Our Culture: Progress
Becoming our best as a company and individuals
Progress describes the ways in which we meet daily challenges and continue to grow as a company and as individuals. It includes new products and processes, sound financial management, and a willingness to accept diversity of opinion, continuously improve, and take a fresh approach to problem-solving. Progress is crucial to the present and future growth of Sargento.
Sargento encourages all employees to seek personal and professional growth through a variety of lifelong learning opportunities offered by the company. Each employee must also accept responsibility to remain professionally or technically proficient to meet the changing demands of our dynamic industry.
While many companies extol their professional development efforts, we’re aware of few companies that go to the lengths that Sargento does to help employees develop professionally – and personally. Our Lifelong Learning program encourages people to develop more than a career at Sargento. The program is designed to help employees pursue personal interests as well. We offer tuition reimbursement for classes from the associate degree level all the way to the doctoral level.
Our internal programs also work to foster learning in areas ranging from skill development to attitude reinforcement. The uplifting Enlightened Leadership initiative helped each of us learn personal responsibility for leadership. Other programs promise to be equally informative.
We’re very proud of our commitment to our employees and believe it is yet another aspect of our philosophy that distinguishes us from other companies. We believe that having more trained, skilled, and satisfied employees will clearly help us compete in the marketplace. This heightened ability to compete is only the secondary reason we stayed focused on employee development. The primary reason? Our employees are worth the investment!
Internal & External Customers
The Sargento corporate culture gives equal weight to our obligations to fellow employees, as well as to the people who buy our products. Both these groups can be considered customers. And when any organization loses focus on its customers – external or internal – it is doomed to failure.
It may seem unusual to describe employees as internal customers, but Sargento was built on the premise that every employee deserves to be treated like a customer in his or her relations with other employees. Our internal customers, namely fellow employees, deserve equal respect, equal consideration, equal urgency to that given to external customers.
Indispensable to Our Success
At Sargento our external customers are the buyers and owners of supermarkets, restaurants, commissaries, and mass merchandising outlets. They are the conduits to the ultimate consumers of our products. They are indispensable to our success. How we serve them determines our level of success.
Sargento has invested heavily in various programs and high-tech systems designed to improve customer service – Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), SAP business systems, Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), and our continuing commitment to other industries. These are tools or means to an end, not the end itself. The purpose of these tools is to help each of us recognize the absolute necessity of focusing our attention – maybe riveting is a better word - on our customer, be it in foodservice or in the retail business.
The programs being put in place are helping us to achieve many of our objectives in the area of customer service. However, Customer Focus goes beyond that. It’s a state of mind.
A long-standing spirit of innovation
Long a hallmark of our heritage, the Sargento spirit of innovation dates back more than 50 years – long before innovation was in vogue, long before other companies latched onto the concept as a business builder. Today, we remain every bit as committed to innovation as we were in our early years – and we do so not only because it boosts our business or helps us compete at retail, but because innovation is a foundation for continued strength.
Make no mistake about it, our innovations do distinguish us from our competition. We were the first company to introduce shredded natural cheeses, the first to develop the dairy case peg-bar system, and the first cheese company to use zippered resealable packaging. We created the Dairy Snack Center, Recipe Blend cheeses, and award winning Web sites such as mootown.com, which was one of the first child-oriented sites on the Web.
Sargento has also been recognized for innovative programs that meet the needs of other stakeholders, as well as customers. Wellness programs, Lifelong Learning, Enlightened Leadership, and involvement in non-profit endeavors such as SECAP and Habitat for Humanity demonstrate our willingness to act innovatively to benefit employees, families, and communities.
Innovation takes heart – and takes commitment. For every great innovation, there will be dozens of other ideas that don’t work out. We know this. We’ve learned this! The truth is that we have achieved stature in the food industry for pursuing many good ideas as well as a few great ones. Our spirit of innovation challenges all of us to dream, learn, and grow. It takes a lot of good ideas to come up with a great innovation.
Color Outside the Lines
It’s no coincidence that risk-taking is included in the progress section of our People, Pride & Progress initiative. We believe that in order for a company to progress it must foster an environment that encourages risk-taking. Similarly, we believe that employees often achieve greater progress when they step outside their “safety zone” and take calculated risks.
Many of the world’s greatest inventions were developed by people who didn’t play by the rules. People who were told their invention would never fly, or that no one would ever want a computer in their home. Where would we be if these inventors had played it safe? Fortunately for all of us, they had the courage of their convictions – and a spirit that embraced risk.
Why, you might wonder, would we ever encourage our employees to take risks? The answer is quite simple – it will make us a better company, with happier and more satisfied employees. Employees who take risks will help us to develop new products and processes. These employees will help us compete in the marketplace. They’ll help us offer new value and new services to our customers and other stakeholders.
These risks don’t have to be grandiose. For some of you, taking risk may be as simple as standing up in a meeting and saying, “I disagree.” For others, it can be as significant as championing a new product or process that’s not only new to Sargento, but new to the world.
Creating an environment of company and personal growth
Sargento has not experienced anywhere near that kind of turnover in its customer, employee, and investor groups. Instead it has maintained a solid customer base, a stable employee force, and a loyal investor group through its long history. Why? To a large extent it’s because it has achieved a continuous outstanding record of profitability and growth – profitability and growth as measured on the balance sheet and income statements.
But there is another form of growth – personal growth – that is equally important to the management of Sargento and should be of greater importance to every employee. The two go together – corporate growth and personal growth (as evidenced by the many employees who have taken advantage of the educational opportunities and training programs afforded them to help them become more valuable and more productive employees, and better citizens).
Sargento has attempted to create a climate in which personal growth is expected, recognized, and rewarded. We have encouraged more employee participation in the decision-making process. When employees “grow” as individuals – when they become partners rather than passengers – when they eagerly assume greater responsibility – when these things happen, the company can’t help but grow and become more successful and more profitable. Those profits are shared by those who make them possible and by those who have invested in the company. Most of the profits are reinvested in the company to keep our momentum going.
Good leadership is about much more than a title
At Sargento, we expect everyone who occupies a leadership role to radiate the confidence and enthusiasm befitting a leader. Good leaders don’t necessarily win popularity contest among those they lead, but they must have the respect of their followers. And how do you earn that respect? By treating people fairly, and by listening to their suggestions as well as their concerns and complaints.
A good leader is also a good listener. By maintaining an “open door policy,” a manager or department head encourages employees to come in and air their problems and voice their opinions. It fosters good communication. Nothing is more discouraging or breeds greater discontent than when a manager literally closes the door to employee suggestions.
A good leader – an enlightened leader – in addition to being a good listener, has to be a cheerleader, a teacher, a problem solver, and a visionary. It also helps to be a good communicator.
The cheerleader helps to bolster morale, in bad times as well as good. A good teacher explains what has to be done and how to go about doing it. The problem solver takes the time to address and solve a problem; he/she doesn’t turn away and tell you “that’s your problem.” As for the visionary part, author Warren Bennis put it this way: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”