Partners for success Featured

7:00pm EDT February 12, 2006
Jordan Dorfman saw a gap in the meat supply industry and founded Chicago Meat Authority to better serve the industry.

Dorfman wanted to create a quality meat supplier that was partner-oriented, so when he founded CMA in 1990, he crafted a mission statement focused on creating partnerships and relationships with his customers, suppliers and employees.

“We want to be the preferred supplier to all of our customers, a preferred customer to our strategic suppliers and a model employer in the industry, so that everybody wants to buy from us, wants to sell to us and wants to work for us,” says Dorfman, CMA’s president and CEO.

This mission statement is the driving force behind CMA, which has grown from $6 million at its founding to $75 million in 2005.

Smart Business spoke with Dorfman about how good relationships, communication and the right infrastructure help his company grow.

How do you create good relationships with customers, suppliers and employees?
If we are not the right person for the employee, supplier or customer, then it is our responsibility to say, ‘This is not going to be a win-win for us. It’s not going to be a win-win for you. If either one of us feels like we are losing in the bargain, then that is bad for both of us. Let’s be conscious of that going in. Let’s make sure that we understand what we are talking about.’

Nothing is easy, but if we commit to being open and commit to being conscious, we will tell you if we are the right people or not, and we will live up to our commitments. We will expect you to live up to your commitments as well, whether you are an employee, customer or supplier.

How has having fewer layers of management contributed to your success?
I have six direct reports. Those six direct reports are responsible for divisions or responsible for certain roles. They have all of the power and authority they need to get their job done, but they all report to me. There are about 330 employees here, and all of them report to one of the six direct reports of mine.

We are constantly making sure that our goals and objectives are aligned so that we are all pulling in the same direction. As we have grown, team-building is something that we have really had to focus on.

How do you make sure you work as a team?
We do a minimum of four off-sites a year, where we go off-site and do a lot of team-building to keep communication. We are very big on communication here, and that is not just amongst ourselves, that is with our customers and suppliers, as well.

We are constantly making sure that our commitments are met and that we inspire respect, confidence and trust from each other, as well as ourselves.

We have an office that is very conducive to interaction. Everybody’s performance measurements are geared to make sure that they are all aligned as a team.

How does your new headquarters fit into your growth plans?
As we grew, we grew into three offices with stairs in between. We had people separated by physical space.

Now we have one floor, where administrative, management and sales staff are in one office building ... attached to the plant. Now everyone is in one linear, continuous space.

It’s very open. We hired an excellent design architect to build it with that in mind. Part of the plans that we executed are a 2,000-square-foot recreation room that everyone is free to use. We put about $25,000 worth of exercise equipment in there.

We also put a pool table in there, a foosball table, an entertainment pit with a television and radio, so that people can go back and chat about their lives, their days, their goals, their ambitions —communication is really the key.

How does treating your employees well help your company succeed?
We believe that by having the right employees, we can ask them to perform for us. If we can perform for them, then we can have them perform for us.

We can say, ‘Here is what we need you to perform at. We need to be a preferred supplier to all of our customers, and how are you fulfilling that role? We need you to make sure that we’re a preferred customer to our strategic suppliers, and how are you performing in that role?’

We want to be in a situation where everyone wants to work here, so we have the pick of the best people, so morale is high, performance is high and turnover is low.

HOW TO REACH: Chicago Meat Authority, www.chicagomeat.com