In Her Own Words: Torani CEO Melanie Dulbecco manages without layoffs

In Her Own Words: Torani CEO Melanie Dulbecco manages without layoffs

Published by
Ellen Sherberg, Bizwomen Contributor

Torani flavors are fixtures in coffee shops, restaurants and maybe your kitchen. CEO Melanie Dulbecco believes in the people behind those products and makes sure they know it.

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"The pandemic didn’t change the way we do business; the pandemic revealed that prioritizing our core values and team commitments was the antidote to failure.

In 2016, we realized that Torani had outgrown our facilities in South San Francisco and started looking for a new home for our headquarters in the Bay Area. Leaving the Bay Area was never an option, despite more attractive rents and incentives in nearby states that have lured other food manufacturers away from California.

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Instead, it was all about the zip code map — the radius in which our team members lived. We were deeply committed to retaining 100% of our team when we moved. For us, this move was about having space to continue to grow our business and creating more opportunities for our team members and all the people, companies, and communities we touch. We were also determined to create a wide range of jobs and careers for people in the Bay Area, not just the desk and tech jobs the area is known for.

Originally planned for March to June 2020, our move was complex … we needed to keep manufacturing at our existing facility while building and starting up our new “flavor factory.” You know what happened next, in March 2020. Keeping our team safe during Covid was our No. 1 priority. As we moved through those crazy first months, we applied lessons we had learned in an earlier crisis: the financial meltdown of 2008.

Lesson 1: Dive into optimizing financials with people in mind.

In our 97-year history, we’ve never had a layoff. At the beginning of the pandemic, when we were faced with extreme uncertainty and risk, our first effort was to do a financial analysis to determine how to make it through potential dramatic declines in revenue while keeping everyone employed. It was a business and life-affirming moment for us.

Lesson 2: Once we’d fastened our own seatbelt, we found new ways to support customers.

Once we ensured that our team members were taken care of, we extended support to our communities. We established the Torani Café Opportunity Fund to help struggling cafes and baristas get back on their feet. This fund has since evolved and continues to grow; we couldn’t be more excited about what’s ahead.

Lesson 3: A crisis is an opportunity for our people to shine in new ways, and embrace the chaos.

The core elements of the move that we had planned to take six weeks took six months in the pandemic. But in the end, we kept every team member safe with no layoffs, met our customers’ needs, established a fund to help customers make it through the pandemic, moved our operations, and hired 40 new team members. 2020 was one for the books, and as the saying goes, never let a crisis go to waste!

When your Purpose (“Flavor for All, Opportunity for All”) is in the DNA of your enterprise, it positively impacts everyone and everything. When a strong, embedded value (“Grow Baby Grow”) is core to your success, it drives your future decisions and actions. And when you commit to building an ever-regenerative, people-centered enterprise you can create amazing results."

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