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Seaman Corporation recently responded to a call to donate fabric to a project to make field hospital cots for pop-up medical centers serving patients during the COVID-19 crisis. A group of businesses from Northeast Ohio collaborated for the effort. Within two weeks of the call, they delivered the first 1,000 portable cots to a location in Long Island, New York; and a week later they delivered the same amount to respond to medical needs in Columbus, Ohio. Orders are now pouring in from states across the USA.
What started out as a dream to help people during this crisis in some way has turned into a genuine business opportunity for all who are participating.
Meeting people’s needs is in Seaman Corporation’s DNA.
My father and mother had a high school education, and with as much they built the foundation of our business, understanding the importance of meeting people’s needs. In the first year of production, my father coated 16,000 yards of truck tarp fabric and sold it to a local tarp manufacturer. In the first year of exposure to the elements, all of this fabric failed. My father discovered the problem: he had failed to include an ultraviolet light inhibitor. Because of his commitment to satisfying his customer, he corrected the problem and decided to replace the entire 16,000 yards (worth an entire year of production) at no cost to the customer. With this act, he set the standard for our business’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.
After college, I stepped confidently into my role in the family business, eager to put my academic achievements to work. As Plant Manager, I measured success by monitoring daily, weekly, and monthly production results. Life on the job, however, soon humbled me. Because of production and shipping pressures, I made the decision to ship product to our largest customer that was functionally sound, but with some minor aesthetic flaws. Before I had the chance to visit the customer and respond to his complaints, he made the decision to switch suppliers. Because I was so focused on my needs, I had failed to meet my customer’s needs, and thus my biggest contribution after college became losing our largest customer!
I realized that to build a business that would last, we would have to really cherish our relationships with customers and see quality through their eyes.
Enter the CARE Philosophy
With this in mind, I set out to create and institutionalize a philosophy at Seaman Corporation that could serve as a guiding light for our associates and keep them focused on quality and service for our customers. Together, we came up with a program we call CARE: Customers Are the Reason for Excellence. We extended this acronym to serve an internal focus on quality, too: Competitive Advantage Requires Excellence.
The CARE philosophy at Seaman Corporation offers our associates a set of principles for how to conduct business on a day-to-day basis, keeping them focused on quality and putting our customers’ needs first. The principles of the CARE program include leadership, 100% total customer satisfaction, continuous quality improvement, strategic quality planning, human resource development, quality assurance, and systems measurements.
Each one of these principles requires an investment of time and money. We showcase CARE to our customers by bringing them to our company and sharing our process. We continually invest in our never-ending quest for quality improvement. We make painstaking efforts to cut costs to keep our product pricing competitive for the marketplace. And we invest in our people, recognizing that we cannot grow or sustain our business if we don’t have a motivated and satisfied workforce. Hence, Seaman Corporation invests in a robust human resource function that is dedicated to associate development programs.
It isn’t easy or inexpensive to put people first. But as shareholders of a multi-generational family business, we see ourselves as stewards. We realize our role comes with a big responsibility to people. In order for our enterprise to survive long-term, we must invest in the needs of our customers, our associates, and our communities.