Scaling A Family Owned Business In Packaging – A Deep Dive Conversation With Michael Chase

In March of 2020, Chase & Associates’ long-time business consultant, Bob Olmstead, sat down with Michael Chase to talk about COVID-19, and scaling a family owned business. The result was a deep dive conversation filled with heartfelt wisdom and insights.

Enjoy!


BOB: We’re doing this interview amid the most severe pandemic in a hundred years. The world is experiencing a loss of life unseen in a generation. 

Before we explore the topic of scaling a family-owned business in packaging, let’s spend a little time talking about the impact of COVID-19. What it’s like to go through a pandemic as a family-owned business? 

MICHAEL: Very humbling. Very heartfelt. We already had a few people working remotely, but in our Austin office, everybody went home three weeks ago. 

If someone felt more comfortable being at home, I told them to bunker down with their family, bring your equipment home. We’ll do what we have to do to keep the business going, where you’re safe, and with your family. 

We do daily calls, Zoom calls, so we’re seeing everybody’s face. It’s not just talking business, it’s making sure everybody is okay as human beings.

In a way, it has brought us closer together in an extremely challenging time. The pandemic is interrupting everybody’s lives. It’s been a very difficult situation.

BOB: That is leadership per your values; relationships, integrity, that’s how you and Alexis (Michael’s sister and business partner) are wired. 

I think for me, someone that’s been in the consulting game for as long as I have been, your response immediately tells me that even during your toughest moments as a family-owned business, your values hold when it matters the most. 

What are the big takeaways, going through a crisis like this as a business? 

MICHAEL: Knowing we will persevere, we will meet the challenge and come out the other side stronger and better, as I said earlier. 

I hope that everybody learns to do everything in their power not to let something like this happen again.

BOB: What advice would you give a family-owned business that is struggling? Knowing how to deal with this pandemic while keeping your family business alive is a real issue for people. 

MICHAEL: Take care of your family and your loved ones. Take care of your people. Assure them that this will pass, and we’re going to get through this together. 

Make sure that they have a place to come back to when the pandemic passes. They have to be confident that you’re not going to run and protect your interest. You’re protecting the business and you’re protecting your extended family.

BOB: What are you saying to executives in the packaging industry that are not doing well? How are you reassuring them, or your client base? 

MICHAEL: Our communication approach is heavy with empathy right now, understanding what they’re going through. Most of our clients are considered essential businesses because they support food, medical-type applications. 

But the ones that I have the most respect for are taking care of their people; their office staff is working from home, their essential staff and production floors are set up with social distancing in mind. 

They continue to provide packaging to put food on the table for the whole country, if not the world, but they’re doing what’s right for their people. They’re adjusting their processes internally to create a safe environment. 

BOB:  I spent about 40 minutes in line at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and it hits me that every single thing I bought is packaged. Packaging has unsung heroes that we never hear about in the media.

MICHAEL:  I feel that every day with my wife being in healthcare. I know the sacrifices and the situations they’re putting themselves in, but the same is true in manufacturing, the products we use. Our clients are supporting those companies. 

There’s a lot of essentials that you and I need as consumers, and to be a part of that and feel that pain on a daily basis, is very powerful. 

Clients that show concern for their employees, their health, while at the same time doing what’s necessary to keep food in our refrigerators, it’s powerful.

BOB: When did you decide to jump into the family business? 

MICHAEL: It was back in 2000, shortly after the internet crash. Our father was going through some health issues, and the future of Chase & Associates was at risk. 

I was living in Chicago, the internet company I worked with was not doing well, so I decided to get involved with the family business. It was the right time. The rest is history.

BOB: It’s like you were intuitively aware that the legacy of the family business was on the line, and you stepped up to keep that legacy going. Is that how you would characterize it? 

MICHAEL: I think back to 1998 when my father broke away from the business he had initially founded, sold it, and started Chase & Associates. He did not intend to create a legacy business, but in the back of his mind, he was absolutely hoping for that outcome.

When the time was right, and the need was there for the business, it fell into place that I would join the business, and I took to it quickly.  I didn’t know that I would eventually co-own the business with my sister. A lot was unknown at the time. It’s worked out well, now it truly feels like a legacy business. We commonly refer to our father as the legend within our company.

“I will give up today’s transaction for tomorrow’s relationship.”

BOB: What has owning a business with your sister been like over the years? 

MICHAEL: We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a very positive way. Alexis is hyper-focused; she gets that trait from our father. My success comes from a mix of that tenacity and the connection I make with people. 

I couldn’t pick a better partner. We push each other in different ways; we fill the gaps for each other’s weaknesses. There are times where we’ll debate, but it never gets acrimonious. There’s a lot of mutual respect.

BOB: What advice would you give someone going into business with a sibling? 

MICHAEL: Patience. Hold firm to your beliefs, challenge each other, debate, and then get aligned. Because when you’ve got employees, you need to have a unified front.

BOB: The family business dynamic seems intrinsic to your values as a brand?

MICHAEL: We have helped employees with family health issues, with first time home buying, personal tragedies. That’s the culture we’ve built. Alexis has been a major driver of creating that culture. 

Our business is about much more than the name on the door, it’s creating an organization with an extended family. We care about our people. We want them to succeed.

BOB: How is owning a family business a competitive edge? 

MICHAEL: If you’re part of a large recruiting business, I think it’s a lot more transactional, it’s short-term. When we recruit, or when we hire, we’re building long-term relationships. 

I think to own a family business, and to think long-term, the value sets we bring, is valuable.

I often tell my clients, “you’re not gonna get twenty people thrown against the wall to see what sticks, you’re gonna get the best four to five candidates we could find.”

We try to impart that philosophy with our employees; recruiting is not just a job.

BOB: What is the thing that you’re the proudest of as a family-owned business? 

MICHAEL: Taking our business to the next level. Our core business has expanded into other high-level positions such as operations, finance, executive leadership, quality. It has helped us go to the next level as a firm.

BOB: What motivates you to be a strong business owner? 

MICHAEL: I’m driven to provide for my family and to give them the options that I’ve had growing up, but it’s about more than Alexis and me being successful. It’s about our whole team being successful.

Employees feeling empowered, feeling successful, feeling like they’re a part of the whole, that drives our success.

BOB: When you look out to the next ten years, what do you see as the big challenges facing the packaging industry.

MICHAEL: Packaging is not a sexy business for the 20 and 30-year-olds. We need to get back to developing young talent, recruiting them early, and supporting that with robust training and personal development programs. 

There is a severe talent shortage between the ages of 25 and 40.

Another big opportunity is developing sustainable materials that still protect the food and the items that are packaged. Packaging companies thinking about the end of life will do well.

BOB: It sounds like the industry needs to evolve in the coming years?

MICHAEL: Recruiting the younger generations will be difficult if you don’t have a sustainability value set. The next generation’s view of the environment very differently than 50 to 60-year-olds. 

Obviously, there are plenty of folks in their 50s and 60s that are very involved in environmental issues. But people in their mid-20s to 30s are incredibly focused on that issue.

If you don’t have a strategy, they’re going to see that and not be interested. We hear it every day.

BOB: Over our many years working together, the thing that most stands out for me is your willingness to learn and grow. 

MICHAEL: I don’t know everything. I can always learn something from people, whether it’s friends, business colleagues, our employees, our clients, I’m always willing to learn or hear things from a different angle. 

My first intuition is not always right, and I know that. I don’t argue for the sake of arguing, just to be heard or feel that I’m right.

BOB: The profession of recruiting doesn’t always enjoy the best reputation, and yet Chase & Associates seems to be at the polar opposite of that stereotype. Your firm seems deeply committed to this idea of high integrity recruiting? 

MICHAEL: Absolutely, and that goes back to my statement about the transaction is not what’s important, it’s the relationship. 

If we place a high-level person but didn’t do the due diligence, it wasn’t a great fit, that’s not going to get Chase repeat business.  

It’s very much about finding the right fit to create a win-win with everybody involved in the process.

BOB: What was your reaction to my interview with Alexis, reading her words, the fact it took off on social media?

MICHAEL: Pride. The topic of Women In Packaging has been a passion of hers over the last few years. Our industry is very male-dominated. Alexis has developed nice relationships with women in the industry. 

I am extremely proud that an idea that had been discussed over a couple of years has come to fruition. I have to get the numbers out, but 30% to 40% of our placements are women, so we’re very cognizant of diversity within the workforce.

BOB: Thanks for spending time with me today, especially when so much is going on with COVID. I think the thing that stood out the most is your firm’s passion for people. I’m sure a lot of people will benefit from our time together. 

MICHAEL: I enjoyed it. I Iook forward to seeing it on our website.  


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! The owners of Chase & Associates bring a great deal more to the table than their exceptional recruiting skills. You cannot recruit visionary leaders without being a visionary leader. 

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


The Modern Packaging Expert Must Be a Sustainability Guru

Australia is burning. The snow is melting in Siberia. Up to 200 species go extinct each day. Landfills are overflowing. And packaging is contributing to all of the above. Our disposable economy produces a lot of waste, which has been linked to global warming, decreased forest coverage, and mountains of trash.

As a packaging expert, you’re in a prime position to make an impact. If you can reduce waste, adopt biodegradable alternatives, or otherwise become more sustainable, you might save lives and contribute to a more prosperous future.

Sound pie in the sky? It’s not! We’re going to share 3 strategies that you can leverage to make your packaging more sustainable. But first,  let’s examine why packaging experts must become sustainability experts.

There’s a famous Native American proverb:

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

When we use up finite resources today, we could deny future generations access to those resources. And if we pollute the environment now, someone else will eventually have to clean it up.

For the packaging industry, this is a serious challenge. Writing for Thinkstep, Sophie Kieselbach and Flora D’Souza point out:

The media floods us with images of once beautiful beaches, now resembling landfills, and vulnerable ocean animals dying after swallowing plastic packaging. Our immense consumption of packaging also depletes non-renewable resources.

The packaging industry catches a lot of flak for pollution. Packaging experts who want to fend off bad press will have to become sustainability experts. Sustainability isn’t something packaging experts can ignore. Writing for Greener Package, Mike Ross puts it this way:

“A packaging professional once held a more strictly technical role, mainly focused on product development and product protection. The modern professional’s role has greatly expanded to include expertise in sustainability.”

Regarding packaging project management, Ross notes:

“Before considering materials, dimensions, tolerances, specifications, etc., it is crucial to first understand what exactly the business is requiring.”

Businesses are requiring more sustainable packaging. This could be due to enlightened leadership, consumer pressure, government regulations, or a mix of all of the above.

Strategy #1- Sustainability Will Require A Systematic Approach

So how can we achieve genuinely sustainable packaging? The first step towards sustainable packaging is understanding that it’s a collective effort. As Bryan Shova writes in Packaging Digest:

“True solutions will come through “systems thinking” that requires the material supplier, manufacture, retailer, consumer and the municipality to share in the premium costs and labor required to design, collect and recycle packaged materials.”

You can’t shoulder the burden alone. Your employees, suppliers, customers, and end users all need to pitch in. Start building systems and making allies now. Even if you can’t pivot to sustainability right away, you can lay the foundation for future success.

“End of life” is a consideration for any packaging expert. Too much packaging is making its way into landfills, or worse, the environment. Writing for The Die Line, Shova argues:

“The sustainability payoff for some of these technologies has more to do with end-of-life recovery than actual materials, so the consumer would ultimately need to understand his or her role in recycling or composting.”

Consumers must play a vital role in sustainability. The wasteful consumers of today need to become enlightened sustainability gurus. Likewise, recycling plants will need to become more efficient. In the same blog post, Shova notes that sustainable packaging often ends up in the landfill anyway. The reason?

“Many recyclable and compostable products and packages look too similar to non-sustainable items and can’t easily be differentiated by workers sorting the recycling streams.”

Even organizations trying to reduce waste fall short. Packaging experts can help by making their sustainable products more distinguishable.

Strategy #2- Don’t Dream About Tomorrow, Do What You Can Today

Could futuristic materials provide the answers? Sustainable, biodegradable plastics, recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET), and other technologies may solve a lot of headaches. Unfortunately, these materials aren’t ready for commercial use.

In the short run, we can’t wait for technological progress to solve our woes. Our grandchildren might never see plastic bags clogging up streams because of biodegradable plastic. However, right now pollution remains a huge problem.

With a smart approach to design, you can create sustainable packaging that uses less materials. The less material you use, the better, even if those materials are plastics.

Writing for the Pakfactory blog, Mark Velarga notes:

“The primary goal of minimalist packaging is to save raw materials and eliminate waste without compromising the durability or functionality of the packaging.

The packaging should be able to perform its duty of protecting the products and conveying the message of the brand.”

Even materials with a bad rep may have a sustainable future. In Packaging Digest, Trina Matta makes a strong case that plastic can be part of sustainable strategies, arguing:

“A plastic bottle made of recycled content is an example of sustainable sourcing of plastic. Would it really be better to shift this particular package to aluminum or glass? Most likely not. In this case, plastic (and in particular recycled-content plastic) appears to be the most sustainable option available.”

In the future, biodegradable plastics and other materials might make the traditional plastic bottle obsolete. Right now, if you can identify sustainable sources for plastic and also ensure that end of life means recycling, plastic could be a sustainable option.

Strategy #3- Your Rock Star Packaging Employees May Be Your Most Sustainable Asset

Sustainability isn’t just about technologies and organizations but also individuals and company culture. Writing for Forbes, William Craig claims:

“When sustainable work culture is nurtured, employees arise to actively steer the company toward its mission with passion and innovation, promoting its longevity and success.”

Your employees may be your greatest sustainable asset. Green technology may not yet be ready or commercially viable. Yet your employees can reduce waste, design packaging that uses less material, cut down on energy use, and take other measures to reduce your company’s impact on the environment.

Some companies are now turning to internal “green teams” to drive change. Everyone wants to go green, but there’s often no unifying vision or process. By setting up internal teams that regularly meet and tackle sustainability together, you can amplify results.

As Deborah Fleischer explains in Greenbiz:

“Green teams are self-organized, grassroots and cross-functional groups of employees who voluntarily come together to educate, inspire and empower employees around sustainability. They identify and implement specific solutions to help their organization operate in a more environmentally sustainable fashion.”

While many green teams are internally driven, evolving market conditions will increase pressure on companies to become more sustainable. Writing elsewhere, William Craig says:

“Customers are wise to the fact that they can deserve something more from companies in return for brand loyalty: things like cleaner supply chains, fairer working conditions, community give-backs, more inclusiveness and constructive participation in social issues.”

Sustainability may be inevitable as consumer demand for green products grows. This is going to have a huge impact on the packaging industry. How about your company? Do you have rock stars on staff who can lead the charge? Sustainability doesn’t have to be a hassle or a burden. It can be a passion that drives engagement.


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! Recruiting sustainable talent that takes your brand to the next level is a niche all its own. If you’ve read our Top Talent white paper, you know this is a crucial passion for our firm. 

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


Women In Packaging – A Deep Dive Conversation With Alexis Chase

In October of 2019, Chase & Associates’ long-time business consultant, Bob Olmstead, sat down with Alexis Chase to talk about life, business, and women in packaging. The result was a deep dive conversation filled with authoritative insights and wisdom. 

Enjoy! 


BOB: When did you decide to jump into the family business? What were the moments that drove that decision? 

ALEXIS: I graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York City in June of 2001. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I moved back to California. As an Art History major, I was interested in gallery or museum work. 

I spent the summer working, and lo and behold, 9/11 struck. I think after 9/11, companies and the economy, in general, just went into a state of shock and were not necessarily hiring college grads.

I had always done summer work for my father’s company, whether it was bookkeeping or filing, office type of work. At the time, he needed some extra support answering phones, so I started working for him a couple of times a week, which led to me getting more responsibility.

As I started to have conversations with real people about their lives and their careers, executive recruiting became more interesting to me as a career path. I remember having a conversation with Michael (brother) about it, and basically, we simultaneously got into recruiting together. 

BOB: And how long ago was that?

ALEXIS: 2001. I was doing online research, cold calling to get names of candidates to different places, which eventually meant taking over a desk as a Project Manager.

BOB: Tell me about the dynamic back then. You start out as a project manager. Michael is a recruiter. Are either of you thinking in terms of ownership at this point or are you just trying to learn the industry and your job? 

ALEXIS: No, I was far from that. And Michael was not working in California. Neil, our father, had just had a liver transplant in 2000 in Florida and was not as active in the business for a good five years or so. 

BOB: I’ve known you and Michael for more than a few years, and I had no idea that you got a degree in Art History! And I had no idea that 9/11 and your father’s liver transplant informed your decision to jump into recruiting. I’ve learned a lot in seven minutes flat! 

And so, you spent, if I remember correctly, you spent five years in research and as a project manager?

ALEXIS: Yes, that’s about right. I had a lot of fears around getting on the phone and interviewing people. I was still learning the industry and the vernacular. It was tricky, but then, over time, I built my confidence and could have conversations with people that were very different from me. 

I didn’t have kids at the time. I wasn’t into sports. I didn’t play golf or watch football. I had to really figure out ways to draw some connections to them. I was like, “What do I talk to these people about?” So I had to find my way into that. 

And this is long before LinkedIn was created. I was doing a lot of cold calling. It was the old-fashioned way (now) of doing it, but that’s what I would spend my days doing. 

I was finding people that were getting placed, the reward of that success, how that makes you feel when you do something well, it remains very rewarding.

BOB: Did that surprise you? I mean, you were an Art History grad!

ALEXIS: It did because I never grew up having an interest in my father’s business.

BOB: It’s very interesting to me that you went from New York City art to recruiting and packaging. That’s like Banksy joining an accounting firm! 

How would you say that that time as a project manager prepared you to be a more effective recruiter? 

ALEXIS: I was exploring going to graduate school and thinking about either going to a bigger recruiting firm or trying something different, so I put an exit strategy together for myself. But ultimately, I decided to embrace it instead of resisting it. As a result, I started focusing less on my project management and more on developing myself as a recruiter.

BOB: How did all that eventually pivot to you and Michael taking over as owners? How did all of that come to come about? 

ALEXIS: It was just time for a lot of reasons. Neil (father) was moving towards retirement, and we were taking over and running the whole operation for the most part. And then, we started working with you (Bob), and we began to formalize the transition. 
I was about 32, still pretty young in my career, I was just beginning to get some successes under my belt as a recruiter. I was pregnant with my first child, so it was a lot at once.

BOB: I guess so!

ALEXIS: For me to figure out what my role was gonna be in all these different phases of my life was interesting. I think we coasted for a little while, and then we started working with you to get more of a handle of how to make this less of a mom and pop kind of operation, to professionalize ourselves, the company, and the brand.

BOB: But what I love is that through your story, I see a very resolved Alexis Chase that way back when had a lot of business savvy. I suspect far more so than you realized. And you were willing to double down on that path, sight unseen! Impressive. Few would be willing to take those risks. 


Alexis Chase & Michael Chase / Sister & Brother / Business Partners

BOB: What motivates you to be a strong recruiter? 

ALEXIS: My clients and my reputation.

BOB: What motivates you to be a strong business owner? 

ALEXIS: Stability in that, the more secure and well-run and functioning my company is, the more stable the company is, the more stable I am. I suspect the same is true with our team. People need stability. 

BOB: What would you say is your superpower?

ALEXIS: I think I have the ability to make people feel special.

BOB: Nice! Tell me more.

ALEXIS: I can be a chameleon. I can always find something to talk about with someone. I can always find a way to relate to them in a way that I think helps them relate to me. 

In my friendships, I put a lot of time into remembering things, remembering occasions, making people feel special when they need to be, being there when they need me. And I think from a work standpoint too, I try and do the same thing. It’s just who I am.

BOB: So let’s talk about women in packaging. Tell us how Cocktails & Conversations came to be. What’s the back story? 

ALEXIS: I was raised by a very strong, professional, highly educated mother. My sister is also a high-achieving, graduate schools, and career-focused person. I have a lot of really good women friends, like a lot, and I invest a lot of myself in those friendships.

I think to measure what I go through on a day-to-day basis as a mother, as an owner, as a woman in a professional world, as a partner in a relationship, there are aspects to those experiences that only other women understand. 

I’ve also gotten to a maturity level where I can really identify with the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. It’s very clear to me now. Whereas when I was younger, I was just trying to fit into the industry. It’s not always easy to be the minority in an industry or setting.

BOB: I hear a couple of themes like community, empowerment, mentoring. How did this go from an idea to an event? 

ALEXIS: I’ve tasked myself with building a network of friendships with other women in the industry so that when I am out there in the world, I’ve got friendly faces that I can call upon for support. And I think there is a lot of value to connecting with women that understand the industry.  

When I was invited to a happy hour last year with women in the industry, some of which I had placed, it felt very like getting together with friends as opposed to colleagues. There was something very comforting about it. And it was women of all ages and all levels in their careers. 

I thought to myself, “Why haven’t I been utilizing my ability to bring people together?” which is what I do in my personal life. In some cases, a woman might be the only female salesperson in the whole company. Sometimes, you don’t feel like being one of the guys! 

Creating an opportunity for more women to get to know each other and connect, build friendships that create support instead of feeling isolated, is very attractive to me. 

BOB: This is a great story, very inspiring. 

ALEXIS: There’s women in positions of power in the industry, but there’s no company where women are the majority, you know? So you might not be able to find it at your own company.

It’s not about getting to know someone so one day I can place her, I want to get to know these women because I want to be able to pick up the phone and to give and get counsel. It’s like, “I have two kids and work full time; how do you do it?” I think these common threads of connection could really make a difference in our industry.” 

Alexis Chase, Managing Partner

BOB: So you had your first Cocktails & Conversations event at PackExpo, what’s next? 

ALEXIS: I’m in research mode. There’s other events for women that I have not participated in that I want to explore. A part of me is really curious about what’s out there right now for women in the industry. There’s a conference in Nashville in November called Women Breaking the Mold in Plastics that I want to check out, for example. 

I’m curious as to what already exists for women; then I’ll either identify where I could offer additional resources or options. The last thing I want to do is create something that creates competition with another female-driven organization. I’m in fact-finding mode. 

BOB: You spotted a real need, right? And then you got to work to fill that need. I think you’re in it for the right reasons. I love where all this could go for you, the industry. What were your big takeaways from your first happy hour event? 

ALEXIS: Women feel pulled in lots of different directions. Women that weren’t there wanted to be there but couldn’t! I experience this every day on some level. What should I be doing? I have a lot of options on how to spend my time doing. Professionally, it’s a similar type of thing, too. 

I think another big takeaway was young women are coming into this industry. Probably 25% of the participants were women under 30. They’re looking for mentors. They’re looking for stories of how women have succeeded in this industry. But it’s harder for senior-level people to show up to these events. 

We need to show up for the next generation. We need to invest in the future of our industry. Understanding women, their journey, their stories, and challenges, is critical to our success as a sector. Not doing so puts our industry at risk.  

Creating connections that give women support, I want to help people and businesses prioritize that, because it’s important. 

BOB: What do you see as the big opportunities for women in packaging? 

ALEXIS: I think that companies want to hire more women and want to find more women that are promotable. I think they’re recognizing that their customers are more diverse than they used to be when it comes to age, ethnicity, and gender. 

If you’re not connecting with your customers the same way, because your customers are changing, something needs to change. I think packaging companies know they need a more diverse workforce.

BOB: If your daughter were to build a career in the packaging industry, what advice would you give her? 


ALEXIS: I would tell her to find a company that has women in leadership roles already, not a company that’s trying to change that necessarily, but a company that’s already successfully diverse.

BOB: Why would you give that specific advice?

ALEXIS: Because I think it’s a very hard ceiling to break through in this industry. I believe that men in leadership positions, in some cases, just are not there yet. 

BOB: Sounds like you want her to stack the deck. If you’re going to go into this industry stack the deck in your favor, and the way you do that is by shopping company culture.

ALEXIS: Yeah, be strategic about it. Find a company that supports women that understands women, and therefore will support your career. If you (her daughter) decide to have a family and children, plug into a company that understands what that takes. Find the culture that will not hold having kids against you, and that will help you succeed.

BOB: I want you to remove yourself from packaging for a moment and pretend that you got invited to speak at a women’s only entrepreneurial conference. Let’s say, 200-300 female entrepreneurs in the audience, all different ages. What advice would you give a woman attempting to start her own business? 


ALEXIS: I think some women can be self-critical and doubt themselves a lot. I think that’s not productive. Nobody’s perfect. And we’re all hard on ourselves, but don’t let that get you stuck or get into your mind too much. You’re not going to be perfect at all of it, focus on what you do really well. Make it the thing that people remember.


BOB: Thanks for hanging out with me today. Even though I’ve been working with you for almost a decade, I learned a ton about your life and beliefs. You have a great deal of wisdom to share. 

ALEXIS: I think it’s always fun to tell my own story. I do talk about some things like this with friends, and they ask me about my work or my past and I get into it. I think they’re always surprised to hear a little bit about my perspective on my journey. 


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! The owners of Chase & Associates bring a great deal more to the table than their exceptional recruiting skills. You cannot recruit visionary leaders without being a visionary leader. 

Chase & Associates 
We Have Your Back


The Human Side Of Recruiting In The Packaging Industry

It is easy to forget the human side of moving someone, often an entire family, from one job to another job. Pulling up one’s roots is no small decision. It’s a big decision. It’s an emotional decision. It’s a profoundly personal decision.

How skilled is your packaging company at helping potential hires during these vulnerable moments of transition?

Your ability to attract and retain the best and brightest is as much about your culture as it is your HR department. Your company culture can become one of your greatest competitive assets, or not.

Let’s revisit the idea of vulnerable moments.

When a brand values their Best Place To Work awards as much as they value the bottom line, the bottom line grows. Retention soars. People plug into something bigger than themselves.

Take, for example, Brigade – a creative agency with serious chops in package design. When Ad Age deemed Brigade one of the best places to work in 2017, Ad Age said something about the leadership of Brigade.

Back to those vulnerable moments – the sequel.

If you’re thinking about uprooting your family to join Team Brigade, you’re probably thinking those Brigade people get it. They get the fact that uprooting your family is a tough, vulnerable decision to make.

Beyond Brigade’s award is the tone they set on their website. In particular, they are showcasing how Brigade treats their interns. Seriously? Interns? How you treat interns says a ton about how you view people in general.

In their post, We Are BRIGADE: A Conversation with Jackie Saucier, Creative Intern– they write the following: “At BRIGADE, we foster the next generation of creative talent by offering competitive paid internships to young designers from all over the country.”

Ok, cool, but what does that have to do with a packaging executive uprooting his or her family for a new job? Everything! Brigade treating their interns like gold makes a statement to the world. It demonstrates how they view people, which gives a potential hire what he or she most craves, peace of mind.

Interns. New hires. Long-term employees. When it’s all for one, everybody wins.

Does your packaging brand give new hires peace of mind? If not, how can you change that? The recruiting and hiring process is a human process.

Sonderen Packaging: A Case Study In Excellence

Excellence is a decision. It’s the choice to rise above the crowd in the areas that matter the most; value, customer service, company culture, to mention a few. To this end, Sonderen sets the standard as evidenced by the many awards they have won.

But it goes deeper than awards. Much deeper.

When you’re building a packaging brand, the tone is everything. The same is true when you are trying to attract top-tier talent. Tone, in this context, is defined as the “general character or attitude of a brand and company culture.”

The best way to experience the tone of the Sonderen brand is the (6)-minute video found on their About Page. To be clear, we have no affiliation with Sonderen. They don’t even know we’re writing about them!

After viewing the Sonderen About Page video, what words would you use to describe their brand? What words would you use to describe their company culture? It’s easy to see why they have won so many awards.

“All of us out here (plant floor) take pride in what the finished product looks like.”

In the name of full disclosure, many agencies can make an excellent video for your brand. Getting an employee to deliver the perfect line is also easy to craft. But is it real? And what does that have to do with recruiting? The answer is on their website.

In their post, “Empowering Employees and a Great Company Culture Lead to Excellent Employee Retention”, this packaging firm plants their flag. The Sonderen Way is crystal clear. People matter. Excellence matters — values matter.

When you’re a recruiter talking to someone about turning their life upside down, such cultures are pure gold. Companies like Sonderen tell a potential hire that yes, change can be tough, but the ROI will be worth it in the end.

And who doesn’t want to join a company passionate about excellence?

Tone matters. Excellence matters. Such brand qualities play to our base need to do meaningful work. When we feel a potential employer offers us those things, we naturally attract to the impact that could have on our lives.

Will Trinity Ever Host Saturday Night Live?

If you’re like me, such a question melts your brain a little.

Pop culture, ugh. Who is Trinity? Pop star? Actor? Comedian? Influencer?

The thing is, it’s a valid question, and we think one of Trinity’s employees was in Game Of Thrones. We’ll let their YouTube video fill in the blanks.

The Trinity YouTube Video

Yep, Trinity is a packaging company. Wow! But did all that tomfoolery translate to the bottom line? We’ll let Inc Magazine answer that question in their piece, “How Relationships–Both With Customers and Employees–Form the Core of a Fast-Growth Culture.”

Ok, so the article title stretches from sea to shining sea but the takeaway is clear. We want to drink beer with these Trinity people! Virgin America was famous for taking a similar approach to their marketing.

When we want to drink beer with a brand’s persona, we are far more likely to join their team. How so? Trust. Trinity Packaging is a brand people can trust. And when it comes to recruiting top talent, trust is the name of the game.  

Trinity only produced a small amount of YouTube content. Same on the blogging platform, Medium. But the content they did produce (let’s hope they provide more), backed by awards and recognition, put them on our radar.

Meaning, their brand rose well above the noise to capture our attention. Do you think that might matter to a potential hire? Absolutely!

Retaining top talent is about a whole lot more than a fun brand. But it’s a great place to start, especially if you back it up with exceptional leadership.


Recruiting for the packaging industry is a very human process filled with real fears and stress points. Companies like Brigade, Sonderen, and Trinity calm those nerves by bringing a lot to the table. We have no affiliation with any of these brands, but their stories touched us, so we wanted to share them with you.

Chase & Associates – We Have Your Back

The 19 Crimes Of Packaging

“Only those who have stood within the bars and heard the din of devils and the appalling sounds of despair can imagine the horrors of the hold of a convict ship.”

John Boyle O’Reilly

What the heck? Isn’t this blog about executive recruiting? The packaging industry? HR tips? Maybe a useful web link now and then? Indeed, it is.

Guess how we came upon Mr. O’Reilly’s story? You’re not going to believe me. We met Mr. O’Reilly on a talking wine bottle. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“The men featured on our wine labels are not those of fiction. They were flesh and blood. Criminals, artists, and scholars. In history, they share a bond – receiving “punishment by transportation” for violation of one of 19 crimes and becoming the first settlers of a new nation.”

The 19 Crimes Website

And the nation? Australia. News to me!

What to do when wine bottles give The History Channel a run for its money?

Hmmm, now that I think about it– Happy History Hour! I digress.

19 Crimes is one of seventy brands owned by Treasury Wine Estates, one of the largest wine companies in the world. And let’s be honest, they know how to tell a story. Big time.

But did it work? I’ll let Ashely Roberts epic blog post, “Smart Packaging Has Arrived- Are You Ready?” answer that question. Her deep dive post pairs nicely with The Uprising, a 19 Crimes wine with a story of its own.

Treasury Wine Estates is not merely using a gimmick to sell wine. There is a deep and passionate connection between the “criminals, artists and scholars” their wine labels feature, and their brand. The two act as one.

Did I mention their wine corks? But another way to bring the lore to life. Storytelling floods their website. New wines and scallywags are added on an ongoing basis, each one, a new chapter in the 19 Crimes storybook.

How can you use Smart Packaging to tell your story? How can you use Smart Packaging to connect with your audience?

When it comes to branding wine, it’s 19 Crimes for the win!

Smart Packaging & The Call To Innovate

I get it. Truly, I do. You’re still trying to get your head around the “Happy History Hour” talking wine bottles thing. I feel your pain. Nonetheless, Ladies and Gentleman, I present– Mrs. Rinaldi. Her pasta sauce is fantastico!

Yep, another talking bottle, this time– on behalf of sauces for pasta.

There is a line in Jenni Spinner’s blog post in Packaging Digest where she quotes Mary DeMarco from LiDestri Food & Drink (the brand owner of the pasta sauce):

“Through AR, we are looking forward and focusing on technology, while staying true to our traditional pasta sauce recipes and Italian culture.”

As is the case with 19 Crimes, Smart Packaging is used to tell brand driven stories and to connect with customers. Mrs. Rinaldi tells us three stories via the Rinaldi labels, two about her sauces, one about the eco-friendly nature of the container they use to bottle those sauces (also noted in Jenni’s article).

From strategy to execution, LiDestri Food & Drink uses Smart Packaging to communicate three core brand values:

  • Traditional pasta sauce recipes
  • Italian culture
  • Environmentally friendly container

When I think about all the money I’ve spent on radio ads over the years! It’s depressing. I could have hired a label as a spokesperson!

The thing that makes all this work at LiDestri is their packaging strategies are born from their deeply held values. The first thing you see on the LiDestri website? Tradition & Innovation.

In the company’s blog post “Packaging – First Impressions Matter,” Stefani LiDestri, the Co-President & CMO of LiDestri, walks the talk.

“Taking away the guesswork and providing our partners with smart, up-to-date packaging solutions is one of the cornerstones of our business. Consider the Living Jar™– it’s beautifully designed, fundamentally strong, environmentally friendly, and in every way the embodiment of meaningful innovation at LiDestri.”

Smart Packaging backed by exceptional leadership and enduring values, the key to sustainable success. That is LiDestri Food & Drink.

Smart Packaging: 101

Peter Knapp is a smart guy. Peter Knapp gets it. As the Chairman & Global Creative Officer for the brand building powerhouse, Landor- his expertise in the digital space is vast.

In his article for Packaging World, he makes a case for building trust and providing value as crucial to Smart Packaging strategies.

“… when executed properly—and with a little vision—the possibilities for brands to use smart packaging are almost endless.”

Key in on the term “when executed properly.” In the case of 19 Crimes and Mrs. Rinaldo, they are the embodiment of that standard. Anything less turns Smart Packaging into a gimmick with a short shelf life.

Peter ends his piece with a powerful truth.

“Trust is the last vanguard between the human and machine world and, in the smart packaging revolution, the brands that understand this will rise to the top.”

I strongly recommend reading, “Smart Packaging That Adds Real Value” by Peter Knapp. It’s a webinar in writing that you don’t want to miss.

I also suggest watching his Experience Mapping video on the Landor website. In it, he makes a simple statement but in that simple statement, we find the cornerstone to excellent brand strategy.

“What we try to do is think about the brand in very human terms.”

A simple statement. Not a lot there. Thing is, that is how you build an extraordinary brand. Like a Swiss Army knife, everything you need in a tiny little package.

How you execute that simple truth is key. A few moments later in the video, Peter shares the Landor experience mapping process. The thing that most stood out is the language they use. Direct. Easy to understand. Relevant.

Do you look at your brand through a very human lens? Are you using Smart Packaging like LiDistri and 19 Crimes? Is your brand committed to building meaningful relationships with your customer base?  

Building trust. Providing value. Telling compelling stories that keep your customers coming back for more. The hallmark traits of Smart Packaging at its best.


What does this have to do with executive recruiting? EVERYTHING! How can we find the best innovators unless we know what they look like? It’s also how we built Chase. Authenticity. A strong company culture. Innovation.  

Chase & Associates – We Have Your Back.

How a Strong Corporate Culture Defines your Brand

Defining Corporate Culture

You hear the term thrown around a lot these days, but what is corporate culture anyway? Why does it matter to an organization and what are the key benefits of having one in place? Most importantly, if it truly is important, how do you go about developing one that makes an impact and is sustainable over the long term?

All great questions for sure, but let’s take it from the beginning.

Loosely defined, corporate culture is the shared attributes of an organization and the members that comprise it. These qualities can be beliefs, attitudes, and values that guide the organization throughout their daily activities.

Corporate culture is not a single process or element, but rather the cumulative effect of all parts of how a company does business.

This includes everything from goals and strategies to the structure of the organization itself. Most importantly, corporate culture defines how the business approaches its relationships with all involved stakeholders: customers, investors, employees and the community.

Is Corporate Culture Really That Important?

Yes – it is. Research has shown that a healthy corporate culture can significantly impact the productivity of an organization (and their employees).

In strong corporate cultures, employees are more apt to feel like they’re part of a team and gain a sense of satisfaction in helping others succeed. And as is human nature, people work harder, accomplish more, and give their best when they know it matters.

This notion holds especially true when it comes to millennials in the workplace – who value culture over just about anything else.

A study from Columbia University found that turnover rates for organizations with strong company culture were around 14%. Whereas companies who lacked these cohesive structures saw churn figures as high as 48.4%.

Employees who lack company culture frequently see themselves as individuals – focusing more on their own needs vs those of the organization. Often doing just enough to “get by” and never truly engaging or working to their full potential.

A compelling reason on its own to investigate further.

Building A Strong Corporate Culture

While there are many benefits to having one, there are no set in stone rules for developing company culture. However, there are a few guiding principles that many successful organizations have in common.

Honesty and Transparency – From the bottom level of the organization all the way to the top – everyone should be held to the same standard of open dialogue. Whether it be corporate strategy sessions, giving (or receiving) feedback or even water cooler banter.

An environment of honesty fosters trust and encourages member participation.

Cooperation – It goes without saying, but employees who feel their contributions are valued are much more likely to share their ideas. Not only does this benefit the individual, but improves the team as well.

Because different perspectives are often the driving force of creative problem-solving.  

Growth and Development – From both a personal and professional level. Employees not only want to know that they can advance within the organization but develop new talents and skill sets along the way.

Mentorship programs, educational opportunities, and new challenges bring out the best in employees. Along with suitable financial compensation in line with any increased responsibility.

Embracing Diversity – While there’s a lot of talk about finding the right “fit” in an organization, searching for a prototypical candidate can be a mistake. Remember, you’re not looking for an army of robots, but instead, a diverse group of people who share the same ideas, goals, and values.

And the best ideas come from teams comprised of individuals with different backgrounds, talents, and experiences.

Using Corporate Culture To Improve Recruiting

It’s no secret that great candidates are in the driver’s seat these days. Internet searches allow them to quickly uncover information about any company that they’re interested in. They can read reviews, follow on social media, and compare and contrast organizations without breaking a sweat.

Thus, monitoring and improving your web presence is paramount, but most job and career pages aren’t utilized correctly. They fail to actively market their corporate culture to the people who may be interested in it most.

Considering the internet is usually the first place job seekers encounter your brand, that’s a huge mistake.

Companies who actively market their company culture typically find better candidates and they attract employees whose values closely align with their own (while simultaneously repelling those that don’t).

So, the question is, how do you go about spreading the right kind of message? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Social Media – Popular platforms like FacebookTwitter and Instagram are a great way to showcase your company culture. Sharing photos, achievements, and talking about your values provide insight into what it’s like to work for your organization.

    Don’t forget about LinkedIn either. Though not traditionally associated with being a social media outlet, it’s often the platform of choice for white-collar professionals looking to build relationships and grow their career.

    The ability to network with both current and past employees, and showcase your organization to future talent, can be a powerful force in the recruiting process.

  2. Employer Review Sites – GlassdoorGreat Place to Work, and Indeed are all frequent stops for candidates researching prospective employers. With reviews being such an important part of the decision-making process, you can’t afford to overlook what’s being said on these platforms.

  3. Employee-Focused Career Pages – Where candidates can see vibrant details about your company culture on full display. Consider including candid photos and testimonials from employees and management. Be transparent in describing the organization’s mission and values and call out the type of people you’re looking for.

    The more accurately you can portray your workplace, the easier it will be to find candidates who are a good match.

While all the strategies and advice mentioned above makes a huge difference, never lose sight of the basics. That is, don’t overlook the value of simply being a good employer.

Because when you treat your employees well, they enjoy their jobs, work hard, and tell their friends and family about their experiences. Which naturally leads to referrals and even more qualified candidates being driven to your organization.    

Conclusion

Now more than ever corporate culture is becoming a cornerstone of building a strong brand and recruiting top talent. Clearly defining organizational goals and values and depicting how they’re embraced daily is pivotal for long-term success.

Top-down management approaches that focus on honesty, cooperation, accountability, and growth keep employees engaged and motivated. When coupled with a diverse workforce of talented individuals, become an unstoppable force of new ideas and enhanced productivity.

Lastly, celebrating your team and their accomplishments with the world generates the biggest return of all – a process that repeats itself over and over again.


Chase & Associates – We Have Your Back