It’s time once again for another episode of Industry Leaders in the Pembina Valley, with Friesens Corporation C.E.O. Chad Friesen stopping by the studio to chat with CFAM Radio 950 Morning show Co-Host Chris Sumner. As we wrap up October, a month focused on thankfulness, we’re focusing on gratefulness, and the role it plays at Friesens in Altona.
"Gratitude is a really interesting topic we don't think about a whole lot, but it's really important, and it plays a major role, not only in us as individuals, but also for us at a company level," explained Friesen. "We feel, as a company culture, it's really important for Friesens to have a culture of gratitude within our organization, and so we're quite deliberate about some steps to try and create gratitude, or to encourage gratitude, within our company."
He noted we all come from our own home-life situation and have our own aspirations and goals, but the one common thing, regardless of what culture we're from or where we come from in life, is gratitude.
"I think a really important thing for us, as a company, to lean on because we have such a broad, diverse group of people, is we all really want to be appreciated and recognized," Friesen shared. "It's one of the easiest things to do, but one of those things that's actually hard for some of us to just do it right."
He stressed the employee-owners of Friesens today are the beneficiaries of some generous ideas and decision made by the original founding family many years ago.
"We're very grateful for having the opportunity, because Friesens probably wouldn't exist today if it wasn't for some of those very generous thoughts and decisions," he explained. "We're reminded of that often, that we're benefiting from some really great ideas of the past."
With that in mind, and from the context of paying those generous ideas forward, Friesens has implemented a number of initiatives to encourage gratefulness among its employee-owners, from as simple as how many "Thank You's" can you say in a day to a "Thank You" board near one of the lunchrooms.
"It's a chalkboard and all it has at the top of the chalkboard in big words is 'Thank You', and and then a handful of chalk and some erasers right beside it," he said. "Employees can walk by, and if you're feeling good about something or you want to say thank you to an individual or thanks for for something in particular, you can write it on the board. Everybody who walks by toward the lunchroom sees what you're thankful for. We see all sorts of stuff from cheering on the Winnipeg Jets to somebody being grateful to an individual that did a very specific thing for them to just general thankfulness for how privileged we are to live in the world that we live in and the society that we live in."
The company also practices what it calls its "Kudos Messages".
"When a customer thanks us for a project, or thanks us for doing something great for them, we share that amongst all of our employees," noted Friesen. "Not just our customer service team, not just the sales group. Everybody in the organization gets to see that gratitude our customers are paying forward to us. You may not have been involved in that project, but as an employee owner, you'll still see the things we're doing in our day-to-day work are impacting the lives of other people, and those people are often very grateful to us for that."
Ultimately, Friesen gratefulness comes down to one-on--one interactions.
"One of the things I appreciate most is the opportunity to hand out checks to our employee ownership," he said. "It would be much easier to distribute cash to our employee-owners through a direct deposit, but we're very deliberate to print checks. We do that so a majority of our employee-owners will come through, they'll receive a check handed to them by one of our senior leaders, and that's our moment to say 'Thank You'. It doesn't take long for each individual interaction, but it's en mass. We get to say 'Thank You' at a pretty personal level multiple times a year."
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