2018 Executive Excellence Awards: Craig Dawson, Retail Lockbox

The president and CEO of Seattle-based firm is one of this year's winners.
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This article appears in print in the February 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

This small, impressive company provides remittance processing to banks, utilities and municipalities across seven states, but founder Craig Dawson focuses much of his energy on concerns closest to home.

That philosophy is evident in his leadership style, which includes an office on the production floor, where he can regularly greet and speak with Retail Lockbox’s 65 employees. They process more than 1.5 million payments each month in a Central District facility not far from where Dawson grew up and where he knew, even as a youngster, “I wanted to build a business where people liked to come to work.”

Dawson steered the business to a successful transition from paper checks and microfilm recording to online payments, digital imaging and internet-based data retrieval. Retail Lockbox has been profitable in all but one of its 24 years. 

Off the production floor, Dawson devotes himself to issues of economic development and social equity. A founder and past president of Tabor 100, a civic group of African-American-owned businesses, he says, “I wanted to try to help black business be the best in the world, to compete,” primarily through improved contracting opportunities and greater diversity on company boards.

He also served on the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee, helping to craft a plan toward the $15 minimum wage, and has championed the education of African-American children in local schools.

Dawson’s community engagement informs and buttresses his view that Seattle’s growing pains need the insights of its business leaders. Problems like homelessness, education and transportation are solvable, he is certain, “if you bring in the innovation of business along with political needs.” 

See the full list of winners from the 2018 Executive Excellence Awards here.

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