“Unprecedented Times” has become a standard term in our vocabulary. After living through a global pandemic, we’ve all seen and experienced the accelerated change as a result, both in our personal lives and in the business realm. Navigating change is never easy—but it’s a necessary part of life.
With navigating business changes in mind, we sat down with Tom Miskewitz, President and CEO of Champion Container Corporation, to discuss how he has led one of the premier packaging distributors through change, without compromising on their values:
###### TRANSCRIPT ######
Torri Yates-Orr: We’re joined today by Tom Miskewitz, CEO of Champion Container. Champion Container Corporation was founded in 1968 and has since evolved into the premier general packaging container distributor in the Northeast. After serving in the US Army as a Combat Heavy Engineer, Tom joined champion container in October of 1993 and ascended to the position of President and CEO. Under his leadership Champion Container has continued to grow and innovate, solidifying its position as a leader in the packaging industry.
Tom, we’re more or less on the other side of a global pandemic, something that has changed so many of our lives. But what I think we’re seeing is that we’re not necessarily returning to normal more so as we’re going into a new normal, where everything has changed: our habits have changed, our outlooks have changed, even how and where we go to work is changing. So in light of all of this, we wanted to get your opinion as a business leader on how you’ve adapted and what you’ve learned during this process.
How have you seen consumer behavior change, especially in incorporating the digital space more?
Tom Miskewitz: I wouldn’t say that it’s changed so much. I think we were heading in that direction to begin with. I just think that COVID accelerated it because, out of necessity, it just had to happen if you wanted to continue to do business. So I think the texting, the zoom calls—that all accelerated.
TY-O: Have your values changed at Champion or have they stayed the same?
TM: They haven’t had to change. I think those are one of the things that can stand the test of time. If you’re doing the right thing today, it’s still the right thing tomorrow.
TY-O: Have you noticed a change in consumer expectations when it comes to pricing versus pre COVID?
TM: It hasn’t changed. People still want a fair price, but they understand with inflation and what they’ve seen through their raw materials, pricing is going up. Nobody likes it, but they understand it.
TY-O: And what about expectations in terms of sustainability and environmental awareness?
TM: People are definitely looking to go towards sustainability. It makes sense for everybody. It’s just a little difficult right now, again, with supply issues, you know, the materials that are gonna go into the sustainability products, the recycled resin—it’s difficult to get, and it is more expensive. It makes it a hard sell, but again, I think ultimately it’s the right way to go. And we definitely need to move in that direction.
TY-O: What are consumer expectations when it comes to timing and product delivery?
TM: Some people that were buying direct from manufacturers now see the value of a distributor. We’ve got over 300,000 square feet of stocked product. So the idea is that you can still get it just in time and you don’t have to deal with the lead times that used to be a week to two weeks to three weeks. People are a little more understanding. But ultimately they still need to get out what they need to get out. And we understand that.
TY-O: With all of these changing consumer expectations, how have you adjusted?
TM: We’ve definitely kept more inventory in stock. We’re at all time high levels. And we are in the process of building a sixth warehouse. I don’t see this as a short term problem. I think this is a global issue that’s gonna continue on for multiple years.
TY-O: You seem to have such a calm and steady view on all of this. What advice would you give to other business leaders who are having to deal with all of these changes?
TM: Stay true to your values and just continue on. You just have to kind of adapt to new technologies. Sometimes you need to change direction a little bit, but your core values are the key and rely on your people. You hire them for a reason. Many of them have great ideas. I think that’s what kind of builds and makes things better—and listen to everybody’s viewpoint. That’s the key, just keeping an open mind and listening to people.