2010 Hall of Fame: George Manlove, CEO and President of Vann’s

Mastering the Calculated Risk

You’re at the top of your game and well-respected in all corners of the industry. You’ve built one of the strongest retail brands in your region AND online. Isn’t it time to sit back a bit, take it easy and let the solid foundation you’ve created carry your business along?

Many executives would answer, “Yes.” George Manlove, president and CEO of the seven-store Montana-based Vann’s and Vanns.com, isn’t one of them. Instead of sitting back, he enrolled last September in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management’s Executive MBA Program.

“It didn’t surprise me because he sets a high bar for himself,” said Walt Stinson, co-owner of A/V specialist ListenUp and vice president of the PRO Group, where Manlove serves as chairman. “As a company becomes more successful, the complexities increase. But it’s the rare person who can rise to address those complexities.”

Manlove has successfully addressed the many complexities of retail since taking over Vann’s more than 25 years ago. But he believes his greatest achievement at Vann’s was creating an e-commerce site when practically no one else in retail was doing it, and then seeing it progress into one of highest-ranked sites in the industry.

It was 1997 and “we were ready to take on the world,” Manlove said. It was a bold statement, but when you look back on his career the move was a logical step.

To begin with, Manlove never thought he’d return to his hometown of Missoula, Mt., which happened to be the home of the original Vann’s, which happened to be owned by Pete Vann, who happened to be the father of Manlove’s high school sweetheart Jill. By 1982, the two had married, graduated from the University of Washington and were loving life in Seattle. Manlove had a great job at Apple, where he worked in the training division just as the company was launching the Mac. “Steve Jobs was so passionate,” Manlove said, still impressed by the influence and success a strong business leader can achieve. “He made you believe failure is not and option, that we’re going to do things differently and win.”

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  • Why Not

    Gee, take the money and run – run it into the ground! Thousands for interior decor and wife is an interior decorator. Don’t need to draw me a picture. Took the business and picked it clean. What a legacy!

  • The Truth

    Manlove is smack dab in the middle of a 21 million lawsuit. He is alleged to have breached his corporate duties as a CEO and breach of his fiduciary responsibility to protect this 100% employee owned business. He went back to school (paid for all inclusively by Vanns) because he was planning on leaving the company and find another exceutive job once he graduated. He took advantage of his job position, his father-in-laws trust and thousands of industry manufacturers and thousands of customers and the employees stock plan. He burned through 8 million in cash reserves in a few years by crazy non approved ventures and bankrupted the company. Hall of Fame? more like the "Hall of Shame"