Kent Kramer, President and CEO of Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, recently joined Candy Barksdale, retired CEO of the former Goodwill of Southern Indiana, to discuss the merger of their organizations.
Q: What prompted the merger between the central and southern Indiana Goodwills?
A: Candy: In southern Indiana, we admired the services central Indiana is able to provide to its communities and employees. Initially, we sought guidance on how to bring those services to our territory. After discussions with Kent, we came to the conclusion that a merger between our organizations would be the most effective way to accelerate the pace at which we could deliver these services to southern Indiana. Our strong balance sheet made the merger with central Indiana a mutually beneficial arrangement that we’re confident will allow our organization to grow more quickly than would have been possible separately.
Q: What services will Goodwill expand as a result of the merger?
A: Kent: In addition to expanding The Excel Center®, Nurse-Family Partnership® (NFP)and Goodwill Guides into southern Indiana, we will also expand employment through new retail stores in this part of our territory where we expect to create an additional 230 jobs over the next few years.
Q: Why is this merger good for the community?
A: Candy: Southern Indiana’s elevated high school dropout rates illustrate the need for The Excel Center to bring educational services to adults in southern Indiana. Nurse-Family Partnership will deliver desperately needed services to communities with high rates of infant mortality, child abuse and neglect. We also expect Goodwill Guides to provide invaluable job coaching services to our southern Indiana employees to help them increase their earning potential.
A: Kent: Collectively, the new Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana has more resources to invest in growth, infrastructure and the mission, which makes us a stronger organization.
Q: Why is this merger good for Goodwill?
A: Candy: For southern Indiana, new opportunities for promotion and advancement are available that didn’t exist before. In addition, pooling our employees with central Indiana’s larger organization significantly brought down the cost of benefits and expanded the level of coverage each employee participating in the health plan now enjoys.
A: Kent: In our combined two territories, we employ more than 3,500 people – two-thirds of which have one or more barriers to employment. Our merger with the southern Indiana territory allows us to accelerate the pace at which we can deliver a number of mission programs and services to more people who need them.
Q: What are some of the challenges with merging?
A: Candy: The first challenge was doing the preliminary work and due diligence required to determine whether a merger was the best course of action for our organizations especially with end-of-year reporting occurring simultaneously.
A: Kent: Since merging, the primary challenges include spreading our human and financial resources to meet needs across the larger organization, merging systems including point-of-sale, payroll and accounting, and blending our company cultures. I continue to be impressed with how our employees have stepped up to the challenge.
Q: How will the Lilly Endowment grant help accelerate expansion of services?
A: Kent: We are proud to be recognized by Lilly Endowment for the effectiveness of our mission services. This grant allows us to bring a more robust set of services to southern Indiana faster than we would have otherwise been able to. As a result of this grant, over a period of five years, Nurse-Family Partnership will be able to serve 700 southern Indiana families, and we will expand the Goodwill Guides program into the southern part of our territory. The Excel Center in this territory will also serve 300 adult students annually.
Q: What concerns did you have regarding the reaction of customers and employees to the closing of stores for renovation?
A: Kent: We had to ensure that employees and customers in both the central and southern Indiana territories could expect consistent policies, processes and pricing across all of our stores as well as a uniform look, which is a colossal undertaking to achieve in just five days. An immense amount of planning and execution went into ensuring the community was informed of what was happening. All 11 stores in southern Indiana re-opened to a steady stream of donors and shoppers eager to check out the new look. We were pleased to learn customers across the southern Indiana territory reported positive feedback on the changes.
Q: What changes have occurred in southern Indiana’s Goodwill retail stores since the merger?
A: Candy: Much of the work occurred before January, when the merger officially took effect. For example, process improvements were made in the collection, transportation, processing and storage of donations in the fall. Many of these changes were behind the scenes, but they set the stage to renovate the sales floors of the southern Indiana stores in February and ensure a bigger selection of quality product for shoppers. Also new to the southern part of the territory are Goodwill’s monthly 50% off sale and the Goodwill Rewards loyalty program.
Q: What does the future look like for the newer, bigger Goodwill?
A: Kent: Candy and I agree the future looks very bright for Goodwill. We have gained efficiencies in overhead and are able to invest in additional growth as a larger organization. We’re excited to see the impact in southern Indiana as we begin rolling out mission services to this area.
Q: What message do you have for longtime supporters and community partners?
A: Kent: Without longtime supporters and community partners, the merger would not have been possible. Thank you for your vision and commitment to seeing this rare merger through to completion.
A: Candy: Goodwill is in capable hands and we look forward to the impact this merger will have on our communities and employees.