Three Customers + Four Values = Success

Kevin Thorne, President of Best Diamond Packaging, caught the entrepreneurial bug when he was working as a corporate buyer for McDonalds. He says he was inspired from the people he met there.

“I met some tremendously energetic, bright, and just very cool people,” Thorne recalls. “It’s like the flu. If you hang around people that are sick, you get sick, but if you hang around people that are business owners and self-starters, it helps to germinate a few seeds of your own.”

With his experience in the supply chain and an entrepreneurial spirit, Thorne started Best Diamond Packaging in 2003. The company buys paper in large industrial size rolls and converts it into individual usable products such as napkins in dispensers. The business runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 355 days a year to make approximately ten billion napkins a year.

Thorne’s biggest customers are household names.

“We supply just under a quarter of all the napkins for McDonald’s, about a third of all the napkins for Burger King, and half of the Arby’s napkins across the county on both coasts,” he explains. “The Arby’s business is making us more of a national player and we’re doing this in conjunction with our partners Cascades, where we’re using some of their capacity in the west coast.”

Best Diamond Packaging has seen steady growth even in this down economy. Thorne credits this growth to his concentrated customer base and his business partnerships.  His philosophy is it’s easier to grow with existing customers than to find new ones.

“We’ve grown extremely large with the few customers that we’ve had relationships with for the last seven or eight years,” says Thorne.  “McDonald’s has weathered the economy probably better than any restaurant business that’s been out there.”

Thorne also credits his company’s processes and culture for fueling its growth. He realized very early that when dealing with national restaurant powerhouses like McDonalds and Burger King, there are very high quality standards and expectations to meet.  Best Diamond Packaging created a pricing and cost model that allowed them to compete with paper product producers that are much larger. They are also continually watching their critical metrics such as labor and waste.

“Eighty percent of my cost is tissue,” says Thorne. “If I can keep that down, that gives me the ability to compete. The other twenty percent is converting cost, labor, and handling.”

Throne appreciated the values and principles that McDonalds instilled in their corporation and incorporated some of those same values into his own business. Best Diamond Packaging has four core values.

The first is integrity.

“This value came originally from McDonald’s, where basically they did millions and billions of dollars of business on a handshake,” explains Thorne. “I distill integrity down to what I say and do.”

The second one is accountability.

“If something goes wrong, I own it,” he explains. “If something goes right, I own that too. We try to live those values out with our team, and we certainly don’t accept excuses and blame. We’re in this together.  You own your piece of the blame, and you own your piece of the glory.”

The third core value is teamwork.

“Again, this value came from McDonald’s. They have a philosophy that none of us is as good as all of us.  The idea that everybody’s valuable, but nobody’s invaluable.”

And the fourth value is continuous improvement.

“We are always learning,” says Thorne. “If you’re green, you’re growing, but if you’re ripe, you’re rotting. I pay money for my people to get learning and training. The training could be specific to their jobs like mechanical or electrical training or softer skills, such as how to manage people.”

Looking forward, Thorne sees a lot more growth potential. He is looking to expand his operations to the West Coast. Employee growth is also important to Thorne. He seeks ways to provide opportunities for his employees. Thorne firmly believes in rewarding those employees who have been loyal to his company.

He is also looking to diversify his products, perhaps even moving away from paper products.

“My widget right now is a napkin,” he says. “I’m not married to that.  I’ve looked at ice cream cones, salad dressing, rice and pork products. The widget is irrelevant to me.”

Thorne offers the following advice to those thinking about starting their own business,

“If  it’s in you to go after it, continue to scratch the itch. Whenever it hits you, I would just say go for it.  Scratch it, and take it as far as you can, because you’ll never know where you will end up.  The world needs more people that are willing to go beyond their comfort zone and build something that will certainly benefit them and their families, but also be a conduit to bless other people.”

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