One of the most clarifying moments of 2019 was when I received criticism for leading the business with “family values.” The critic believed that running the business with a value of “family” weakened our position, and that caring for people first will eventually be our demise.
To this, they may be right. Most businesses eventually fail, and we are not exempt from that reality.
Core values have to do with how a company behaves, rather than what it does. Like the blood running through our veins, core values are the company’s DNA. While what we do matters immensely, I believe how we do things matters more. To that end, I am here to say that if Hoffer Plastics fails because of how we do things—treating each other as family members, treating suppliers and customers like we would treat extended family, and treating the environment and community we inhabit as best we can since we are stewards of it—I will rest well when it is all said and done.
If, on the other hand, business is all about gaining the next percentage of margin while disregarding human relationships and partnerships, telling half-truths to gain an upper hand, demeaning the competition and even rooting for their demise, blaming the “other” when things don’t go our way, or exhausting all natural and community resources while failing to ever give anything of value back in return, then I want no part of it.
Like any family, we are not perfect. Like any family, this is best seen internally inside our walls. We have our share of people problems because we are human beings after all. These conflicts can be frustrating, even infuriating at times, but we deal with them best we can by always giving the human being the benefit of the doubt. “Sorry” is a word that gets its fair use because we are family. And as a reminder to myself, saying “sorry” must first be modeled by me.
Of course, there is a downside to family. Consultants have told the Hoffer family that we have often allowed poor performers too much runway, that we have failed to confront those problems, and that we can be taken advantage of both internally and externally because of these values. While I think there is some truth to these warnings, I continue to believe for all the reasons listed above that “family” makes us who we are, and clinging to those values is worth the risk.
So yes, we run the business differently than others. If a prospective team member only wants to climb the next step on the ladder, and does not value those around them, we are not for them. If a prospective customer only wants the lowest price and does not value a long-term relationship built on mutual trust and shared growth, we probably are not a good fit. And of course, it is politically correct for everyone to say they prioritize these values, but we aim to be the kind of people that actually live it.
To be sure, this is not the only way to run a business, and to the critics’ point, it may not even be the best. I make no claims that it is.
I just claim that the family core value makes us who we are.
This is what makes us Hoffer Plastics.