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By BECCA OWSLEY
ELIZABETHTOWN — When Brian Kerr attended Thursday’s Elizabethtown-Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, he thought it would be like any other until he noticed the description of the 2008 Small Business Person of the Year resembled his life story.
The employees who nominated him for the honor had kept it a secret until that day.
Kerr became the owner of the former Bean Everything for the Office in Elizabethtown and T&W Office Product in Radcliff in September 2006, now combined and under one name, Kerr Office Group.
He said he was honored and humbled to be recognized.
“It was an honor considering those who have received it before me and others in the community that are much more deserving, so much so that today when they announced it, I got choked up and couldn’t speak,” Kerr said.
“His (Kerr’s) philosophy is that no employee is more important to the company’s success than another,” John Wright, sales and marketing manger at Kerr Office Group, said in the nomination letter.
“Although the cost of doing business continues to increase, Brian continues to reward his employees for their wonderful customer service and sales efforts,” Wright said.
His employees also were impressed that even though local contractors worked on renovations to the business, Kerr could be found working and painting.
“Its not often you see the president and CEO of a company covered in dust and dirt with a sledge-hammer in his hands,” Wright said.
Kerr was honored to be nominated by his employees saying that everyone in the company is a part of the team that keeps things going.
“I surround myself with good people and that’s how I got to this point for the award today because we have a great leadership team and great employees and we all work together,” Kerr said. “Where I may be weak, I’ve got someone else that’s strong that can pull everything else together.
“I’m just at the top of a company but it’s everyone under me that makes it happen,” Kerr said.
As a small business, his company is able to participate more in the community than chain stores.
“If you go to the ballpark all you will see is the local businesses supporting the teams and local businesses give back to the community that you are a part of,” Kerr said.
Community is a concept he passes along to employees.
“I can say that Brian truly epitomizes what civic pride in one’s community is all about,” said Tim Peace, Kerr Office Group account executive. “He always stresses the point that we all buy from and deal with local business as much as humanly possible — regarding his community involvement, his actions speak for themselves.”
The growth of his business and his accomplishments are a small part of who Kerr is as a leader.
“Most importantly to me he stresses integrity as a byword in our business and he has surrounded himself with people that share in those same values,” Peace said.
Kerr attributes his ethical way of doing business to his Christian background and home.
“Something I tell our employees is I never want them to make a sale just to make a sale,” Kerr said. “I don’t want them to make a sell and when they walk down the street they have to turn their head and look away or sit beside someone at church and have to avoid that person — we can do without that sale.
“The most important thing for me is that we have integrity and are honest with our clients,” Kerr said.
He said he is successful because of a work ethic learned from his parents, Betty and Bob Kerr of Elizabethtown, and many people he has learned from throughout his life.
“My father has owned his own business for 40 years and is an extremely hard worker and many people have been around to guide me along the way,” he said.
Under Kerr’s leadership, the company serves areas around the state; even branching as far as New York City for a recent job but his focus remains local. He's involved in many community organizations such as serving as a director of Helping Hand and Junior Achievement, a baseball and soccer coach and deacon at Severns Valley Baptist Church.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.