Follow the Leaders
Born and raised in Richmond, Edward D. Barlow II is President and CEO of Atlantic Corrugated Box Co., Inc. He attended Mills Godwin High School and received his undergraduate degree in Marketing Management from Virginia Tech in 1990. As a boy, Edward spent summers and extended holidays working for the family business learning the art and science of creating quality corrugated products. After graduating from Virginia Tech, he joined the firm full time and, in 1991, began purchasing the operation from his family. In 1992, Edward succeeded his father as President and CEO of the company. Today Edward owns the business, which is located in the City of Richmond, employs 25 people, and specializes in the manufacture of corrugated packaging and display products for a wide array of industries.
What makes your company unique?
Flexibility. Our employees recognize that every business is different. We develop a true understanding of our client’s businesses, and this allows our team to provide product and service catered to their particular needs. Our philosophy is simple: Quality products and extraordinary service — every customer, every time.
In your opinion, what are the most important characteristics of a good leader?
Integrity and accountability. Integrity is the basic building block for any good leader. It allows a good leader to remain accountable for his or her actions and decisions. It promotes fairness and consistency, and encourages an individual to lead by example. Integrity is essential in maintaining trust among your employees and your clients, and supports growth and prosperity within your organization.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
I credit my father with offering long-lasting advice and instilling core values I use to guide the business today. My father taught me not only to only make commitments I could keep, but to have the wherewithal to deliver on those commitments with extraordinary service. He also encouraged me to run a debt-free business, which has proven to be essential in tough economic times.
I can’t get through the day without…
Exercise or some type of activity that relieves me from the daily grind.
Best Virginia business dinner
Old Original Bookbinders
Name 3 things that made you happy this week
A close friend of mine was recognized and honored by the Valentine Richmond History Center. Not only did it make me happy, it inspired me.
I had a great workout yesterday — then ruined it by eating a pizza from Pie in the fan. Enjoyed every moment!
Our business was awarded a significant contract this week in the tobacco/packaging industry that will have long-lasting implications for our employees and associates. We are truly blessed.
Tell us about a rewarding on-the-job experience or moment.
I recently had a client request the development of a counter top display to both structurally and graphically enhance and sell his product in a retail setting. This client had significant experience with typical packaging products used for shipping purposes, but had no history or experience with point-of-purchase displays. Despite our daily communication, the client became increasingly agitated and dissatisfied with the amount of time it took to develop each phase of the product. He showed clear signs he was losing faith in the project and in our ability to deliver on our commitment. When the finished product delivered to his facility on time, he immediately opened the units to inspect his counter top displays. He and his entire staff were so thrilled with the final product that he took the time to call and leave a message praising our team on a job well done — along with an apology for doubting our abilities. His message was articulated so well, I saved it. I know there will be an occasion when I need to rejuvenate my team, and this message will be the perfect antidote. And though his voicemail was reward enough, as it happens, we’re designing his floor display now. Icing on the cake!
What’s your biggest challenge as a CEO?
It goes without saying that tough economic times are challenging to most CEOs, myself included. Today, I consider that to be my biggest challenge. In better economic times, I become stagnant and forget to challenge myself — especially in the area of accepting or embracing change. Occasionally I face challenges in dealing with personality conflicts among employees. This is a challenge I wish I could do without entirely.
How do you define success?
Balance. Striking a healthy balance between business, family, and community affords an individual the ability to deliver his or her best. Ultimately, this will provide success in whatever it is that’s being measured.
There’s a front page story about you — what’s the headline?
I would prefer not to be on the front page, but tucked away in the business section being recognized for an achievement in business or community involvement. If I had to be on the front page, maybe it would say, “Ed sold the business and moved to Italy, even though he never learned the language.”
Richmond Times Dispatch
Apples and bananas
Dishwasher at L’Italia Restaurant