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December 21, 2010

It€™s good for business

When the next generation of Walters started getting involved in the family business, Tasty Catering of Chicago, they had definite ideas about how things should be run.
€œI€™m 62 years old and my two brothers work with me,€ says Tom Walter, CEO. €œWe were raised by an Army sergeant father who did things a certain way. But when our millenials came in here, the best and the brightest, they said €˜This isn€™t going to work anymore.€™€

Over the last five-plus years, Tom, Larry and Kevin Walter have moved the company culture to one that values and empowers employees, based in part on the concepts in Jim Collins€™ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap €¦ and Others Don€™t.

€œWe decided to focus on our human capital, instead of on generating revenue and profits,€ Walter says. €œIt allowed us to flourish as a business and to become very profitable.€

The bottom line, he says, is that no one wants to be managed; they want to be led, which means giving all employees the tools they need to act on behalf of the company. The owners share all financial data, for example, so everyone knows how the money comes in and where it goes.

A weekly report details what staff in every department are doing, in detail. €œThe sales staff will describe how many on-site visits they made, how many contacts with potential clients,€ Walter says. €œSo the drivers know the sales staff is out there working.€ The report is sent out over the weekend, in both English and Spanish, so that by Monday morning, everyone in the company knows what€™s happening.

Every team wants to do its best, Walter says, because they don€™t want to let down the rest of the company. €œDiscipline is generated by peer pressure: €˜Is our team going to be competitive? Is it going to meet our goals?€™€

Those closest to customers are given the ability€”and the responsibility€”to handle any concerns. At an event, for example, a crew leader or even a delivery person is able to make a decision about how to deal with an unhappy client. €œIf the client is having a meltdown, they can do what€™s necessary to solve the problem.€

The result? Walter says Tasty Catering produced 10,000 events in 2009 and had a .003 percent failure rate (meaning the company had to return clients€™ money). That€™s just 30 events (an €œevent€ could be a drop-off lunch).

Eleven family members work at Tasty Catering, including Walters€™ son, Tim, and daughter, Erin. Tim, who started as a dishwasher, is now CFO and has started several branches that are doing well. Erin started as a server. Today she is director of marketing, while completing a dual MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship.

Tasty Catering has been recognized for its unusual, and successful culture, winning awards such as #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois, the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, a spot in the Staples, Inc. Small Business Hall of Fame€”and the Achievement in Catering Excellence at the 2010 Catersource Conference.

€œHow would you like to have a company where everyone loves each other and likes to come to work?€ says Walter, who knows just what that€™s like.

Tasty Catering core values
€¢  Always moral, ethical and legal.
€¢  Treat others with respect.
€¢  Quality in everything we do.
€¢  High customer service standards.
€¢  Competitiveness, a strong determination to be the best in all areas of our company.
€¢  An enduring culture of individual discipline.
€¢  Freedom and responsibility within the culture of discipline.

Catersource magazine
January 2011

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