Today, I had the privilege of speaking at the Raven Industries 2013 annual leadership conference. This is a model company in so many ways. They are led by a guy named Dan Rykhus, who is one of the best servant leaders among CEO’s that you’ll ever run across. The conference really focused on one element of leadership, that of providing great service. At Raven Industries, service is so much more than you think. We all know that many companies say, “we provide great service” and unfortunately, it’s become a cliche without much meat on the bone. Not at Raven. From the top leaders and throughout the organization, service is redefined. At Raven, service is not an occasional home run where the customer goes wow! Rather, service is a daily part of the character and make up of the employees, interacting among themselves and the customers they serve. They are constantly pushing the envelope on what’s possible, putting their customers and others ahead of themselves.
One of the speakers today was a four year customer of Raven’s. His company is all about creating manufactured containers to produce food and other byproducts that can be used for alternative fuel sources. Raven Industries supplies not only the engineered films to produce the chemical reaction to start the process, but the folks at Raven have partnered with his company to introduce other vendors to make the business cost effective and affordable for folks. This guy several times during the course of his thirty minute program was thanking the people of Raven profusely. It was obvious that Raven was much more than a vendor to this company owner. They were a true business partner.
The last thing I’ll mention is that the conference today was completely interrupted by a severe ice storm. If you’ve been following the news, the upper midwest was hit with a major blizzard and series of ice storms. Today in Sioux Falls, much of the town was without power, all the schools and many businesses were closed and during my keynote speech, we experienced a complete blackout. Nobody from Raven panicked. The event went on as planned, as we all gathered in the lobby of the building while I spoke from the stairs. The natural light from the windows was all we needed. Nothing went as planned, yet the conference was a huge success because it provided an opportunity to learn to operate when things don’t go as planned. It was a litmus test of character and the folks at Raven Industries passed with flying colors. No wonder they are growing, profitable and a great place to work, as they really are solving great challenges and making a significant impact on our farmers to feed the world, on our military to protect us and on engineering companies to take our technologies to new levels that we’ve never seen. Hats off to the folks at Raven Industries!