Where’s the Beef?

Steve Jones is a third generation owner of a beef processing plant in Atlanta, Georgia. For many years, his business has produced some of the best burger patties in the entire Southeast U.S. With his burgers served at many of Atlanta’s best restaurants, he is as close to an expert on hamburgers you’ll ever find.

When I first met Steve, I asked him what the mission or purpose of his company was. He looked at me with a confused stare and responded, “Of course, it’s to make better burgers.” Although his response was quite accurate, it was hardly the lofty mission statement I was looking for. As I sensed at the time, there was much more to the story.

Not long after that, Steve noticed that his employees did not seem as engaged as he thought they could be. They worked on assembly lines in his plant making thousands of hamburger patties each day. They never had the opportunity to see how much their products were consumed and enjoyed by their customers at restaurants across the city.

After hearing a Vistage speaker talk about the importance of employee engagement, Steve decided to start taking small groups of employees each week to different restaurants where their burgers were sold. It was a great experience for his employees to see hungry people enjoying their delicious burgers. This experience brought new meaning to the employees’ work.

One day, Steve and a group of his employees visited the Varsity restaurant in midtown Atlanta very close to the Georgia Tech University campus. One of Atlanta’s most famous restaurants and a must-see for the city’s many tourists, the Varsity stays busy all the time. When Steve and his team arrived at the Varsity it was packed with Atlanta locals and tourists from around the world. What the group noticed next was a game-changer for them.

At almost every table there was a family with a mom, a dad, and several children. They all seemed to be celebrating some type of special occasion while enjoying their tasty burgers. Maybe it was a birthday, an anniversary, report cards, or possibly the baseball team’s first win. Whatever the occasion, they all seemed very happy being together to celebrate and eat their favorite food.

It was at that moment Steve realized that his company’s mission was about much more than making better burgers. It was about bringing families together for special occasions. Steve recognized that a good mission statement should be less about what his company did and more about the benefit his product brought to the consumer.

After that, down came the pictures of great burgers that were hanging in the production center, and up went pictures of families sitting around a restaurant table enjoying time together while eating great burgers. From then on, Steve’s employees had a constant reminder and a better understanding of why they do what they do 40 hours a week, fifty weeks a year.

What’s your company’s mission?