Laughter and light-hearted teasing fill the conference room at the Deli Star Inc. facility in Fayetteville, Illinois, and the family and friends that make up the executive team like it that way. It’s ingrained in the company culture. The members of the Siegel family, and friends of the family, form a tight knit group. Everyone at Deli Star whether related or not – one plant employee has been with the company since its beginning 30 years ago – operates as a family.
Many members of the team played sports at the college level and have a history of outstanding athletic achievements and performance. The backgrounds in sports do more than simply give the executives a sense of teamwork, they instill the desire and drive to be the best and provide the experience of singular focus and sacrifice for the betterment of the whole.
Many in the business world believe that hiring friends and family can cause problems, but Justin Siegel, president of the company and son of Dan Siegel, Ph.D., chairman of the board and founder of Deli Star, and Mike Weber, director of operations and Siegel family friend disagree. Deli Star embraces the qualities that come from knowing a person on a deeper level.
“I see way too many soft skills and advantages that come out of that [hiring friends and family],” Justin Siegel says. “Friends will go to bat for you and we can train them on the hard skills. The trustworthiness, the honesty, our values; the things we look for we find in our friends and family.”
Bill Barrows, director of human resources, and the person who helped define Deli Star’s company culture believes that family and friends are the model to pattern company culture after. “Look at what makes the family successful and that’s what defines this place,” Barrows says of Deli Star. “Plain and simple honesty, love, care, truthfulness, helping one another and communication, those are the things that work here.” In addition to Dan and Justin Siegel, Andrew Siegel, Justin’s younger brother serves as the company’s director of supply chain management, and it’s not the result of nepotism.
Dan Siegel encouraged his children to explore career opportunities outside of the company, and they did. Justin worked in the insurance business out of college and Andrew interned and had a tempting job offer from Tyson Foods, but both gravitated back to the family business and fit into the positions they took seamlessly.
Sara Dietrich, manager of sales and marketing and account manager, attended the same high school as the Siegel brothers and has also known the family for years. Dietrich believes the Deli Star atmosphere is a gift and has a gratitude that stems from it. “It makes it a nice place to come to every day, it’s not work, it’s fun, it’s enjoyable,” she says.
The management team feels that bringing friends and family into the company provides the advantage of really knowing a person before pulling the trigger on something as important and costly as a new hire. Someone’s resume and interview skills can be exemplary, but to get to know a person well, and know whether or not they fit the culture, takes time.
Deli Star’s extended family doesn’t stop at the company walls. It moves beyond those employed at the company to local and regional churches, schools, food banks and charities. “We see the members of our community as if they are part of our family,” Justin says. Deli Star donated 84,000 lbs. of cooked meat amounting to nearly $220,000 to various organizations across the region in 2015.
Caring for family
The fact that Deli Star is a family business comes through in the treatment of its employees, as well as its commitment and dedication to their well-being. “The most gratifying thing is being able to serve,” Justin says, and the upper management is very grateful for what the employees at Deli Star do for the company, he adds.
One way Justin Siegel serves the employees at Deli Star is through “Breakfast with the President.” Once a month, up to 10 employees randomly selected by Barrows join him for breakfast. A local, popular breakfast eatery caters the event. A business update on the company, organizational changes and current news, and how to move the organization forward while providing the highest level of quality and service cover the first half of the informal meeting.
The second half of the breakfast agenda consists of an open forum for employees to express what’s on their minds, how upper management can make Deli Star a better place to work and any questions they may have. “It’s really an important tool for promoting employee engagement that leads to innovative ideas,” Justin says.
Management and the company as a whole make a focused effort to take care of employees and one another as individuals the same way that family members care for each other when it comes to complete wellness. Deli Star’s wellness specific mission statement is “To improve health, well-being and quality of life of all Deli Star employees by empowering people to promote and model positive attitudes and behaviors through a lifelong commitment to wellness.”
At Deli Star, the different programs, activities and amenities offered reflect the mission statement and cover a wide spectrum. A fitness facility and wellness programs such as yoga and rock climbing, give employees the tools to stay in shape both physically and mentally. When needed, there’s a meditation room that can be used to decompress and relax. Another stress-relieving option is outdoors, where employees share space in a community garden where everything from spices to fruits and vegetables are nurtured in assigned spots.
“It’s an innovative HR approach,” Justin says of the strategies and efforts Deli Star makes to ensure overall well-being among employees. “I’ve worked with [Bill Barrows] to do growth plans for all my staff that just aligns their growth plan with [Deli Star’s] and aligns up those values. That’s been the most fun,” he adds. To make sure employees get the most they can from working at Deli Star, the company provides traditional and newer medical technology ranging from yearly flu shots to biometric screening.
“It’s all free for employees and their spouses and is an example of our alignment with our foundational culture to sustain a safe, healthy workplace,” Barrows says. “When we take those things and give them to our employees, that makes them feel comfortable and gives them a clear mind so they can do what they do well here, and they do incredible things every day.”