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Keys to Effective Collaboration

Collaborate – verb, col·lab·o·rate \ kə-ˈla-bə-ˌrāt \ The action of working with someone to produce or create something.

In this fast-paced, ever-changing food environment, collaboration is inevitable, both internally and externally. Consumer demands change so quickly and our customers are tasked with staying relevant, which means working together to address challenges is imperative. At Denali Ingredients, some of the ways in which we collaborate include developing new products, line extensions and revisions to current products that address new attributes consumers seek.

As an organization, we have been undergoing a transformation over the last 5 years to position ourselves as an innovation hub for our customers. We’ve added food scientists, renovated our facilities to include a state-of-the-art lab and a pilot facility, and invested in our employees, all to aid in the collaborative process that occurs between our team and our customers to create the perfect product. We understand what it takes to keep brands relevant in a marketplace, and in order to support our customers effectively, we have focused heavily on our collaboration practices.

I joined the company at a time of fast growth. We had recently purchased our manufacturing facility and were adding personnel to keep up with this growth. Eventually, we identified the need to improve the lines of communication among our team. We invested in ERP software to facilitate communication online. Immediately, we were able to manage the intricacies of all of our projects efficiently and were able to track product attributes, samples and customer feedback all in one place. Sales and R&D are able to collaborate as one team with this software, optimizing our functionality as a company. Currently, we are working to upgrade our software to address continued growth since our initial investment. Keeping the lines of communication clear and available is extremely important to productive collaboration.

To streamline communication, we have found another worthwhile practice: regular check-ins. We keep a regularly-scheduled project conference call between our sales, marketing and R&D teams with the sole purpose of staying connected. It is so easy to fire off emails, texts and instant messages, but there is still profound value in phone calls and in meeting face-to-face.

Perhaps the most important piece of working cohesively is the attitude behind collaboration. To collaborate well with our customers, we must collaborate well internally. Challenges often require our operations team to work in tandem with customer service, raw ingredients suppliers, quality assurance, sales, etc. Everyone needs to be in sync so we can provide our best service to our customers. It is imperative to recognize this and take internal teamwork practices seriously!

Lastly, the physical space in which you work together is almost as significant as the team. There is research showing that open, clean workspaces empower employees to work together more comfortably. In 2016, we opened a brand-new R&D Innovation Center and since then, have found that research to be true. We have a bright and welcoming conference room with glass walls that overlook the R&D space and can even be removed. It is a joy to collaborate in this space with our customers and then transition right into our new R&D workspace where we can create new and innovative products.

Given our location and roots based in Wisconsin, it seems fitting to close with a quote by one of the most recognizable local sports figures: “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

-Kenny Haller, Executive VP of Sales