If you really want to find out what motivates a person, go to their core values. In Tom LeDuc’s case it’s helpful to know a little Latin. For LeDuc, a phrase he learned in high school, dum vivimus vivamus (Let us live while we live, or Let us enjoy life), reminds him to accept each day as it comes. He says, “I believe that there will always be ups and downs. You have to accept and savor everything that happens as an experience to enjoy or grow from.”
LeDuc has been seeking out challenges and looking for opportunities to grow since he was a young man. Born and raised in Denver, he became a Marine at 18, serving one tour of duty in Vietnam. When he returned, he studied marketing at the University of Utah while working part–time in a retail clothing store. It was there that he met Heidi Stover and his life took a decidedly different turn.
When LeDuc married Stover in 1970, he had not yet come to realize that he was marrying the bedding industry as well. By 1971, however, he had gone to work for his father–in–law, Walter Stover, and began a course of hands–on business education that has continued throughout his professional life.
“I started out doing everything,” he says. “At that time, we were a furniture manufacture as well so I did upholstery, constructed beds, and drove trucks while also repping the product.”
LeDuc adds, “My father–in–law founded Spring Air Mountain West in 1929 and had no clear succession plan. I moved into general management and, as the years went by, assumed more and more responsibility.”
By 1983, LeDuc was ready to assume a leadership role. Because Walter Stover remained active in the company, the pair decided to separate the furniture operations from the mattress factory. LeDuc leased the factory with an option to buy and set out to show what he could accomplish on his own.
“I was blessed in that I had nowhere to go but up,” LeDuc laughs. “Absolutely every phase of the operation had to be learned and I didn’t have time to think about anything else but doing it. In the process I learned to love it.”
LeDuc was fortunate to pick up influential mentors along the way. Spring Air’s Don Vesey taught him marketing and merchandising skills. A supplier, Dick Gamble, helped him to sharpen his financial analysis skills.
With the advantage of hindsight, LeDuc is not surprised by their support. “It’s one of the advantages of being in this industry,” he explains. “There are always people who will help you to succeed.”
LeDuc works hard to convey this same attitude within his own company. “Our standard rule is that managers have to identify their counterparts in their customers’ businesses and then make them look like heroes,” he says.
The fact that the bedding industry historically centers on relationships fits well with LeDuc’s perspective on business and on life. “It’s critical to establish a good working relationship with your customers and vendors,” he insists. “People who do this succeed.”
Last winter’s Olympic Games in Salt Lake City offered LeDuc yet another opportunity to reflect upon the relationships among mutual support, achievement and success. “The camaraderie among the different countries was mind–boggling. People were appreciative of everyone’s performance. It was the achievement that mattered.”
Sports are an integral part of LeDuc’s daily life as well. He regularly fishes, skis, hikes and plays golf, all while reveling in the glory of the mountains that surround him. “I want to be outside as much as I can,” he says. “It refreshes my attitude towards life.”
An avid reader, LeDuc also seeks balance through books. Like many, he has focused much of his reading on American history since the attacks of September 11th and intends to continue in that vein for some time to come.
LeDuc hopes that his four children, all of whom are in their 20s, will find balance in their lives through service to others. “It’s important to us that they have balance in their lives and that includes and demands giving back. Whether it’s working with a charity or in the community, giving back is critical to success. In my opinion, if you don’t have that, you can’t be happy.”