Last month marked Henry Bedford’s 45-year anniversary of employment at Southwestern Family of Companies. We are all so thankful that, 45 years ago, Henry walked through the doors to sell books with Southwestern Advantage, later helping to mold and build the entire company.
I am grateful that Henry Bedford has been my personal mentor for the last 15 years. I am thankful that he believed in Southwestern Consulting and that he and the board had our backs when we were starting out and navigating through new business ups and downs. Henry and the company had our backs and continued to believe in us when we were $1 million in debt. That is just one of many stories when Henry stuck with the businesses of this company through some hard times and has been a part of everything from the beginning. He has helped start each one of our family member companies, with the exception of Southwestern Advantage and Great American. When he was tasked with creating the New Business Development Team, alongside Carl Roberts and Dan Moore, Henry had a vision for cultivating a family of companies where talented entrepreneurs could join together and prosper.
In partnership with Spencer Hays, Henry created what is now the Southwestern Family of Companies Equity Plan. He did so using a 13-column notepad in the days before Excel and computers were commonplace. Henry helped create the ownership and transference of wealth capabilities that so many people have benefited from over the past 30 years. This has enabled the company to have tremendous growth and to attract people to build businesses through a shared equity plan that has paid out over $300 million over the last three decades. We are all so thankful for Henry’s vision and the ingenuity of our company equity plan that we continue to benefit from to this day. Henry’s unique approach towards shared ownership of Southwestern Family of Companies is the mechanism that continues to propel the family of companies forever into the future, passing down ownership of the company generation after generation.
From his wisdom as CFO and COO of Great American, where he helped Great American grow to be the largest company we’ve had, to his involvement in the team at Family Heritage, that grew to hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, time and time again, Henry’s entrepreneurial spirit and wisdom have helped our companies flourish. When he joined the executive team, our combined company sales were approximately $30 million, and we were still mainly a book-selling enterprise and a startup fundraising business. Today, we are a global conglomerate of 30 diverse businesses that positively impacts the world.
However, the most important aspect of Henry’s leadership is his generous spirit. He’s taught me and others what it means to give. One of the ways he exemplifies generosity is through his involvement with Safe Haven, a non-profit that helps mainly single mothers and homeless families find a place to live. He personally led the effort to raise approximately $700,000 towards the building of their structure, was the board chairman for 10 years, and continues to support Safe Haven today with his involvement on their advisory board. That is just one example, as there are numerous other non-profits and people in need that Henry has invested in over the years.
Henry was recently recognized as Person of the Year by Liberty In North Korea (L.I.N.K) for calling attention to the need and leading the family of companies in support of L.I.N.K. Through a combined fundraising effort, the SWFC team members, led by Henry, helped free over 100 people from an oppressive regime last year.
In Henry’s role as chairman of the board, he continues to lead us all, day to day, with his wisdom and experience. We are all excited to continue partnering with him for many years as he continues to live out the vision he imagined years ago: for SWFC to become the largest privately-held company in the world.