The Heart of American – Community

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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.

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American employees clean up the roadside for Adopt A Highway

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.

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Serving hot cocoa to community members during Glenwood’s holiday parade

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.”

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Chef Justin Zavadil and Greg “Chicken Legs” Nelson at the Chili Cookoff benefiting Glenwood & Beyond

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.

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