Farm Progress

Have a plan for success and keep everyone moving in that direction together.

April 25, 2018

3 Min Read
GOAL SETTING: Norm Krug, CEO of Preferred Popcorn, says the company’s success is widely due to everyone subscribing to the same set of goals.

Popcorn is something special. Nebraska and Indiana trade places as the top popcorn-producing states. And popcorn is also grown on Midwestern and Great Plains farms in South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, among others.

I love popcorn. This is no secret to my wife and children. So, when I had the opportunity to interview Preferred Popcorn Co. CEO Norm Krug at the company headquarters near Chapman, Neb., recently, I was thrilled. Not only would I get an insider’s look at this growing, farmer-owned popcorn business, but I also would enjoy Krug’s explanation of the company’s popcorn flavor innovations.

My father made popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stove top, almost every winter night when I was a kid. This is still our family tradition that I’ve kept up with my own children, but on summer nights, too. Krug told me that his father grew popcorn for decades on their family farm, and he enjoyed the same tradition. This family experience for Krug, which included his father trying out different flavorings on their homemade popcorn, was the inspiration for him. That’s why Krug, his farming friends and the Aurora Cooperative put their heads together in 1997 to form Preferred Popcorn. At the time, they had no idea what the company would become.

There were naysayers who told the founding farmers of the company that they wouldn’t be able to pull off this massive undertaking. But the farmers had a very simple, but effective mission statement that they have stuck to with a single-mindedness. In visiting with Krug and his team, there is no question that the goals they have set and the map they have laid out are big reasons for their continued growth and expansion.

“Preferred Popcorn strives to honor God by producing high-quality products and by serving our customers with integrity” is their goal, emblazoned on the wall of their boardroom at headquarters at Chapman. You can’t tell the story of Preferred Popcorn without Krug talking directly about that mission statement and how it resonates with their partners and team.

I think Krug and the entire company are on to something. Whenever a group of people pull together to accomplish something, they may bring different talents to the mission. They may all have unique ideas about how to reach their goals. They may contribute to those goals in various ways. But if they have a single mindset when it comes to how they want to reach the goal and what the finish line looks like, they are much more likely to reach it in the end. That’s how you keep a group of folks on the same page, moving in the same direction and reaching the same goals.

For the folks at Preferred, to say things have worked out is a gross understatement. They currently export popcorn to 70 countries, including its largest international buyer, Mexico. Krug and crew are moving forward with a 22,500-square-foot expansion, where they will move their main processing in short order. Things continue to come together.

We’ve written about this same topic before when we’ve talked about successful farmers communicating their goals very directly with employees. It seems success is not that complicated, but it takes one farmer or a group of farmers and employees moving purposely through their business plan with a single, well-established goal in mind. The folks at Preferred Popcorn have figured that out. So, I tip my hat to them for that reason, and because they produce and market one of my favorite foods of all time.

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