In the last two years, Christina Pastore-Bucher has seen some major industry and economic shifts affect her business and its 310 employees. Although Park Farms Inc. has been growing its chicken-processing business in Canton since 1946, today, the company’s future growth depends on its ability to be flexible and adapt to a changing regional business environment.
“We can all really remember a time in the Akron-Canton area when business growth was much more of a fixed proposition than it is today,” say Pastore-Bucher, who became CEO of Park Farms in 2009. “In the past, one of the errors that many businesses made was the assumption of growth without really sitting down and going through the proper strategic initiatives to purposely advance growth, to really have that strategic plan in place and then to work toward that.”
This year, Park Farms is looking at approximately 75 percent more in cost of corn for feed ingredients than it paid in 2010 because of increasing demand for corn in alternative fuel use. When you are in a business where you are dealing with the volatility of commodity markets such as livestock production, Pastore-Bucher says the key to growth is having the ability to adapt and react with flexibility.
“As we come up with plan A, many times we go to plan B and C very quickly, because the climate around us changes, be it something that is affecting our live production sites, such as corn is now or government regulation is now,” Pastore-Bucher says. “Flexibility has really been the key.
“You look at alternatives where you can. You look at the company as a whole, and you have to be adaptable, and you have to be flexible and say, ‘Just because we’ve done it that way for the past 20 years, today’s environment is different.’ We run the company much differently today than we did even five years ago because of the environment around us.”
How do you incorporate flexibility into your strategic planning? First, you need to sit down and cover all of the scenarios in the economic environment to put opportunities in the pipeline and choose ones that align with your long-term strategic goals. At Park Farms, that has meant looking at different production amounts, alternatives for growing or arrangements for growing.
“We look at every decision, whether it’s a [capital expenditure] decision or an investment that we’re going to make or a business opportunity, against a very specific set of criteria,” Pastore-Bucher says. “That criteria has to align with the needs of our customers plus keeping in mind profitability of the business and also really looking at risk versus reward.
“We know what our goals are. We obviously can understand that we want to be profitable, to keep our customers in mind, and we always make our decisions based on our customers. But really, it’s just looking at all options and making sure we’ve planned for all options if need be.”
Keeping your organization responsive to change also requires that you maintain strong alignment on goals so people don’t lose sight of the long-term vision and mission. Pastore-Bucher says that it’s in times of great change when it’s more important than ever for businesses to focus on development and engagement of current employees, making sure people are regularly updated with information about industry and market developments as well as new opportunities as changes occur.
“Many of our management staff and employees have been here 20, 30, some 40 years,” she says. “So although obviously you see an up and down, especially over that span of time, I think that you have so many economic factors hitting the stability of the group that you have to keep people engaged, to keep them on track and moving.
“This is probably the most important time from a leadership perspective, at least in my business, to keep us moving cohesively forward. And even though we may take a step back to get there and keep moving forward, [you] give them those strategic goals. Remind them of the flexibility that we all must have and keep moving forward together as a company.”
Medina: A medical mecca
Medina sits conveniently at the junctures of I-71, I-271 and Route 18, allowing easy access from Cuyahoga, Summit and Wayne Counties. This provides residents within Medina and the surrounding counties access to world class health care.
Through new construction and through new affiliations, Medina has become a hotbed of medical activity in recent years. Thanks to location and demographic, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, Southwest General and Summa Health System have all built or expanded medical facilities or developed alliances with existing local hospitals in Medina County in the past two years.
For two decades, Medina has been the fastest-growing county in northern Ohio. While families with young children continue to move into Medina County, there is a growing trend of grandparents relocating to be closer to their children and grandchildren. This elder generation needs to be in close proximity to quality health care to take them through their various stages of aging.
This summer, the Hospice of Medina County will open a 16-bed unit at Routes 18 and 71 and the Western Reserve Masonic Home is in the planning stages to open an Alzheimer's care unit.
In addition to consumer healthcare services, Medina County is home to a growing number of companies in the medical device manufacturing industry. In April, 2011, New Jersey-based Integra Spine opened a newly constructed facility on Route 18, with plans to create 160 new jobs in the next three years.
How to reach: Medina County Economic Development Corp., www.medinacounty.org