Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 11:45 AM
Part of the manufacturing process at Blommer Chocolate Co. in East Greenville.

Right now, there are open positions for manufacturing workers at Blommer Chocolate Co. in upper Montgomery County. The plant's director of operations, Chris Milligan, told me that even hourly workers are hard to find. I wondered why, but then I got an email that gave me a clue.

Let's start with the problem: "There are a few manufacturing plants in the area and we are all have struggles to find people who are willing to work in manufacturing," he told me as he and I toured through the plant with his boss, Peter Blommer, the company president and part of the third generation to run the 75-year-old Chicago-based chocolate manufacturing company. The jobs pay $12 to $16 an hour

Why is it a problem? In my mind, I was thinking of the many unemployed people in the cities of Philadelphia or Allentown. Obviously, locating a plant in East Greenville, in the middle of farm country isn't going to make it easy for people to commute. The plant employs 250, and not surprisingly, smells delicious. The company now runs three shifts and is expanding, meaning 30 to 40 more jobs in the coming years, Blommer said.. 

POSTED: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 5:00 AM
Brothers Stephen and Peter Blommer, right, both executives at Blommer Chocolate Co., now being run by the third generation of Blommers.

Peter Blommer counts his family's business, Blommer Chocolate Co., as a success story. But when Blommer, now 50, was a young man, about to embark on his career, he had no intention of joining the company, now in its 75th year. Now he's the president and chief operating officer, running the company with other members of the third generation. What happened?

"All of us – I grew up with seven kids in the family -- spent time in the business because  we wanted to earn money for school and because my father thought it was good hard work and he wanted us to have an appreciation for that.

"So I ran the presses and the refiners. Usually, I had the hottest, hardest, dirtiest jobs, which is what any family member ought to have to do. Eventually, I progressed to driving trucks, and in fact drove locally and eventually drove them cross-country. I think I was illegal doing that – but I think the statute of limitations has passed. I was 17, doing interstate trucking, which was fascinating. I worked in sales a little bit."

POSTED: Monday, April 14, 2014, 2:55 AM
Brothers Stephen and Peter Blommer, right, both executives at Blommer Chocolate Co., now being run by the third generation of Blommers.

Thinking about whether to enter the family business? Whether the family business is large, like Blommer Chocolate Co., or small, like the mom-and-pop deli or repair garage, the question of generational transition will inevitably arise.  Actually, it's two questions: Does the family business want to employ that particular member of the next generation and does that particular member of the next generation really want to hop on board?

Peter Blommer, president and chief operating officer at Blommer Chocolate Co., explained his philosophy on that subject during our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer. He's part of the third generation leading the family business, now in its 75th year. Blommer leads at the Chicago-based company's East Greenville factory.

"Joining the family business should never be seen as an obligation or an entitlement," Blommer said. Same deal, the other way.  Just as the family member is not obliged to join the company and not entitled to a job, neither is the company obliged to hire the family member.

POSTED: Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 3:55 AM
Mark Edwards

If he had his way, Mark Edwards wouldn't show up in the news. Instead, he'd keep his focus on the tasks at hand. That's fine for folks who aren't CEOs, but it's different for leaders of organizations. And that was a lesson that Edwards, now chief executive of Philadelphia Works Inc., had to learn as he rose through the leadership ranks.

"I didn’t want it to be about me," Edwards told me during our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer. But he had a media adviser who helped him understand his responsibilities.

"She told me, `Mark, you are the face of the organization. You are the one that people are betting on.' That just changed my paradigm.

POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 3:30 AM
Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards runs Philadelphia Works -- an important local agency in the effort to connect people to jobs. So, what's his advice for landing work? I asked him that question during our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Here's his response:

"Read as many of the periodicals, local periodicals as you can to understand what’s happening in the city -- something new that’s happening, an employer that’s coming in. That's the importance of being up on current events.

POSTED: Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 3:55 AM
How does a person in charge of 8,000 employees in more than a dozen countries, stretching over 5,000 miles on two continents develop a work life balance? (iStockphoto)

So how does a person in charge of 8,000 employees in more than a dozen countries, stretching over 5,000 miles on two continents develop a work life balance? "It's a work in process," says Donald Lewis, chief executive of SCA Americas.

SCA Americas is the U.S. division of a Swedish company that sells napkins, diapers, tampons and other paper products worldwide. Its headquarters are in Philadelphia.

Over the past couple months, Lewis has been trying to organize his time into six blocks, based on six priorities that he has set for his business. One, for example, is talent management. Another is organizational efficiency. A third is growth, which includes the pursuit of acquisitions. "If it's not making one of those boxes,  I probably shouldn't be doing it, or I should delegate it."

POSTED: Monday, March 31, 2014, 3:55 AM
Don Lewis

You know what scares CEOs? They are petrified that they aren't going to find out something important about their companies because they are too sheltered by the people who directly report to them. They experience constant tension between the responsibilities of their position and, in many cases, the desire to be directly in contact with the most basic operations of their organizations and the people doing them.

"It’s one of things I have the biggest difficulty with because it’s one of the things I love," said Donald Lewis, president of SCA Americas, headquartered in Philadelphia. Its parent is a global Swedish company that sells napkins, diapers, adult incontinence products and feminine hygiene products worldwide. Lewis supervises 8,000 of the company's 44,000 employees and his territory encompasses 5,000 miles from Canada to South America.  

"I get energy two ways, being in front of employees and being in front of customers and I need that as fuel," Lewis said during our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer. "If I’m stuck in an office too long and I don’t get to do one of those things, I’m not my best. One gives me a view from the inside and one gives me a view from the outside."

POSTED: Friday, March 28, 2014, 12:57 PM
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About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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