Anyone who’s familiar with our company’s structure knows that our founder and CEO, Larry Zavadil, values family above all else. His son, Justin is now the President of American, and Larry has always considered the sales reps and employees as part of the “American Family” – a support system of people who care deeply about each other and what they do. This attitude has created a space where actual family businesses can thrive.
When Douglas and Sandra Shuff joined American Solutions for Business 21 years ago, they had no idea it would become the thriving family business it is today. Now, their daughter Kristina has joined their sales team and strives to learn as much as she can from her parents while applying her own unique skill set to the business. Here’s what she has to say about this partnership:
What is your favorite part about working with your parents?
I’ve seen the highs and lows of the business and I know that it is the best career I can have because of that. Honestly going on sales calls with my dad is pretty awesome. Not only is it fun, but it’s pretty cool to see how respected he is with is clients. As a child you don’t normally get to see your parents in their professional element, but now that we work together it’s been an honor to experience that. My mom has been my cheerleader and advocate over the past year. I know being a second generation American has given be a huge advantage in this business.
What have you learned from working with each other?
I’ve learned how good my parents are at what they do. They each have roles working together that make the overall business successful. I know they have learned a lot from me as well when it comes to social media, networking, and just changing things up. Bringing a fresh prospective to things and learning from their years of experience has been a good mix for all of us.
What was it like growing up with your parent(s) in this industry?
My parents work a lot and always have – they probably work too much, but with that said they always found time to be at things. My parents attended close to 95% of my volleyball games, field trips, school events (as a teen sometimes when I didn’t want them there). My dad might have been on his cell phone while at my volleyball game, but he was there. My parents have always had a home office that provided all of kids access to our parents whenever we needed them. Not too many kids have that. I got to work for them filing a lot of amber colored invoices to earn a little bit of money too. The culture of American encourages the importance of family. I always loved getting my birthday card from Larry growing up and now my kids are getting them too. (That’s pretty cool). The real reason I came on with American is to have balance in life that no other career can provide. I’m passionate about the work I do because it allows me to work full-time and be a mom and wife. Before American, I tried to squeeze my life around my work. It’s been the best thing for my family and my career. I don’t think I would have done a career like this if I had not grown up with it. Being on a 100% commission income can be a little nerve wracking, but with the support of my family and American, I’m confident that I can succeed in this business.
Executive Vice President, Justin Zavadil, shares his thoughts on community, and how American Solutions for Business upholds this value in everything we do.
American has seven core values that drive its mission and help guide the decisions and direction made by the Senior Leadership Team. They are: Community, Entrepreneurial Spirit, Success of Stakeholders, Fairness, Healthy ESOP, Relationships and Balance. It is basic human nature to want to be part of something bigger, so let’s talk about community and what it means for us.
As a company with over 600 sales people across the country, you can imagine that our community is quite large. Of course, we support our local Glenwood, Minnesota community, but we believe we can make a difference in the local communities of our sales associates and their customers as well. This is one definition of what community means for American. We support these local communities monetarily and on a volunteer basis. Every year during the budgeting process, we set aside funds that will go directly to organizations and associations in need. We get requests from places near the home office and from sales associates and their customers. We analyze these opportunities and make donations accordingly. We also have committees with very gracious employees who donate large amounts of their time volunteering and hosting fundraisers to better our communities and their members. It always amazes me how much our team can make people’s lives better. There is hardly a community member in need that goes unnoticed by the dedicated employees of American.
Another way I like to interpret community as a core value is the idea of making our company itself a stronger community. Frequently, we talk about the “American Family” and families are a lot like communities. Sure, at times, we have our differences and arguments but we band together when we need each other. We all have the best interest of the community/company at heart, and we need to strive for a stronger sense of togetherness. In the article: Rebuilding Companies as Communities, Henry Mitzberg touches on communities at work. He says, “Individualism is a fine idea. It provides incentive, promotes leadership, and encourages development – but not on its own. We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves. This is what is meant by “community” – the social glue that binds us together for the greater good.”
The idea of “communityship” is very clear in the article by Mitzberg. He talks about leadership being important, but it is worthless without the community that it fosters. “Communityship certainly makes use of leadership, but not the egocentric, “heroic” kind that has become so prevalent in the business world. We make a great fuss these days about the evils of micromanaging – managers’ meddling in the affairs of their subordinates. Far more serious is “macroleading, or ”the exercise of top-down authority by out-of-touch leaders.” As you all know, at American, we have a very lean management team that does not have the luxury of being out of touch with the day-to-day operations. This structure was created by design and it enhances our sense of community. The Senior Leadership Team needs to have the ability to roll up their sleeves and get into the weeds at times when needed, but also have the confidence in their managers to do what is best for the company. In the past two years, we have made a conscious effort to do a better job of training and developing our middle managers. They are the future of our company and our community.
As you can see, community is a core value and important to our success for a very good reason. This company is a family that cares about each other and the people who are impacted by it and its family members. We will always strive to be involved in our employees’ lives and will always do what is necessary to make their lives better and more fulfilling.
Looking for fresh ideas for summer promotions? Retail home and fashion trends inform the industry product development and keep you and your customers on the cutting edge. Check out the top trends for summer – in color, form and function.
Military Inspired – leather accents, buckle closures, extra pockets and a utilitarian feel inform luggage and bag designs. The rucksack is hot – with a drawstring closure plus flap and buckles, this trend is all over high-end handbags. Camo continues to be popular – beyond hunting and camping. And military jackets and accessories just ooze cool casual.
It follows that rugged durability would inform function in our industry. Clearly evident in drinkware, dual-wall stainless steel with vacuum insulation, shatter resistant plastics and reinforced finger hooks or carabiner clips continue to be popular.
Color trends are all over the board. Super brights like electric blue, almost neon sunshine yellow, and hot orangy reds are everywhere – from shoes to bags to dresses. You’ll see these color trends in bags, coolers, writing instruments, and drinkware especially.
Yet one of the hottest (or coolest) hues is “Niagara Denim Blue” – a muted blue with gray undertones that works almost as a neutral. This color is popping up everywhere, from home decor to apparel to handbags. Look for Niagara Denim Blue in promotional apparel and bags.
Stripes of all kinds continue to be popular – but this summer, the bigger the better. We are seeing this trend translated in promotional tote bags and cooler bags as both exterior fabric colors and interior liners.
Visit bicgraphic.com for more great ideas for summer.