Monday, March 16, 2015

Omaha Steaks: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

In 1898, the Simon brothers landed at Ellis Island after fleeing religious persecution in Eastern Europe. A transcontinental train took them to Nebraska, which looked like their native Latvia. There they resumed their profession as butchers, founding their own company in 1917 to provide high-quality beef to restaurants and grocers. In time they expanded to mail order, retail locations, and sales via telephone and Internet. Today the company – one of America’s largest marketers of beef – is privately held and run by the fourth and fifth generations of Simons. Its 1,800 employees are still based in Omaha. The main About Us page is Our Company, accessed via About / Company Info in the footer of every page.


Products/Services: A
Omaha Steaks has condensed most of their About Us material into one page, Our Company. It includes a pithy summary of the company: its business, location, divisions (with links to each), and employees. Sidebars left and right illustrate the company’s mouth-watering products, offer testimonials, and provide contact information. Our Commandment 7 of About Us pages is, “Keep navigation easy.” Omaha Steaks does that.

Unobtrusively positioned on the top right of Our Company is a link, “Read about our company’s heritage.” It takes visitors to a sequence of history pages: Our Beginnings, Customers Nationwide, Reputation, An Overview, and Tradition Continues. These pages make us giddy with delight.

First of all, they form a well-written narrative company history, laid out in a way that makes it easy to get through them all. (If all this information had been squashed onto one page, how many visitors would have made it to the end?) Second, the text covers all the bases: the who, why, and where of the company founders, the reason for the company name, the development of various forms of distribution (mail order, phone, Internet), notable awards, company divisions, and the current management. Each page is illustrated with an appropriate photo. High marks to Omaha Steaks for their corporate storytelling!

Our only quibble is that the teaser and link to the business history pages on the main About Us page should be made more enticing, perhaps by using one of the vintage images used on the history pages.

Personality: A
Our Commandment 3 of About Us pages is, “Reveal thy personality.” Surprisingly few companies do as good a job of this as Omaha Steaks. Its personality comes through very strongly in the History pages, which start by describing the founders and finish by stating that the fourth and fifth generations of the same family are now running the company.

Accessibility: A
Omaha Steaks does much of their business online or by phone, and they make it easy to order. The header has a toll-free number, store locations, and a live chat option. The footer has a link to a Customer Care page that offers all these options.

Let a well-written corporate history explain why your products are so good and make visitors to your site eager to deal with you.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Garda World Security: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Garda World Security was founded in 1995 by Stephan Cretier, using money from a second mortgage on his home. Headquartered in Montreal, it is now one of the world’s ten largest security providers – notably of armored cars and security guards. Garda has more than 200 offices in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. It is also one of the top three cash logistics brands in North America, handling more than $5 billion (!) every day. The main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: C
The main About Us page – the one that the About link in the footer leads to – gives a good summary of Garda’s purpose and its global reach. But as an introduction to the site and to Garda company history in general, it’s weak. The top of this page (and several others in the About Us section) is occupied by an image that fills most of the space on a desktop screen. Here, it’s a scene of a highway at night that has no obvious relation to Garda.

The size of the photo is a serious problem because the left-hand navigation menu is tacked onto it, so the menu that should entice visitors is out of sight once they scroll down to the page’s text.

And there are more problems. The divisions of the company aren’t mentioned in the text of the main About Us page. Why not have photos with captions as teasers? The links within the text to other pages on the site are formatted in a discretely elegant way that makes them easy to miss.

Another problem: on the main About Us page, the menu options are Our Businesses, Locations, News and Media, and Careers. But in the footer of every page, the About menu offers the choices of Our Team, Fast Facts, Our History, Governance, and Garda in the Community. The inconsistency is confusing.

Personality: A
The Our Team page starts off right with a bio of Stephan Cretier (Garda’s founder, chairman, president and CEO) that sets out how he founded the company and segues into its current global scope. Nice use of corporate storytelling!

We do cavil at some of the phrasing. For example: “Named ‘Entrepreneur of the Decade’ by Profit Magazine in 2011 as one of eleven remarkable Canadian CEOs, Stephan Cretier is ...”: was Cretier the Entrepreneur of the Decade, or one of eleven remarkable Canadian CEOs, or both? Our Commandment 9 of About Us pages is “Worship clarity.” That includes making sure that every sentence is unambiguous.

Accessibility: B
A red Contact Us bar at the foot of every page allows visitors to send an email. The Contact page (accessible via the footer) offers only an online form for contact. Clicking the link within the text to Locations takes us to a page that has phones and addresses. But the existence of that page isn’t obvious due to the annoyingly subtle format used for links.

Take care to make navigation easy and obvious, and never be elegant at the expense of ease of use. Your business history deserves to be easily accessible.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Displaying company culture on the wall

Here's a stellar summation of corporate culture:

The Honest Worker

In other companies there are often displayed in places of honor pictures of pioneers and founders of those organizations. An aura of majesty, power and importance generally surrounds such portraiture. At JLM, Inc. we rather dedicate that place of honor to picture that nameless individual -- our typical worker -- who by dint of honest, skillful and resourceful effort has created this great organization and has assured it a continuing and important place in the commerce of this area.

This worker pictured has completed an honest day's work. He has done his job to the very best of his ability, and his entire being reflects the dignity and personal reward of having made his contribution to his family, his employer and his community. He is indeed a happy, confident, strong individual.

We hereby honor him -- a tribute which lives and lasts.

Written decades ago, these words greet visitors to the headquarters of Joseph L. Muscarelle, Inc., a family-owned business in Maywood, NJ, celebrating its 90th year. JLM develops office, industrial, retail, and hotel projects in the northeast and southeast U.S. The family name may be familiar to graduates of The College of William & Mary, as JLM founder Joseph L. Muscarelle (W&M ’27) and his wife Margaret were major benefactors of W&M's Muscarelle Museum (shown here), as well as the Muscarelle Center at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.

Corporate storytelling and business anniversary tip: Any company can, and should, display its history and corporate culture for all to see. But as always, displaying works only if you walk the talk.

Thanks to Eli Amdur for sharing "The Honest Worker" story via this column in The Record of North Jersey.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ideal Industries: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Ideal Industries, founded by J. Walter Becker in 1916, was by 1949 America’s largest producer of wire nuts. Headquartered in Sycamore, Illinois, the company (still privately owned) produces connectors, hand tools, testers and meters for the electrical and telecommunications industries. Ideal Industries’ main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: B
On the About Us menu, the first item is a page of Featured Stories, which cover the product that brought Ideal Industries fame (wire connectors) as well as more recent innovations (a DC power connector that reduces energy costs). The second page on the menu, Our Story, has a good 2-paragraph summary of the company’s products and the breadth of applications they’re used in. We especially like this crisp example of corporate storytelling: “We’re best known for our wire connectors, which have become the go-to standard for electrical connections around the world, but our innovations also touch the sky -- where nearly every commercial jet flying today was made using IDEAL wire strippers. We’ve reached the moon, as part of the critical equipment on NASA missions. Best of all, we touch the daily lives of skilled tradesmen around the globe….”

Why not add links from there to the various featured stories? It’s such an easy and effective way to guide visitors to other content on the site.

The Our History timeline has a good selection of milestones, including products, awards, acquisitions, and leadership. Each has a logo or another type of illustration.  Well done!

Our Commandment 6 of About Us pages is, “Honor thy visuals.” Why not include images such as those on the timeline on other pages? The first 3 images on the main About Us page (Our Story) seem to be from a school tour of the company’s plant--an odd choice of illustration. One is a link to a video that we’ve never been able to play. Even if it’s brilliant, the other images need to stand on their own, which they don’t.

Personality: A
The company’s founder, J. Walter Becker, is frequently mentioned as being the inspiration for the values that still drive this family-owned business. On the Executive Staff page, each officer has a bio plus a sentence or two on his or her strategy, and a quotation. This is an excellent way to convey the aims and personality of the current leadership.

Accessibility: D
Our Commandment 8 of About Us pages is, “Remember to make yourself and your organization easily accessible.” Because Ideal’s pages stress their commitment to collaborate with the professionals who use their products, we were surprised that the Contact Us page has no email address or online form for contacting the company--just a mailing address and telephone.

As Ideal Industries approaches its 100th business anniversary in 2016, it has a strong history base to build on. But if you advertise yourself as being responsive to customer feedback or proud of collaborating with customers, be sure to make it easy for them to get in touch.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy 50th, 1010 WINS

"You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you ... a headache." That's how I twisted the 1010 WINS  tagline when I heard the station booming from the radio in the mailroom of a film company I worked for. The distinctive clatter that ran behind the voices would drift down the hall and upset my train of thought. Well, 1010 WINS has the last laugh. I'm still listening.

This iconic station celebrates its business anniversary of 50 years on April 19, 2015. "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world" proved such a sturdy concept that it's still going strong. While teletype machines are defunct, the clattery background sound remains. Along with the distinctive voices of WINS reporters, it separates 1010 from other talk stations. The idea of turning a rock music station into a "talking newspaper" was visionary 50 years ago and remains central to 1010 WINS's corporate story.

Like everyone else who relies on "the most listened-to station in the nation," I feel that the people at 1010 WINS are part of my extended family. Here's where you'll find the station's history (page shown above), but WINS or its corporate parent (CBS NY) unfortunately makes it hard to locate. (Remember Commandment 7 of our 10 Commandments of About Us Pages: "Keep Navigation Easy.") I had to Google various phrases in order to arrive at this page and others. Dear WINS friends: Please make it easier for your fans to go straight to your history! It's fun to browse the biggest NY events and celebs of the past five decades. TIP: This chunking by decade is a good idea for businesses seeking an accessible way to celebrate their corporate anniversaries and company timelines. 

P.S. Big thanks for leaving the late, great Stan Brooks in the roster of reporters. I only wish Judy DeAngelis was still with you.