United, We Serve

Carissa Eatmon – [Marketing and Communications Coordinator]

One of the most unique things about Keller Schroeder as a company is our caring group of employee-owners and their generous hearts. The culture we have fostered emphasizes making positive impacts on people, and our employee-owners continually do this through charitable giving, camaraderie, and joining forces behind causes that directly impact our community. This fall presented us with many opportunities to work together to give back to our community, including to one of our own facing her own battle.


day-of-caringUnited Way’s Day of Caring – September 9th, 2016

Each fall, businesses in the surrounding area allow their employees to spend time volunteering alongside the United Way of Southwestern Indiana on a single day known as “The Day of Caring.” This year’s “Day of Caring” was held on September 9th. Volunteers first met at the Old National Events Plaza for a kick-off breakfast. They then headed to areas in need all over the community. This year, our President Larry May worked with Payne Wealth Partners to assist the Evansville Association for the Blind.

 


Komen Evansville Race for the Cure – September 28th, 2016rftc-the-girls

September also marks our community’s annual Susan G. Komen’ Race for the Cure. Thousands of runners and walkers gather along side breast cancer survivors and their families to raise funds and awareness. This year’s Race for the Cure was particularly meaningful for our Keller Schroeder family. Our Inside Product Manager Dezarae Loewen is currently battling Stage 2 breast cancer. Our employee-owners banded together to walk or run to help find a cure and show our love and support for Dezarae. It was a hot one, but we had a blast “Doing It for Dez!”


United Way Giving Campaign Company Picnic – October 4th, 2016united_way_logo-svg

The end of September brings Keller Schroeder’s United Way Giving Campaign, where employee-owners commit to giving to the United Way of Southwestern Indiana for the following year. Our campaign for 2017 was another huge success, with our employee-owners opening their hearts and wallets to support this amazing organization. To cap off our campaign, we always host an outdoor picnic to celebrate. We used this year’s picnic to thank and celebrate our staff for their generous pledges, and as a way for our group to come together to show our support for Dezarae Loewen. It was a great day filled with food, prizes, fun, and lots of love. Thank you once again to our employee-owners and their families!
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Vision Trumps Strategy

We businesspeople love our strategies.  We conduct strategy meetings and summits, develop strategic plans, and more.  And yet on a recent mission trip to El Salvador I was reminded, perhaps more vividly than ever, that vision trumps strategy.  If you don’t know your destination, a map for getting there is pretty useless.

 Sus-HijosKurt Ackermann is a missionary and founder of Sus Hijos (Spanish for “His Children”), a non-profit organization in El Salvador dedicated to serving orphaned and abandoned children, under-resourced families, and the homeless in this impoverished, crime-laden Central American country. This year was the second time I had served on a team hosted by Kurt and Sus Hijos.

To summarize Kurt’s passion for El Salvador, I would say he wants to help kids and families from “hard places” find their way socially, economically, and spiritually.  It should be no surprise, then, that a Sus Hijos mission team agenda typically includes serving and doing projects in orphanages, prisons, and transition homes for older youth.  Would it surprise you, though, if Sus Hijos opened a United States-themed diner in an upscale business and retail district in the capital city of San Salvador?

States DinerOn a trip with Kurt four years ago, I heard him share his dream of opening the “States Diner” as it is now called, a place where young adults who “age out” of orphanages can find employment, job skills training, and income when they would otherwise have nowhere to go but the streets.  Kurt didn’t come to El Salvador to start a diner.  He was drawn there by a vision to help lift up struggling kids and families in a country where there are very limited government support services.

While enjoying a couple of meals at the diner on my recent trip, I had the benefit of seeing its impact firsthand.  I saw hard-working, hope-filled smiling faces who are learning how to work, improving their English, learning new skills, and planning for their next step up after the Diner.  It was and is a highly-effective strategy for helping kids from “hard places,” and the strategy was born out of a compelling vision, not the other way around.

As business leaders, we can learn from Sus Hijos.  “Start with Why” (as eloquently suggested by Simon Sinek in his book and his popular video at TED.com), building a clear vision of why your organization or team exists.  Then “begin with the end in mind” (per Stephen Covey in his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).  The strategy for getting there is important and a worthy investment of time and energy, but only after your organization is healthy enough to know why and where you are going.

Planning and strategy have always been in my comfort zone as a businessman, yet the longer I work the less stoked I get about planning and strategy, and the more I find myself asking about the purpose and the destination of those plans and strategies.  The more I focus on the destination, the more I find my colleagues joining me with inspiration and aspiration for excellence.  As Kurt is so effectively demonstrating in El Salvador, a leader with a purpose can make a deep and lasting impact.

Larry May[President]


Building a High-Trust Culture

Building TrustTrust is a powerful thing.  It serves as a foundation for organizational success.  It builds bridges between people of different persuasions, allowing them to move forward together in a common direction.  I suppose our politicians, and our country as a whole, could benefit from a higher level of genuine trust… ya think?

In Keller Schroeder’s most recent, internal survey (we collect feedback anonymously about every three years), responses from our employee-owners were 95% favorable to the statement, “Management delivers on its promises”, and 96% favorable to, “Management’s actions match its words”.  Lest we too quickly conclude that trust is all about management, our staff also responded 99% favorably to both of the following statements:  “People care about each other here”, and “People avoid politicking and backstabbing as a way to get things done”.

While all of us at Keller Schroeder are humbled and blessed to work in such a positive, high-trust culture, we never endeavored specifically to build one.  No one ever said, “You know, we really need to increase trust here!”  So how does trust happen, and what contributes most to trust in the marketplace?

Avoidance of any major violations of trust is certainly important.  Keller Schroeder consists of about 85 high-integrity individuals who are trustworthy and honest.   But I would suggest that trust is more than a moral issue.  Of all the bosses in my career, the one I respected and trusted the least was, by most standards, a trustworthy person with high moral standards.  I trusted his morals, but I doubted his intentions.  Conversely, the people who have influenced me most have been ones in whom I could place complete trust.  These mentors, peers and bosses each had two things in common:  (1) all their cards were on the table – I knew their intentions – and (2) they had a genuine interest in me and in others, ahead of themselves.

These may sound like very different attributes – clear intentions and other-centered interests – but upon closer examination I believe they are very much related.  It is difficult to have all your cards on the table – to be completely open and honest about your intentions – when those intentions are primarily self-indulgent.  And, when you are genuinely interested in what is best for those around you, it is not difficult at all to be candid and transparent about your thoughts and plans.

We all know people who we absolutely do not trust, based on obvious reasons or personal history, but the overwhelming majority of those we interact with have the basic moral fiber to be trusted.  The development of a high-trust culture for your organization depends on your intentions and your interests.  If it is first about you, trust will be compromised.  If the well-being of your colleagues ranks high among your priorities, trust will grow.  This is a leadership principle which may start at the top, but we all have the opportunity to influence how our organization’s culture evolves.

So before we too quickly point upward or outward as it pertains to trust and culture, let’s look inward.  No organization can build trust.  Only individual members of an organization, on an encounter-by-encounter basis, can demonstrate the authentic interest in others necessary to build a healthy culture.

Larry May [President]