Yellow and fraying, the notice was nonetheless legible and prominently displayed near the restroom, instructing employees as to expected workplace rules and conduct, prefaced by its bold “Notice to Teamsters” headline:
“Every teamster is held responsible for his chains, stakes, blankets, whip, etc.”
“Be sure that the burrs on wagon are tight before leaving yard or mill.”
“In case your horses lose a shoe on road, not near yard, go to the nearest blacksmith shop and have shoe put on, get duplicate ticket and hand to barn boss on return.”
“Do not water horses when warm.”
Date-stamped 1911 on its back, the sign was one of several items Bryan Tolles discovered while surveying the Edward Hines Lumber Co., headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Ill., in early 2010. A member of ACG Detroit and vice president of BlackEagle Partners LLC, a private equity firm focused on midmarket acquisitions, Tolles was used to observing dated operations—they stood to benefit most from his firm’s post-acquisition management expertise—though a 101-year old sign from a business founded in 1892 was indeed memorable and reflected the nature of the lumber business.
“It’s the slowest-moving industry I’ve come across. Change is not something they do,” Tolles says. “In some cases, it’s the same business model from the 1800s.”