As president and owner of Premier Manufacturing, Inc., Edmond Johnson has applied his education and career experience to grow Premier Manufacturing Inc. to one of the largest, third tier, contract manufacturing operations in Colorado. Premier Manufacturing Inc. was recognized as one of the fastest growing companies by Colorado Biz Magazine.

Before founding Premier Manufacturing Inc., Edmond held various management and middle management positions in manufacturing operations and supply chain management with IBM, AST Computers, US Robotics, 3COM and Maxtor Corporation. He also is a graduate of the Ford Motor Company, Minority Dealership Training Program.

Edmond Johnson grew up in south central LA with a single mom who was a waitress. His dad was a custodian in Beverly Hills and at age 13, helped him get a job cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming floors. He was exposed to entrepreneurship through his uncle who owned a busy florist in LA. As a teen, he had a friend who went to jail and God turned his life around when he realized he could have gone too.

Edmond shared, “God never gave up on me. I should not be here. He saved me. I can look back and see the reason..

How has your background and race influenced your ability to connect and support your employees?

As an African American, it is in our nature to be compassionate, to reach out and embrace others, and to be spiritual. It is in our genes. We develop a “love thy neighbor” attitude because of everything we have been through as a culture.  When we get into positions of leadership, those are the characteristics from our upbringing that translate to how we treat people. I need to be forgiving and suppress judgement when my employees do something wrong. Compassion helps me connect with my employees. I have faced some of the financial struggles they are facing.  If my employees are suffering- then I’m suffering.

What are some of the ways you have supported employees who are financially struggling?

I internalize day to day obstacles my employees face and try to minimize and make them less impactful. For example, we have bought groceries, paid for burial expenses, and offered loans. Employees can borrow up to $1,000 twice a year. I have personally loaned money because I understand. I have suffered too. I communicate that when you come to work, you are not on vacation, but I am going to do everything I can to show that I empathize with you. When you are going through a tough time, I feel you. When you do not have insurance, I feel you.

What is one of the challenges you face as a business leader and how have you overcome these obstacles?

Specifically, as a Black business owner, I have experienced institutional racism. Sometimes it is blatant, sometimes it is an assumption, but it is validated across the lives of those who come from diversity. I have sensed hesitancy from other leaders to do business as there have been concerns that I cannot deliver.

I have come to accept these challenges.  I cannot control other people and their feelings toward me. All I can do is to perform in a way to suppress their feelings. I try not to get discouraged or give up and just keep my faith and keep marching forward. Without my faith, I would not be where I am. My mom told me, “You have to perform better. You cannot follow the crowd. You must be the first one there and the last to leave. You have to do more and set an example for those who come behind you.”

Why do you feel it is important to increase diversity in the workforce?

It is morally and ethically important for the survival of our country. We cannot be going down two different paths. We need to be more homogeneous and cannot be split. I am someone like you- my skin color is different- but we are very similar.

We should not be segregated in church or at work. We spend more time working around our employees than we spend around our families. I want to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” and treat our team members like family.