Social Good: Cultivating A Charitable Culture
Lately, it seems American Solutions for Business employees are everywhere—and we’re not only referring to the promotional products industry. Staff and salespeople of the Glenwood, Minnesota-based distributor have been dedicating their efforts, outside of the workplace, to bettering the local and national communities; a mission that’s very near and dear to the company, and one that’s modeled from the top-down.
“Employees have teamed up to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, helped pack lunches and care packages for children in need, cared for animals in local humane societies, hosted bake sales and raffles for various causes, and organized and participated in Relay For Life,” says Taylor Borst, head of communications and public relations “Volunteerism is incredibly important, especially when the customer holds the same core values as us.”
American Solutions for Business was built on the philosophy that flowers only bloom in rich soil, Borst says. For a business to succeed, its employees should be provided with the tools to prosper, but, ASB believes, so should the greater community. “We have a culture of caring,” says Borst. “The very core of who we are as a company can be defined by how much we care for our customers, our community and for each other.” It’s ASB’s company culture that encourages employees to partake in opportunities— like dedicating an afternoon to local highway cleanup with Adopt A Highway; stocking, bagging and loading groceries for families in need through the United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties’ Food Drop; and donating more than 50 computer monitors to Minnewaska Area High School to complete its new Applied Technology Computer Lab.
But it’s also the leadership of Larry Zavadil, founder, and his son, Justin Zavadil, president, that encourages continued philanthropic work. Both father and son were born and raised in the small lake town of Glenwood, home to just 2,527 people, according to the 2017 U.S. Census. For them, along with some of their employees, clients and those affiliated with the organizations they help, Glenwood will always be home. But ASB encourages all of its employees, and its more than 650 national sales associates, regardless of where they live, to help the places they call home, too, allowing the company to leave a lasting impact nationwide. “The success of our company and community is dependent on each other,” says Borst.
ASB’s charitable work is organized and planned by an internal Stewardship Committee, which is comprised of employees from different departments. The nearly 20-year-running committee meets monthly to schedule events and efforts dedicated to giving back, and their goal is to host at least one event, where all profits are donated to a local nonprofit, once every month. The company encourages its employees to get involved by offering its Volunteer Time Off program, which provides each office-based employee with eight hours, annually, to spend volunteering for any 501(c)(3) nonprofit of their choice. “I think the best way to make an impact is to ask your employees what they care about,” she says. “Creating a caring culture requires buy-in from everyone at your company—it’s an excellent source of camaraderie, purpose and confidence.”
In addition to the ones mentioned, ASB has partnered with organizations including Pope County Hospice, Pope County Humane Society, Prevent Abuse Minnesota, Someplace Safe, Pope County Families in Need and Hearts and Hands Food Shelf. It has also contributed to Meals On Wheels, a national food-delivery program that brings meals to people who are unable to purchase or prepare food independently, an effort ASB has contributed to every week for the past 15 years, in addition to a number of national efforts. And according to Borst, it’s something that’s fared well, not only for recipients, but also for ASB’s business. “We can’t ignore the fact that young buyers, in particular, tend to seek (or even require) that the company they partner with has a philosophy to make the world a better place. Doing good and being good is the competitive edge that will keep you relevant and attractive to today’s customers.
PPB spoke with Borst to learn more about the company’s philanthropic involvement.
PPB How does American Solutions for Business communicate all upcoming and ongoing charitable initiatives to employees?
Borst We have many ways our culture and philosophy are communicated. Internally, we publish weekly and monthly communications including photos, news and relevant updates about what’s happening with our company. It’s all communicated simply in the way we treat each other. We are a competitive company, but we’re not cutthroat—there’s a focus on motivation for collaboration. Much of that stems from the fact that American Solutions for Business is a 100-percent employee-owned company. Therefore, one person’s success translates to success for all. If someone lands a huge customer, we all win, so it’s extremely common for both our home office teams and fellow sales associates to jump in and help each other whenever necessary.
Externally, we communicate much of our activism on social media. We primarily use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. This has caused some great engagement between our home office, sales associates and supplier partners. As an industry, giveback marketing is a huge trend—is it hipster to say that ASB was doing it before it was mainstream? And it’s been exciting to partner with suppliers (and customers) who share our vision, philosophy and practices. Without social media, it’s tough to spot these like-minded people and companies. It's exciting to live in an age where this level of communication and understanding is possible.
PPB Can you share with us a particularly impactful moment from one of ASB’s volunteer efforts?
Borst Every year, American Solutions for Business employees and salespeople contribute to a gift for our founder and CEO, Larry Zavadil, and his wife Diane, who is the president of American Diversity, our woman-owned sister company. About 20 years ago, an employee had the idea to stop buying Larry tangible gifts and instead to participate in Adopt-A-Family in the Zavadil name, where our company collects money, household goods and holiday gifts for a local family in need. Larry often says that the first time it was presented to him, it brought tears to his eyes, and that every year, it’s one of his favorite things to re-experience. We’ve received many letters over the years from impacted families and they are always incredibly moving.
PPB What’s on the horizon for 2020?
Borst We’ve recently started to incorporate charitable aspects into the major events we host, particularly our National Sales Conference and Sales Summit. Last year, we hosted a 5K Run/Walk at our national conference to benefit the United Way, and at Summit in August, we made tie blankets and raised money through a raffle to benefit the Gillette Children’s Hospital. In 2020, we plan to increase these efforts and look for additional opportunities to incorporate giveback.
In addition to volunteerism in our communities, we’re also focused on finding ways to be more mindful of sustainability. Recently, we’ve been working on a large project to reduce energy use, and “solar polar” will soon be incorporated into our plan. Caring for the environment is perhaps one of the most philanthropic things we can do for our future. Luckily, we have a strong leadership team with the strategic foresight to invest the proper time and resources in ensuring these goals are met. We’re excited to hit the ground running in 2020 to ensure that ASB continues to thrive in its growth, culture and altruism.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.