When she showed up for work on her first day at Acme Brick, Julie Sowards couldn’t have known her new job was going to turn into a 38-year ride to the pinnacle. However, that’s exactly what has occurred.
On March 1, 2022, Acme CEO, Dennis Knautz announced the winner of what will be an annual award for excellence - The Pinnacle Award. “With this award, we want to recognize an associate who has demonstrated a long-term commitment and contribution to the success of our company. No one epitomizes this more than Julie Sowards.”
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An Amazing Career
“I honestly never thought I would have so much fun in a job,” Sowards said. “The professional rewards have been amazing, and in many ways, humbling. Any success that I have enjoyed has been the result of hundreds of other people, my friends and colleagues at Acme Brick. They have helped me, and I have tried to assist them.”
In an overview of what Julie Sowards has attained in her career with this 130-year-old company, Carol Kiburz, Vice President of Human Resources at Acme said, “She began her career with us as a receptionist and an administrative assistant for Dave Martin and John Harp.
“Julie’s passion and outstanding intellect allowed her to become a “subject matter expert” (SME) for the Mideast Region (in Springfield, MO). Later, she assumed the role of head SME for the entire company. In this role, she handles the training and implementation of new policies for different departments and new hires, which most recently included the “Smarter Commerce” (a new system for credit card processing) program as well as order entry and pricing analysis for the Midwest region.
“Julie is the type of associate who never says ‘No’ and is always there to help. She has mentored new associates into their roles by going to their location in person. Her list of job duties is virtually endless: payroll, order entry, credit, dispatch, non-brick purchase orders, manufactured brick allocations, SME duties, training, mentoring, sales rep support, office manager, and administration.
“Her dedication to Acme is second to none,” Kiburz concluded. “Julie is truly one of Acme’s greatest assets. We are delighted that she has received the 2022 Pinnacle Award!”
Over the span of her tenure at Acme Brick, Julie has seen a lot of change and, unlike many employees who feel uncomfortable with a constantly expanding product mix, management technology and customer expectations, she relishes it.
“The SME’s of our company really embrace change,” she said. “That’s a part of the job description. Our company management makes decisions about additional products or new business technologies that will enhance the growth of our company, and it’s our job to thoroughly understand it and then promote this to the field.
“Ultimately, the specialists in each of our offices make this process work. Hopefully, we do a good job of mentoring our co-workers and explaining any new practice, but at the end of the day, they bring their immense skills and dedication to ensuring results.
“Almost every day, there is something changing in our business. It is this type of challenge that makes me excited to get up and go to work!”
The 2022 Pinnacle Award winner and 3-decades veteran was asked the obvious question: How has Acme Brick changed in the past 38-years?
“The biggest change is that we’re no longer just a brick company,” Julie said. “The number and types of products we now offer run the gamut of the ‘home improvement’ category.
“This means our sales associates must be trained to help customers understand the features and benefits of a much wider range of products - from flooring to outdoor entertainment appliances to low maintenance landscaping products. It also means our accounting, marketing, supply chain management, credit processes and every other aspect of our business must be expanded in order to exceed our customers’ expectations. It’s a big challenge, but these changes have made us a better company.”
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