Monday, July 17th, 2017

OF COURSE, HANNAFORD BROS. CO. IS MY FAVORITE COMPANY

A few weeks back I wrote about a couple of companies I said I loved–as in felt a fondness toward them. One was LL Bean and one was Delhaize, Belgium. Both were family originated with a core set of values that were still alive. In fact it’s odd how values permeate a company and won’t let go even during times of change and challenge. Often you know the values are active and alive by the pain of the change. They may go underground, but in my experience the values are in the DNA and will stay alive to be prominent again. (That’s a topic to explore more.)

But now I want to pledge my troth to the company I grew up in professionally–Hannaford Bros. Co. from 1985-2006 joining with the Delhaize Group in 2000.
How do I love it? Let me count the ways:

—From my first day, the company crackled with competence. It was striking to me after some of my other work experiences. People knew what they were doing, they got it done and expected others to do the same. One characteristic was that people walked fast. I promise. Visiting vendors or consultants were left in the dust trailing behind the Hannaford person. Urgency personified

—It had steady Eddy talent development systems in place. Good talent was brought in with a disciplined (and fun) approach.  Work was actually reviewed. Bonus’ were given. A performance problem was addressed. Fairly.

—Innovation happened. There were far reaching experiments and pilots from self-managed
warehouses to home delivery to re-structures of functions to leadership retreats that were
bold in how they were designed.  And all innovation had the HBC approach of prudence and
tight relationship to the consumer i.e.the business

—We laughed. We had energy. We had confidence we could meet the challenge. We were
proud without honking about it.

—People were not fenced in. Talent was put to good use above and beyond formal roles.
As a new OD professional in the HR department I was immediately put to use with a group designing a new warehouse and another that was creating a new store format–while I did all the other parts of my formal role as well.

—I was never bored. Right, when I might have been, I would be promoted or assigned to something challenging–a downsizing done right, a major strategy retreat, a Board presentation on Diversity.

—I liked the leaders when they were my bosses and when they became my colleagues.
We all had flaws, some huge, most laughable, but I liked them as people. I liked going to work.

—All people at all levels were real. We talked about the grit of our lives, the pain of our lives,
funny funny stuff that happened to us, stories at our own expense. No one put on airs, least of all the CEO’s.

—It was a decent company. Analysts joked about HBC being boring–well managed, good profits,
great talent, high integrity (code for boring). I believe they may have said we were like a Scout troop in being wholesome.

I think I’ll stop on that last statement. Wouldn’t you like to hear people say that about where they work or about the government?  It is so far from boring. It is extraordinary.

So, for those of you who asked–Hannaford Bros. Co. is my favorite company.

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