Interview with Beth and Jennifer Thieme of Amigo Mobility
Tell us about your company, it’s purpose, mission, target audience, goals, what makes it unique.
Forty years ago in Bridgeport, Michigan, a young man was working as a plumbing and heating contractor when a family member began to lose their mobility due to multiple sclerosis. Witnessing the loss of independence, he worked in the evenings after his job to come up with an independent form of mobility. On November 12, 1968, Al Thieme invented the first power-operated vehicle/scooter – the Amigo.
Named the Amigo for being a “friendly wheelchair,” the product’s popularity quickly grew after people saw the independence it provided. Consequently, Amigo Mobility International, Inc. was founded and an entire industry was born.
Amigo Mobility’s purpose is it’s mission – Improving Lives Through Mobility®.
How did you come to work together in the first place?
Jennifer: My parents own the business, so I grew up spending my summers at Amigo working. I really enjoyed working at Amigo and everyone there – it felt like an extended family. In college, I started with a science major, but soon after switched my focus to business as I realized nothing could be more fulfilling then helping improve lives at the company my dad started.
Please describe your respective roles in the company.
Beth: I am CEO and Vice President of Commercial Sales.
Jennifer: I am Marketing Coordinator. I oversee all marketing activities at Amigo Mobility and work with the different departments in the company to help them accomplish their goals. I’m also the editor of a monthly e-newsletter sent out to our Amigo owners – the Friendly Wheels.
How has working together affected your relationship outside the “office.” In other words how do you keep family matters separate from work related issues?
Beth: We try to talk about the business during work hours and about the customer during non-work hours.
What are some of the challenges you have faced working together?
Jen: We joined the Family Business Program through our local university to help address any issues that might come up. My mom is part of the first generation group, and I am in the next generation group.
Beth: Every time a customer buys one of our product’s for their personal use, we are excited. We truly have seen people’s lives improved through the Amigo. One of my favorite stories is about Amigo owner Ron Bachman. As a child, Ron had both of his legs amputated, but rather than slow him down he made it his mission to also improve the lives of others. Today, he is a motivational speaker at schools teaching kids the importance of kindness and the evils of bullying. In 2008, he won the Energizer “Keep Going” Hall of Fame award. He has touched thousands of lives.
What do you like best about working together? Least?
Jen: We both are very passionate about the business, and we love traveling together. The downside is that work often overflows into home life. I talk to my mom every day, but we hardly get any time to talk about the other parts of our lives.
What, if any big challenges or little annoyances have occurred as a result of working together and how have you managed to overcome them?
Beth: Generational differences. What it took to build the business is different than what it takes today to run the business. Younger generation values flex time and seems more casual.
What tips would you share with our readers for working with a member of the family?
Beth: See if your community offers a Family Business Program to help you successfully work with keeping your family happy in the business and succession planning.
What’s been the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of working together?
Jen: I think the projects where we get to work together are exciting. It is gratifying to see our ideas come together, and have a positive impact on the company as a result. For me, my proudest accomplishment so far has been writing and implementing our new slogan– Improving Lives Through Mobility®. It was inspired by my mom and dad – every day they come to work to improve lives through mobility.
What’s next for this mother daughter team?
Jen: We look forward to continue to work together, and possibly welcoming my other siblings into the business. In the future, I could see us playing a more active role in the community – and hopefully more traveling!
Learm more about Amigo Mobility International, Inc. at www.myamigo.com
This article can be read in the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of WE Magazine for Women