent
Diane describes her father as being one of the most honest, hardworking and kind people she knows. She says he is always kind, even during hard conversations. He wants people to work hard and work together and is always open to new ideas. He is easy to approach and makes people feel safe when talking to him and bringing up new ideas. If your idea doesn’t work out, he doesn’t make you feel less-than or afraid to try something else. A big lesson she’s learned from her dad is that there is a time for everything. Sometimes you need to sit back and sometimes you need to move and act quickly. She describes him as being excellent at taking smart risks and believes this is why he’s been so successful.
Lessons for Your Business
Showing compassion to your employees is one of the best ways to get them to buy into you and your business. The culture you create within your business can make or break you. When you choose to see the potential of your employees inside and outside of work and push them to achieve it, your employees will be more excited and successful. Creating an environment that is a safe-space for sharing ideas will help your business to grow faster than it ever could with only one person’s ideas.
To women in business, Diane says “Don’t take less-than!” Speak up, own what you do, share your success and don’t be afraid to talk about your failures. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve. She believes women tend to undervalue themselves, but must be willing to see what they deserve and run with it! As a woman in an industry that was very male-dominant when she came into it, she has had to learn to tactfully have hard conversations. Diane is where she’s at because she was able to see her value and put the work in to be successful.
You can find out more about Diane and see her books and art on her personal website http://www.dianebonham.com/.