How the Diana’s Bananas team puts common sense to work for the company. . . and for themselves
by Karin O’Connor
Diana’s Bananas CEO Bob Carmody is proud of his team—and rightly so. Each month, his two-dozen staffers crank out over 1.2 million chocolate-dipped frozen bananas—“The World’s Best”! That’s over 1500 bananas a day—per person!
But to Bob, the workers in the company’s factory on Chicago’s Near West side aren’t just employees, they are partners, as well. Many of them are immigrants; most have families, and they are working hard to create a better life for their kids. The success and sustainability of the company they work for is important to them.
Bob implemented a profit sharing plan a few years ago and then realized that the employees had no idea how the company actually made money. . . or how much it actually made. He called the group together and walked them through some income statement basics, asking them to tell him how much they thought belonged on each line—How much are our monthly sales? How much do our raw materials cost? What are our payroll, rent, utilities, etc.? And, finally—How much does Bob make? Their answers were pretty much all way off. . .and quite revealing. Then he walked them through the reality. And they quickly figured out that the only ways to make more money were to either sell more bananas or produce them at a lower cost. Everyone learned a lot that day.
In order to sell more (and to continue being “The World’s Best”), customer satisfaction is key. Diana’s receives lots of feedback from its customers—mostly positive, but sometimes not so much. Each week, Bob shares both the good and the bad with the team and they talk as a group about how to fix any problems. They are super-focused on quality, and the number of complaints has shrunk to a trickle. Bob thought, “The employees ought to be rewarded for making our customers happy. What’s the best way to do that?” Not surprisingly, he decided to ask them. After some discussion, they came back with a plan—for every four weeks with no customer complaints, Bob would buy lunch (catered in and from anywhere they chose) for everyone. Needless to say, the lunches have become frequent and popular events!
Then Bob figured out something else. His dipping line, the slowest component of the operation, was only working at 55% capacity. He called the troops together and asked them for ideas. They soon came up with a flurry of suggestions—“Bring in someone to set up before our morning shift starts, so that we can get right to work.”; “If we stagger our breaks rather than all going at once, we can keep the line going all the time.” Sensible and easy to implement—productivity jumped within only a day or two! How to reward them for meeting their new production goals? Again, Bob turned to the group for an answer. Now, for every six weeks of goal-beating productivity, they get to go on an outing—a soccer game, for example, or a day at Six Flags with their families.
So, what about employee turnover at Diana’s? Well, and as you many have guessed, it’s zero. In over 15 years of operation, Diana’s has yet to have an employee quit. “We did have one guy who decided a few years ago that he wanted to move to Columbia, but six months later, he realized that he’d made a mistake. That’s him over there now!”
Sounds like the bananas aren’t the only thing that’s “World’s Best” at Dianas!