Alan Crane: A Remembrance
“To my dad, it was always about the people,” said Bruce Crane, the youngest of Alan’s three children. (He also had three stepchildren he loved as his own, as well as 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was happily married to his supportive wife Lori for 41 years.) Bruce joined his father at Crane Carton in 1982 and became COO in 1994. His sisters, Beth and Jennifer, also worked for Crane Carton for a period of time, in customer service and quality assurance. Following the acquisition, father and son both stayed on for four years to maintain leadership continuity; they served as senior manager and general manager, respectively, of Caraustar Chicago Carton. In August 2002, the elder Crane said to an industry reporter, “If we hadn’t told our employees that we had sold the company, they wouldn’t even have known.”
But they did know. In fact, they knew lots of things about Crane Carton. And they knew because Alan and Bruce and the rest of the management team told the staff things most people in their positions wouldn’t have. During an interview with a writer at Crain’s Chicago Business in early 2000, Crane spoke of the culture he had in mind when he started the company. “I wanted a place where everyone would pull together, contribute to solutions. I wanted them to understand a profit and loss statement, to read a balance sheet, to know how profits are made,” he said.
At the suggestion of Crane Carton’s quality assurance manager and campaigning by several on the management team, Crane agreed to set up classrooms for staff training. He enlisted faculty from DePaul University to teach English, math and computer skills; vendors came in to train on equipment maintenance; and Alan himself taught the staff about finance—and he would literally walk through the company’s P&L line by line. “‘What good is a profit-sharing plan if you’re not going to share the P&L?'” Bruce recalled his father saying. “He’d get up there and talk about how things like spoilage and downtime affected profits, how money falls down to the bottom line, and he’d seek input about equipment investments. Dad also believed managers were there to support employees, so if we were teaching a course to the third shift, we did so during the third shift, like at 2 a.m.”