Andy Hanacek

The 2004 Red Sox were an aberration. Yes, I said it: the team that broke the much-ballyhooed Red Sox curse and won the World Series was a rarity and something toward which no team or business should aspire.

Sure, they were the champions — the best in the world (though other international baseball fans might dispute that, but I digress). But it was the worst-kept secret that players’ personalities did not mesh and team chemistry was not ideal — it made for a great, “Even though these guys are so different, they still won it all,” kind of story.

The fact remains, however, that in business, there is no “I” in “team.” Period. In my time touring the industry’s plants and interviewing executives and human-resources professionals, a positive, inclusive corporate culture (or “team chemistry”) has often been the most bragged about (or most coveted) aspect of most businesses I’ve seen. Those processors who involve and engage their employees, all the way down the ladder, seem to have the greatest success, not only at making money and selling product, but also at recruiting and retaining employees.

Yes, last month, The National Provisioner highlighted its HREVOLUTION Awards winners, and I, in this very space, applauded those winners. Often, if you read between the lines in our stories, you will find that most companies that have done well, particularly in tough economic times, have their human-resources strategies to thank, in part, for keeping knowledgeable, experienced and top-notch employees happy and able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

This month’s spotlight is on Land O’Frost — a company that could not have made the tectonic shift in strategy it made earlier this decade without having its employees’ buy-in. Sure, management could stuff the ideas down the throats of those below them on the ladder, but, as Donna Van Eekeren, chairman and CEO says, Land O’Frost lets “smart people do their jobs well.” In turn, those smart people have carried the company through tough economic times and a major transition from a private-label focus to a retail-brand and specialty-meats focus.

Without the proper corporate culture, innovation sounds great in the upstairs offices, but dies on the floor. A lack of proper corporate culture becomes a black hole through which experience, skills and knowledge disappear as top employees depart and are replaced in a vicious cycle.

With the right culture in place, any company can weather any storm and, as a group, significantly alter the course of a major corporation toward a positive outcome, even when the deck appears stacked against it.

How does your company’s culture stack up? There’s no better person to ask than those on the floor. It’s time to warm up to your employees — they hold the keys to your success.