Golden State Foods: A happy staff is a productive staff.
OCM: How do you convince employees and management to buy into the idea that trust and ethical behavior can be the difference between success or failure in the marketplace? MW: When you look back at the history of this company, it has always been a value-oriented organization. In 1998, we brought the creed into the organization. Now, it’s part of what we do every day. We talk about it during associate reviews, and we discuss it in planning meetings. It’s part of our everyday activity. It has become the fabric of this company. We measure ourselves against that creed, and the one thing I can state with confidence is that 95 percent of our associates are proud of the creed and what it says about our values. OCM: I’m a business owner. I’m listening to you and I understand what you’re saying. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to make money. How does all of this help my bottom line? MW: We get asked that question a lot when many of our customers for the first time have a chance to walk in one of our facilities. Many, many times, the statement is, “I’ve never seen the standards this high in these distribution facilities or manufacturing facilities. How can you afford to operate like this?” My response: How can you afford not to? It’s part of culture. We do it for ourselves and, equally important, our customers. It’s part of respecting yourself and our partners as professionals. It’s instilled in everything we do, and after a while it just comes naturally every day.
OCM: But how do you get from having no culture to your model that clearly is producing a bottom-line return? MW: You know, when you look at it, we’ve talked about strategy and structure and how important the culture is to wrap it all together. The fact of the matter is that once you get there, it’s instilled in the people. A good strong culture with a set of values and a philosophy statement can be the difference between success or failure. If people get confused, all they have to do is read the creed and understand what is expected and what the organization expects of them. It’s simplifies the business equation. Before you know it, the overall standards are lifted within the organization, and the success of your business follows. You can tell when you walk into a company with a strong set of values and culture to match. The standards are high, and the bottom line is equally impressive. You can tell when all of the associates at a company are singing out of the same hymnbook.
OCM: Specifically, what benefit have you seen from this organizational approach? MW: One of the greatest benefits is low turnover. I’m proud that our turnover rate is well below the industry average. It’s because our associates know what we stand for and what is expected of them. It is a business equation that works and delivers a measurable return to our bottom line.
OCM: I would miss an opportunity if I didn’t ask about leadership. Give me two or three keys to being a great leader in any organization. MW: It’s all about staying focused and utilizing your team. As a leader, it’s very important that the company’s mission is communicated to all the folks. Secondly, it’s about having a team that’s in place that is aligned with your core values and your philosophy on how you want to run your business. When they buy into the strategy, the culture piece just evolves naturally. If you can get that accomplished as a leader and it’s carried through the whole company, the management is much more collaborative. Here at GSF, we work together to make decisions; we work all the way through the organization to establish strategies. It’s not a top-down type of organization. In many ways, we’re a bottom-up style of organization. What makes it so good is that we all believe in the same thing. Working together as one will make a significant difference.