Many people have extensive business skills, yet few of them rise to the top. What can we learn from Chuck who rose from management trainee to CEO of See’s Candies, the packaged candy giant?
What made Chuck so successful is something that is also within you and me, and could make a huge difference in our careers and in our popularity.
After Chuck joined See’s in 1951, as a warm, outgoing man with a big smile, and an easy laugh, he began to build a reputation for taking a sincere interest in people, actually learning their names and listening to them. He would then do everything he could to be helpful to them.
Few managers treat employees this way and the employees happily supported Chuck in his rise up the ranks and in the growth that led to the major success of See’s. It seems so basic, caring for others being within each of us but practiced by so few, yet deeply appreciated by so many.
In 1972, the See family had so much confidence in Chuck; they relied on him to help sell the firm to legendary investor Warren Buffett. And Chuck so impressed Buffett, he made him president and CEO and kept him in those roles for the next 34 years.
Even as CEO, Chuck remained humble; not often referred to as CEO but simply, “Chief Taster,” at See’s as he helped select the newest candies and send others that had lost their popularity into “retirement.”
In 2006, at the age of 81, Chuck retired after 55 years with the company. But by that time, he had led the growth of See’s Candies to over 200 stores in the western United States, with more than 5,000 employees and annual sales of $300 million.
In his personal life Chuck was born on March 2nd, 1925 to American parents in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and grew up in Portland, Oregon. Subsequently, he served in the U.S. military during World War ll and afterward went to Kenyon College in Ohio, majoring in English literature.
In 1947, Chuck married his wife of 48 years, Mime and they remained married until her passing in 1995. They had two sons and two daughters.
But on August 19th, 2012 Chuck passed away at the age of 87 in his Larkspur, CA home from a stroke he had a week earlier. He is survived by his wife of 12 years, the former Donna Ewald and by his children and nine grandchildren.
Chuck was a fun guy who loved jazz and was a singer and drummer, hosting or participating in numerous shows. He also loved animals, conservation, travel and other endeavors that kept him in touch with people. And Chuck was a philanthropist, for he wanted his money to make life better for others.
In addition to his family, Chuck is survived by the thousands of employees of See’s Candies and its suppliers and by the many recipients of his charitable donations. He is survived as well by the millions of people who love See’s many candies.
Until his passing, one of those people was Chuck. “I always had to keep candy in the house for him,” his wife Donna told the Los Angeles Times. “We have a See’s store right near our house, and they were always slipping him samples of new candies.”