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Terry Leon (The Globe and Mail)
Terry Leon (The Globe and Mail)

The Rules: Terry Leon

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100 years, 64 stores, 3,750 employees from coast to coast and Leon's is still, very much, a family business.

After a century the furniture retailer stands as a testament to the hands-on, almost folksy, leadership of three generations of the Leon family.

Terry Leon, who added CEO to his title of President in 2005, is just the latest, taking over from his cousin. Terry's dad, Tom, who is well into his 80s, is still a member of the board.

Terry, like all of the Leons involved in the business, has worked for the company just about his whole life. He remembers his first job folding flyers when he was seven. He attributes the company's longevity and success to long standing, conservative business practices: they prefer to own rather than lease, they're very selective about who gains a franchise and the company remains strongly capitalized.

Terry Leon sees that strong capitalization as a key to riding out the current economic downturn. He believes it will let the company take advantage of buying opportunities.

He also likes to see Leon's as a very open company. The fact that he has to be one of the very few big CEOs who returns his own phone calls and e-mails seems to bear that out.

Report on Business talked to Terry Leon about the challenges of running an iconic family business, at the company's airy "Home" office in Toronto.

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