Here's What Culture Change Looks Like

Omaha Paper Gets Competitive

They're young, savvy, and committed. No, they don't write software. They're Omaha Paper and they could give much larger corporations a lesson in culture change.

Omaha Paper Company, an 80-year old merchant, was built on local service, premier quality, innovation, and some "colorful" personalities. But times are changing for the second-largest fine paper distributor in their Midwestern U.S. area. Today, national and millowned distributors are direct competitors. Undaunted, Omaha Paper plans to dominate its market and diversify in the future.

“We also tracked areas of excellence. We found that our quote response time averages five minutes, which is an important differentiator.”

In a market where neither product nor price are key differentiators, Omaha Paper is realistic about competitive challenges. "Relationships make the sale today," explains EVP Robert Powell. "Our continued success will depend on our people."

Putting Customers First

Omaha Paper's top priority was fixing its fragmented approach to customer service. So when the company asked Missouri-based Persona Group, Inc. for help, David Lewin and Glenda Graham responded with an organization-wide culture-change process based on Persona' s PRIDE quality training, and The Persuasive Communicator and Managing Performance skill development programs.

Omaha Paper opted for a "fast-track" 12-month training schedule (see sidebar). "PRIDE quality training was very powerful," says Powell. "It made us focus on our internal customers and the need for precise performance measurement. The Persuasive Communicator videotaped roleplaying and feedback was also invaluable for the sales force. Not only has it become an essential part of our regular sales meetings, it's part of our culture."

Improved Sales Chart

Culture Change You Can See

The training prompted striking improvements in service to internal and external customers and suppliers after just four months. Customer Service and Telemarketing departments extended coverage. Warehouse and purchasing areas re-engineered process flow. The newly formed Steering Committee developed a Customer Service Survey.

To stay competitive, everyone is adopting new attitudes. Purchasing Manager Dan Robinson explains, "People are soliciting feedback and ideas more. Self-importance has diminished." "Training has greatly reduced tension in the company," says Finance VP Dean Wilson. "People are more understanding of the other person's point of view."

"We are much more effective now that we are committed to performance measurement and focusing on customers," Powell explains. "We intend to stay on top of market shifts and keep adjusting our culture to provide premier value to customers."


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