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Lessons learned from Stan Bedford

opinion by Maylon Rice

Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.

This past week a very good small businessman, operating a very unique style of commercial business, passed from our midst. Stan Bedford was 60. He died young, but accomplished so much, and we all should take note.

Bedford died last week from complications from Parkinson’s Disease, an ailment only those close to the businessman knew he suffered.

His legacy is that of a close knit company where employees matter as much as his business success. The Bedford Camera and Video stores and how they served the public was one of the hallmarks of his growing and highly successful business ventures in Northwest Arkansas, the Fort Smith region, central Arkansas and into Oklahoma.

Since 1974, when the first Bedford Camera and Video opened in Springdale, Stan set ethical goals for his business. Those goals stretched as far back as his youth being raised in tiny Seymour, Texas, the son of a local pastor, the Rev. T.R. and Mary Jane Hampton Bedford.

Lessons learned in that household and those learned on during his adult years were: caring for his employees, offering a quality product, teaching those who bought camera equipment how to use the cameras and video recorders, and of fair and equitable pricing on some very good merchandise. All of these ethical and moral absolutes,  combined, were among the foundations of  his success.

Posted on the company website, Bedford lived by three distinct principles those of integrity, diligence, and follow-through regardless of personal or business matters.
Business associates said he always asked himself: “At the end of the day, what kind of person are you?”

Stan Bedford showed us all how to be comfortable with the answer.

Bedford lived an upright life, calling upon his religious teaching from both childhood and lessons learned in adulthood. He often said his family and employees (who were just like family to Stan Bedford) gave him support and reasons to be proud of the business they all built working together.

“I’ve assembled the greatest talent in the industry, which has been paramount to the success of Bedford Camera & Video” he says on the website. “My honest desire is to treat them as I’d want to be treated if I were in their shoes. People work here because they enjoy photography — and are recognized for all they do.”

He also had a confidence in his executive staff, to continue running the day to day operations of the business. Jeff Beauchamp, President; Steve Elkins, Vice President; Tommy Neil, Vice President/Acounting; Austin Pittman, Central District Manager and Jason Bedford, Senior Manager, are responsible for running Bedford’s six stores.

With multiple locations, Bedford has had to differentiate its product mix for each store.

Another hallmark of the Bedford brand was creating value.“In specialty stores today you’ve got to create a service, a package, but you have to be competitive on price as well… not beat prices, but be competitive,” Bedford advised. “We’re going to compete with the big-box stores but we’ll do it in a smart way — by being productive.”

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And few small businesses knew more about big box stores than Stan Bedford.  When asked about growing up in Wal-Mart’s back yard, Stan says, “Never fear them…always respect them.”

We all respected Stan Bedford and his business model. And the communities where he established his businesses mourn his passing.

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