Design Your Career
Ashley Stuhr is the President and Founder behind Legacy Purchasing Group, a leading group purchasing organization (GPO) that has impacted thousands of businesses across the country.
Recently, Legacy Purchasing Group celebrated hitting $80M in buying power and growing 126% in members from the prior year. Ashley continues to bring her programs to more entrepreneurs and small business owners across the country as we see an increase in small business startups.
I had the opportunity to interview Ashley recently. Here are some of the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you get the idea for Legacy Purchasing Group? Tell us about your background.
Ashley Stuhr: I spent nearly a decade as a sales leader within Office Depot’s business division, much of which involved working with GPOs across the US, focused in the healthcare industry. I enjoyed my job, but with three kids and plenty of weekly travel demands, I felt this was my time to step out on my own. Before leaving my corporate career, I spent about a year talking with business owners and C-level executives beyond healthcare. When I realized the majority of them had never heard of a GPO or how to access their benefits, I knew this would be my way to impact the business community, especially among smaller businesses!
In 2017, I took the risk and quit my steady corporate job to launch Legacy Purchasing Group (LPG). It certainly was not a success overnight. I spent my first few years networking with business owners, consulting with successful GPO’s, interviewing prospective vendors, and listening to my community. This was in addition to building out the LPG business model.
Griffin: You were with corporate America for 17 years. When did you finally realize this was the career path for you?
Stuhr: Starting a GPO was certainly not something that I had dreamed about as a young adult. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until my last years working at Office Depot’s Business Division and managing other GPOs on the vendor side. I spent time researching, watching other entrepreneurs’ blogs/podcasts, and learning what it takes to start your own company. I’m what you call a “business nerd” so realizing my dream of starting my own GPO and helping other businesses was a no-brainer. My dad was a small business owner and I was fortunate enough to have parents who taught me the importance of a strong work ethic and owning your own business. In 2007, my husband also launched his own company so while I supported my family, I saw firsthand the reality of what it takes financially and mentally. All of these experiences (even my 3 different careers in corporate America) were not by chance. These are ALL part of the learning, networking, and experience I needed in order to start LPG. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and you must open your eyes to every circumstance and see them as an opportunity (including the challenges). So take some time to reflect on where you are in your career today, how you got there, and where you want to be in 10, 20, or 30 years. What do you need to do to get there…professionally and personally? How do you want to be remembered?
Griffin: Who are you outside of your business?
Stuhr: I am intentional and purposeful by finding opportunities that make a positive impact in everything…even those challenging circumstances that others may not see as an opportunity. My faith in God has been a big part of how I stay focused without getting discouraged by all of the demands of managing a business while maintaining a successful work/life balance. I am a mom of three girls, and I have been married for seventeen years. Selflessness is a trait I have always had. I have always enjoyed helping others which is one reason I decided to start LPG. Making an impact on others big or small is what I love the most and why I love diving into my business every single day.
Griffin: What does your business do and how are you helping small businesses?
Stuhr: We are a fast-growing GPO that helps businesses realize savings and efficiencies related to office essentials, shredding services, HR solutions, and more by leveraging the collective buying power of our members to negotiate significant discounts. We now bring these savings to thousands of businesses from coast to coast, and, unlike other business discount programs that may assess several hundred dollars annually, we NEVER charge fees or membership dues. Those businesses work directly with our supplier partners so it is usually a product/service already being used but just not at the discount and service levels that we can get for them.
Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and many businesses are transitioning to working from home or a hybrid model. Businesses, including microbusinesses with fewer than 10 employees, are adapting and innovating to save time, money, and resources. Their situations range from the dire daily struggle to thriving success, even as the COVID economy struggles to rebound. Legacy Purchasing Group gives a new purchasing option for many: we can save businesses well over 50% on their office needs. We truly help the little guys get access to the perks that Fortune 500 companies get. Not only do we give free access to savings, but we also provide other business resources that focus on educating small businesses and startups. Our Do Good Business Mini-Series we started in 2020 has been a great value add to our business model.
Griffin: Based on your experience building your own company and working with other businesses what advice would you give those that are looking to “find” their long-term career and to make it one they enjoy?
(1) Be good at being productive: The 2,080 mindset vs. the 8,760 mindset.
There are two types of worlds when it comes to “working”: The 2,080 and The 8,760. Do you know the difference? There are 8,760 hours in a year. The entrepreneur never sees a “clock out.” They are dedicated and passionate and build their career into their lifestyle. There are 2,080 hours in a typical work year. This is the 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. work shift where you “clock out” when you leave. Where are you? Do you show up to work at 8 am and then shut down at 5 pm? The 8,760 gives you more flexibility, unlimited access to accomplish your goals, and the opportunity to have that work/life balance. Create the mentality of always being available. If you have not started your own business yet, take note that business owners ARE looking for the 8,760 person and it’s a question we always include in our interviews!
Be productive and efficient. Having that 8,760 mentality will create a sense of self-motivation which allows you to be more productive and not feel “stuck” in a boring job. You can do other things during the day without feeling guilty such as taking off early to go see your son’s football game or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend. When you are overworked or unmotivated, you will struggle to get things done. Do meaningful work and get rid of unnecessary stress.
(2) Create the right work environment.
I strongly encourage you to evaluate your current situation and ask yourself: “Are you encompassing yourself with those that have the same goals and objectives?” Hire the right people and create an environment where you consciously make every effort to mentor, inspire, and encourage that work/life balance. Get to know them at a personal level. Ask them about their family, their hobbies, their favorite places to eat! They are the backbone of your company.
(3) Avoid career complacency.
Complacency is common for many. It’s job security and being comfortable in your responsibilities. But is it challenging you and getting you to that next step in your career? Taking that leap of faith is never easy. Change can be scary. Have you ever heard of a business owner or leader tell you it was easy? That they never had doubts or possibly someone talking them out of their dreams? It can take years to find that “ah-ha” moment that shows you the path you need to be on and sometimes it takes a little push or stepping out of your comfort zone.
When you have designed the career you want and ready to make it a reality, I encourage you to do a lot of research and have your plan in place while in your current role. I have seen too many individuals quit their current job and jump into a new career or start a business too soon. Find time in the evenings or get up early. Don’t make excuses. And most importantly…have patience. Do not give up on your dreams!
Jill Griffin mentors women for corporate board service. She is the author of Earn Your Seat on a Corporate Board and Women Make Great Leaders. She is Vice-Chair (and Independent Board Director) for publicly traded Luby’s/Fuddruckers Restaurants LLC.
Jill is a Distinguished Alumnus and philanthropist for the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Business (Magna Cum Laude) and MBA degrees.
Her second year in grad school was her best! Jill was Advertising Manager for the Gamecock Newspaper overseeing seven talented reps selling advertising. Her team broke all school records! Read Less