Leading by example, Lynn Klein Iler quietly asserts herself each day
By Andy Kriege, YSN
In 1986 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed Sept. 22 as American Business Women’s Day, to honor the accomplishments of businesswomen across the nation.
Iler takes no credit whatsoever for the success of her family business, and in fact is always quick to defer to others. Yet nothing could be further from the truth; the modest Iler plays an integral role in making the company run ever so smoothly.
The store was started in 1959 by Iler’s father, Gil Klein, who at 90 still makes his way to the shop several days a week. But it is second-generation owner Iller, along with her brothers Doug and Dave Klein, who call the shots these days, while third-generation family members Clay Iler and Daryn Klein — Lynn’s son and nephew, respectively — also hold leadership positions and are poised to eventually take the reins.
Klein’s is a bustling, 20,000-plus-square-foot store that operates on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River in the greater St. Louis metroplex. It employs about 30 staffers, including enough service techs to require three trucks, and runs another trio of trucks for deliveries out of a separate 20,000-square-foot warehouse.
Iler wears many hats in the business, although her primary duties include ordering product, overseeing and assisting the office staff, and working with the service team on manufacturer warranty work. She also works the sales floor on alternate weekends, which is something she truly enjoys. “It really helps me to connect directly with the customers and keep my fingers on the pulse of what they are focused on,” she said.
Aside from the direct intel that working the sales floor provides, she loves the accelerated activity at the store on weekends. “It is always fast and furious,” she said. “I really enjoy the frenetic pace.”
Involvement In WiB
Iller has attended as many Women in Business sessions as she could over the past few years and enjoys the camaraderie of AVB’s female networking group. “It is always good to connect with my many lady friends in the group,” she said, including her close friend JoAnne Keen, president of Frank’s Appliance Center & SleepSource in Bradley, Ill., who serves with Iler on the Greater Midwest Region’s board of directors.
Keen said she admires Iller’s contributions to WiB and the board, as well as her low-key approach. “Without a doubt Lynn is a great role model for all women in this industry, especially younger women new to the business, because of her positive professional approach to all that she does,” Keen said. “When I first met Lynn, I thought she was quiet and reserved. She is very good at really knowing what she is talking about before she chimes in. I admire her ability to really listen, and then when she does speak it is meaningful.”
Iler has been very active in all things BrandSource, having attended virtually every major event and region meeting for the past 15 years. “A few years back I was approached about running for our region board,” she said. “I have had the honor of serving on the Greater Midwest board ever since. I have gained so much through my involvement with BrandSource. We put it all to work in our store every day.”
Iller has worked at the family business for over 30 years, but felt it was important to take time off when her children came along. “I stepped back from the business to be a mom when my four children were born,” she said. Today, she and her husband of 36 years, Scott Iler, have six grandchildren.
“My family is my everything to me,” she said. “My parents live a few streets away from my house, so I get to go see them when I can. On most days we have three generations of Kleins all working together. Getting to work with your siblings every day is a blessing; we don’t always see eye to eye, but for the most part we all get along and pull together to make this business a success.”
Iler’s father Gil speaks highly of his daughter and is confident the business that bears his name is in good hands. “Lynn’s focus is on the customer’s needs,” he said. “She is very knowledgeable about the products and sincere in her approach.”
And when it comes to negotiating with vendors, “She never takes the first offer and pushes them to do better,” he said. “She’s a lot like me.”
YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.