Omaha Steaks: A Small Company Culture To Global Brand
How does a family-owned, small custom butcher shop grow into global business with more than 400 products and 2 million customers? By working hard to maintain its small company culture and values…
That’s the story behind Omaha Steaks®, manufacturer, marketer and distributor of a wide variety of premium steaks and other gourmet foods.
As fifth-generation owner, Todd Simon is responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s award-winning marketing programs and employee training initiatives.
While those initiatives were essential to the company’s growth, Simon also attributes its success to acommitment to original values and small company culture — including the many loyal employees who have been with the company for generations.
Monster: What were some of the unexpected challenges of growing a small company culture into a global brand?
Simon: We quickly learned that as you grow, there are many more moving parts within the organization. Our biggest challenge in the 1990’s, for example, was to ensure that the customer experience that we were delivering in our catalog, online, through business gifts and in our retail stores was cohesive and that we were communicating the same message across channels in the absence of all the tools we take for granted today like e-mail, high-speed computers and smart phones.
Monster: What company values were essential to maintain as the company expanded?
Simon: At Omaha Steaks®, for five generations we have lived by the philosophy that the customer is at the top of the organizational chart. Providing our family of customers with top quality products and services has always been an unwavering core value at the heart of everything we do. That philosophy is what has made us successful.
When the company started as a small custom butcher shop, it was much easier to personally know and serve our customers. It’s much more of a challenge today, but one we gladly accept.
In fact, the marketing channels available to us now actually provide us with more opportunities to connect with our customers and that’s what we do best. We listen to their suggestions; remember what steak they like best and remind them when one of their family members is celebrating a birthday. It’s all part of our nearly 100-year old customer-centric approach to business. The trick has been to retain those small company core values as we have grown.
Monster: What part did the company’s employees play in that success?
Simon: As a family-owned business, we have always considered our employees an extension of our family — all of us working together to serve our customers. It’s that teamwork that ensures our ongoing success. We are extremely fortunate to have great tenure within our employee base and we honestly feel that nepotism can be a good thing. We are unique in that not only do we have generations of our own family working together; we have generations of other families working with us, too. In fact, we have employees whose fathers and grandfathers worked together at Omaha Steaks® decades ago. That’s not something you find every day.
Monster: How has the company culture been shaped by its workforce?
Simon: Our workforce brings the integrity of the Omaha Steaks® brand and its reputation for quality to life. We are proud to offer an unconditional guarantee on everything we sell. We could not make that promise to our customers if we did not have complete confidence that our workforce could deliver. While we know that outsourcing has worked for others, we have never been comfortable with it. We want to be accountable and to own the customer experience from start to finish. Our workforce is very hands-on as we believe you can’t manage a business by remote control.
Monster: How has the staff evolved over time — how have you managed to maintain the small company culture as the company evolves?
Simon: The main evolution of our workforce has centered around technology as it has enabled us to improve the customer experience and to deliver value to our stakeholders. In an effort to keep our brand relevant, our team has developed new skill sets in all areas — IT, marketing and production.
Throughout this techno-revolution, however, we have never lost sight of our heritage or our dedication to bringing friends and families together to enjoy a quality meal. That is our company culture. We have lived it for nearly 100 years and our employees embrace it.
Monster: What is the company’s approach to employee engagement?
Simon: The work force at Omaha Steaks® is highly diverse. We operate three plant locations, two distribution centers, 80 retail stores in 26 states and a corporate office with nearly 2000 employees. Keeping employees engaged is critical to our ongoing success. We want our team of employees to feel empowered and to take pride in what they are doing.
Ongoing communication at all levels throughout the company keeps people informed and our management team is highly accessible and open to suggestions and new ideas. We also use employee recognition to spotlight outstanding employee performance, keep our corporate intranet current and host a formal annual planning process to encourage employee engagement and get input from all levels.
Monster: What recommendations do you have for small business owners who are looking to grow their company and maintain their original brand identity?
Simon: As a company, it is imperative that you fully recognize that your brand reputation is your most valuable asset. It can make or break your company. To be successful in growing your company, you must stay focused and realize you can’t be everything to everyone. You have to identify what it is that you do best and then do it better than anyone else — without exception.
It is also imperative to have accurate financial projections and to be properly capitalized, if not over-capitalized. In addition, you have to be strongly disciplined, especially in your marketing system, to ensure that you are getting the proper return on your investment. Moving from a small entrepreneurial company to a larger more professionally managed organization results in some loss of control. You have to get comfortable with having less direct control and frankly, you have to trust your senior management team and all of your employees more.