You won’t find it written on plaques hanging on the wall. Nor will it be emblazoned on letterhead or notepads lying on a desk. However “it” makes all the difference in how Vita Plus Corp. goes to market and is the key driver to its success.
“It” is the simple phrase “employee-owned,” that appears underneath the company logo. Although it holds a subordinate position in the graphic sense, it is the dominant point of light which guides the company and is the bedrock of its operating principles.
“As an employee-owned company we direct our focus not so heavily on monthly, quarterly or yearly results, rather our business view is based on three- to five-year outlooks,” says Robert Tramburg, president/CEO, Vita Plus Corp. “When looking at the big picture and concentrating on our key focus areas, managing for the long-term success of our customer base typically results in short-term successes.”
There are key focus areas which direct Vita Plus’ management teams at its seven primary manufacturing locations and 75 dealers. These areas are safety (including food safety), quality, service, efficiency and growth.
As employee-owners, anyone working for Vita Plus comes to work each day knowing their efforts must serve these areas in some way, shape or form. They also know the best way to serve these operating ideals; both begin and endswith the end user/customer.
“This approach works for us because we start at the farm and work backward,” says Tramburg. “That is why it is critical to our success that we have decentralized the management and decision-making functions of our company, putting those tasks in the hands of those closest to the marketplace.
“We can’t really make effective management decisions for our customers in northern Wisconsin or Michigan from here in Madison,” he notes. “That is why we hire knowledgeable, talented managers who know the marketplace and the specific needs of the end user.”
Ask some of the facility managers and each will tell you a main reason for their facilities’ success and growth comes from the de-centralized operating structure.
“Serving a diversified customer base with operations of all sizes, having the ability to react quickly to a customer’s needs without having to run decisions by a group of people a couple hundred miles away is the key,” says John Every, general manager, Vita Plus, Loyal, WI. “Our staff of nutritionists, agronomists, drivers, millers and office staff are deeply vested in our customers and have intimate knowledge of their goals and needs. Keeping the decision making with those who know the customer best ensures our meeting the expectations set by our focus areas.”
Working from the inside out
While the focus areas provide a solid foundation for their operating platform, Vita Plus earns its stripes on the day-to-day mission of delivering optimum quality and customer service.
Since most of the manufacturing facilities were purchased as existing mill operations, Vita Plus, in many cases, had to play the hand they were dealt in terms of the size, capabilities and customer base. In following true to form, Vita Plus worked from the “inside out” which entailed getting to know the customers, gauging the potential for growth and putting the pieces in place to deliver a high-quality feed product that helps boost performance and profitability.
“Success is no accident, it comes from a strategic approach to making sure that customer is doing what’s best in terms of what they’re feeding, how they are feeding it and our understanding of the goals set for their operation,” says Craig Gerritsen, general manager, Vita Plus, Columbus, WI. “That’s accomplished not by pushing computer keys but by getting out of the chair and onto that customer’s farm and seeing firsthand, what’s going on. That’s how we start adding value, by knowing their operation as deeply and completely as they do.”