Hometown boy gets kudos for business and aloha
MAUI ex-pat Lono Dickson was among a handful of folks honored at Friday night's Seattle Mariners game with a Small Business Spotlight award from HomeStreet Bank.
The honorees got to hang out in a luxury suite at Safeco Field and were to be photographed with Hall of Fame inductee Dave Niehaus, as well as to receive a commemorative home-plate plaque. Home plate, HomeStreet, you get the idea.
The winners are also to be profiled on KOMO-AM 1000 in Seattle.
The owner of Kalani Packaging Inc. in Everett, Wash., Dickson and five other small-business owners were recognized as having demonstrated significant community involvement as well as for having companies that are great places to work.
In its news release, the bank indicated Dickson was chosen for the honor for a few reasons, notably for bringing much of his native Hawaiian culture into the company. Employees receive full benefits and a matching 401(k); the company has contributed packing materials for relief shipments to countries following disasters and contributes to its local community through various nonprofit organizations.
He and his wife, originally from the Seattle area but who he met in Hawaii, established the business in 2000 and October marks its eighth anniversary.
He has received recognition for his business before, but "nothing like this, I'm very excited about this," he told TheBuzz.
"It makes me feel good that I'm doing something right."
He tries to differentiate himself from his larger competitors by infusing the aloha spirit into his business practices.
Customers who call his competitors get an automated answering system instructing them to push this button or that button. "We try to pick up the phone, every time, so a live voice answers."
Because his deliveries are made to businesses' back docks and the people who work in receiving are the ones who sign for and use the products, "our delivery people are also our sales people. They're the ones talking to the end-users and they don't usually get attention. They don't get asked their opinions," Dickson said.
Usually, if there's a product issue, the receiving and warehousing people have to convince the purchasing agent to contact the company to make a change. "We put a level of customer service at the back dock, at that end-user level, and that works really well for us," he said.
Dickson also won't hire anyone in whom he doesn't see a glimmer of the aloha spirit. "You know what it is," and can also tell when it is not there, "and that's truly what our customers see in us."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com