Culture is Core

Originally printed in the January 2021 issue of Produce Business.

Whether you are a small business with only a few team members or a large corporation with tens of thousands of employees, having a strong company culture that reflects core values can determine the difference between success and failure.

We live our lives based on our own personal values because they are important to us. They reflect how we see the world and how we want to be seen by the world. We make tons of decisions every day, and often without even realizing it, we base those decisions on our own personal values.

A business should operate the same way. To truly maximize potential, a business must identify its core values and build a company culture around those values in order to be successful. At S. Katzman Produce, for example, we live by our “HEART” values, but more on that later.

Every member of the team, at all levels of the business, must be aligned on what the company stands for, what it is trying to achieve and what methods should be used to get there. Everyone should be steering the ship in the same direction, using the same map, demonstrating unity across their various roles along the way. That’s company culture.

The results are, of course, what get measured and what you can “take to the bank,” but if you focus on the values that drive that work and instill them in your team, then the results will follow.

It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. It’s not what you meant; it’s how it was perceived. The results are, of course, what get measured and what you can “take to the bank,” but if you focus on the values that drive that work and instill them in your team, then the results will follow.

Company culture is the environment that exists as a result of the actions of a company and its people. It equips your team with the ability to do more than just execute. It’s a guide for how employees should approach their work and accomplish their goals, and it is visible in every transaction and customer experience that occurs. Company culture is what truly defines a company.

Being a wholesaler in the produce industry means being able to move and shake with the best of ’em, and our S. Katzman Produce team wouldn’t be where we are today without our company culture propelling us forward. As a 24-hour-a-day fast-paced business, we deal with highly perishable and temperature-sensitive goods, and we work in markets where supply and price change by the minute.

We communicate with growers and customers every day to formulate a plan of attack, and then Mother Nature comes in and has the final say, and can turn that plan upside down in an instant. We like to call it our world of organized chaos. With constant unpredictability around us at all times, I can tell you without a doubt that the reason we are successful is because of our strong company culture. We have procedures in place for just about everything, but it’s how we go about executing those procedures that is important and determines our future.

At S. Katzman Produce, we have an acronym for our core values — HEART:

Honesty in everything we do
Empowering to think contribute and succeed
Adapting to changing needs
Respectful of each other
Teamwork makes it happen!

HEART drives our company culture and we even call our workforce “Team HEART” as a nod to these core values that define who we are as a company. Our Team HEART community relies on each other to drive our business growth. Our HEART values guide our actions at work and in our personal lives. They are not rules we follow; they are words we believe in and live by. They are our playbook for delivering excellent customer experiences and supporting our amazing shippers around the world.

Our HEART values and our HEART community are what got us through the struggles of 2020. They are why we’ll persevere in 2021 and they are why we’ll continue to succeed and grow in the years to come.

My question to you, as you think about your own company, is this: Are you able to define your company culture and your company’s core values? Would your colleagues be able to do the same? How can you contribute to building a company culture based on core values within your organization?