Lynn Perenic is the President and CEO of Argent Tape & Label, specializing in manufacturing and distributing custom printed adhesive media and industrial tape products, and Argent International, a full-service custom die cutter and fabricator. Emerging as an entrepreneur from a background of teaching special ed, Lynn harnessed her fierce, can-do attitude to bring both companies significant growth and success. Outside of work, Lynn enjoys scuba diving with her husband in Key Largo, Florida and visiting art museums with her daughter. Lynn has been a C200 member since May 2023.

Eva Glassman: Can you please introduce yourself and tell me what you do?

Lynn Perenic: I’m the President and CEO of two companies, Argent Tape & Label and Argent International. The easiest way to explain what we are is “pressure-sensitive, adhesive solution providers,” or “tapes and shapes,” and we deal primarily in the automotive industry. For example, if you find that your car has a taillight that leaks, our guys will help you find a material and shape that will allow the moisture to dissipate.

My husband bought Tape & Label, the smaller company, as an investment. I had retired from my career as a special education teacher and I thought, “I think I can run this company.” When I bought it from him for a dollar in 2011, it was on the brink of disaster—the sales were a disaster, but if you flash-forward to today, we’re closing in the millions.

My husband started Argent International, the larger company, in 1979. He’s a classic entrepreneur—lots of ideas. If he tells you to do something, he expects you’ll do it. Meanwhile, for me, because of my teaching background, if I tell you to do something, it’s because I don’t think you’re going to do it! [laughs] I’m someone who circles back to things to make sure they get done.

When COVID hit, my husband didn’t want to run Argent International anymore, so he sold me 51% of the company. That’s where we are today; we’re growing the business and making it a healthy, strong, and sustainable one. I’m also proud to say that we have all female leadership at the top. Our COO, Quality Manager, and Controller are all strong and exceptional women. I feel that we’re going to new heights with this team because no one is a quitter here.

EG: I’m curious to know more about how you think your teaching background has informed your career as a businesswoman. What about teaching specifically do you think has helped your success, and what are some other things you believe have affected it?

LP: Teachers need a plan; at Argent International, while they were very successful, they never had a plan. I compared the attitude to the Chevy Chase movie National Lampoon’s Vacation—they were going to Walley World and didn’t have a map. When I first started at the company and brought all the managers in for an initial meeting, I actually played them the clip from that film when they finally get to Walley World and it’s closed. I told them, “I don’t want to get to Walley World and find out it’s closed! We need to have a plan.” I wanted to solidify some long- and short-term objectives. As a special ed teacher, you have to write individual plans for each kid because each one has different needs. That experience helped me understand what I needed to do for Argent International. I took classes, read books, and went to seminars to get me up to speed about running a business. Every May, I take a week to establish next year’s plans and to reflect on where we currently are. I was thrilled that each old manager—I call them the “OGs”—were able to adapt to my new expectations and come up with plans. All those things—having actual processes in place—helped make the company stronger.

EG: It’s remarkable that you were able to come in and change the ways of these older managers so effectively!

LP: I’m not the girl who waits by the car for help, and they know that. Now, they’ve seen the success of the smaller company, which I run with an open book management approach—the idea that business is run like a game. Everyone likes to play a game and win. There are three basic rules: you must know and teach the rules—i.e., business planning—and then you keep score. You keep score via your various metrics—KPIs, income statements—and then you share a stake in the outcome. I do that through gain sharing quarterly. Since 2012, when it became profitable, Tape & Label has not missed a gain share. Again, I had to beat this company on the chest to bring it back to life. The OGs all see that success and want a share in it.

EG: Did you have any female mentors or inspirations going up in your career? Who are they and what about them do you admire?

LP: There aren’t a lot of women in the automotive space, so I had to look outside for guidance. I’m a member of the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, so there are a lot of very strong and successful women in that group that I look to. I have a good friend named Stormi Greener who’s an award-winning photojournalist. She’s gone on assignments in Iran, Pakistan, and many other countries, and seeing how she navigates a lot of the stereotypes about women in her profession is inspiring to me.

EG: It’s interesting that you’ve found inspiration in someone who has a totally different career path than you and took those lessons over into your own life and situation.

LP: One of my first experiences in this primarily male-dominated business, I walked into the office with a ponytail and heard a man down the sales aisle say, “So who’s the blonde ponytail coming in here?” When I turned around, it looked like a game of Whack-A-Mole; all the heads shot down into their cubicles. I later went out and bought a Barbie with a big blonde ponytail and stuck her on my desk. By the end of the year, one of the guys in the office made an acrylic ceiling for me to stick her fist into. That’s the kind of person I am!

EG: That’s so awesome. Perhaps related to that point, what does being a “woman in business” mean to you, and how do you apply that thinking to your work and life?

LP: My husband started the company from scratch; he was a one-man show, selling during the day and running parts at night. I feel pressure just to keep it successful; I don’t want to drop the baby, if that makes sense.

My ideas must work. I need to be able to see the entire playing field. As Wayne Gretzky once said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” This is how I have to think to win!

EG: What’s your idea of fun outside of work?

LP: We have a place in Key Largo that we go to in the winter where I love to fish and scuba dive. It’s a great escape from Michigan when we’re able to get down there. Since COVID brought in remote working, it’s been great to attend meetings and escape the winter all at once!

I also love to go to museums. My daughter was an art history major, so it’s always fun to go with her. She and I would go together as far back as when I pushed her in a stroller.

EG: What’s your advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs and corporate leaders as they advance their own careers?

LP: Don’t give up. Set goals for yourself. Sometimes it looks like you’re going to fail, but keep pushing forward. I have a sign outside my office that says, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”

In my early days of running the company, I became interested in the scarab. A scarab is a dung beetle, and what do dung beetles do? They push dung uphill. Backwards. That’s what I told my team members: just keep pushing.

EG: That’s a very strong image.

LP: Why was the dung beetle an important animal for the Egyptians? Inside the ball of dung is the larvae. To the Egyptians, that meant it was a renewal of life, so I was really interested in the image because, in a strange way, it’s so positive and forward-thinking.

EG: What are you most looking forward to as a new C200 member?

LP: I’m excited about meeting other women who are driven, who see something out there and want to go for it, who have ideas they’re willing to pursue, even if it scares them. I always love to hear new ideas because ideas from others sometimes spark something in you. I’m really looking forward to meeting all these women in San Diego for the Annual Conference in October!