Shep and Wendy Moyle aren't afraid to admit mistakes.
The married owners of Shindigz, the online party supplies retailer, did just that Thursday at the University of Saint Francis Family Business Initiative. The meeting, attended by about 75, was in the Women's Club on the third floor of the USF Business Center.
The couple bought the company now known as Shindigz about 30 years ago from his parents. Shep, who had a master's in business administration from Harvard, was 27 but had never worked for the company except “bagging sparkle powder on snow days” when school was canceled.
But the man who recently returned to Shindigz as CEO was steeped in the family business mindset.
“As entrepreneurs, we make our mistake and move on and explain what went wrong to our bankers,” Shep said.
Wendy also earned an MBA – hers from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. She grew up in Bloomington; her parents worked for Indiana University.
Shep and Wendy met in Dallas, where they both worked for Frito Lay.
“We were in the corporate world,” she said. “When we took risks, we did it with the corporate dollar – not our own dollar.”
Shep, who is also the company's chairman, ticked off various mistakes. They included using the same attorneys and accountants as their parents when buying the company, which likely led them to pay more than the company was worth because they didn't hire professionals looking out specifically for their interests.
“We also made the mistake of living with our sellers during the negotiations,” he said. After moving to Fort Wayne one month before their wedding, Shep slept in his childhood bedroom and Wendy was assigned the guest room.
The culture clash was evident. While Frito Lay had reams of data, long-term strategic plans and departments full of workers focusing on, for example, information technology, Shindigz had none of that, Shep said.
South Whitley, a relatively small town, also wasn't used to women in leadership in 1990, said Wendy, who is now the company's vice chairman.
“That was the company expectation, that I would sit back and watch Shep lead,” she said.
The couple established a strategic plan and determined who would be responsible for what. They listened to each other but also made it clear when they were seeking solutions or simply a sympathetic ear.
They turned to peers outside the company for advice and support on a personal level and established a company board of directors to gain outside perspectives.
One challenge was balancing business and family, Wendy said. The couple's three children were born after they bought the company.
“It's a struggle, because you want to be everywhere at once,” she said.
Part of their solution was to include the children in the business, including using them as models for catalog photo shoots.
The couple also defined their strengths and weaknesses and complemented each other.
“We established really clear roles,” Wendy said. “There can be only one leader, and that was Shep.”
“We not only love each other,” Shep said, “we like each other.”