Though it certainly utilizes high-tech communication in its operations, Gills Onions in Oxnard, CA, upholds a business tenet as old as the spoken word: Face-to-face meetings accompanied by a handshake.
Steve Gill, who founded the company more than three decades ago with his brother, David, told OnionBusiness recently that personal involvement with customers has been a proven formula for success at Gills.
“We never ever really thought about our accessibility as part of our brand,” Mr. Gill said. He added, “While technology allows us the flexibility of more communication, there is nothing better than a face-to-face meeting and a hand shake to validate our promise of the highest quality product and the best service. Every customer visit teaches me something about how to best serve the relationship.”
The Gill brothers were among a select group of owner/operators at the recent PMA Foodservice show in Monterey, CA, greeting visitors to their booth with handshakes and hugs. One observer told OnionBusiness the vendor show was “as much of a reunion and customer appreciation opportunity for Gills Onions as it was an opportunity to begin new business relationships.”
The personal touch goes back to the very roots of Gills Onions, which is today one of the nation’s largest family-owned vertically integrated fresh-cut processing plants in the world. In the early 1980s it was an onion farming operation led by the two brothers, and in 1983, after they were asked by a salsa manufacturer to supply diced onions for the spicy condiment, Steve and David founded Gills Onions.
Their proprietary equipment peels, slices and dices, and today Gills Onions are found in salsas and sauces provided to restaurant chains and also available at retail.
It’s evident the brothers – and family members who are also involved in the company – keep abreast of technology to maximize their efficiency and maintain high quality. They are also committed to sustainability and have earned a reputation for their environmental leadership.
Of course there are certain aspects of the Gills Onion message that are best suited for the printed word, and to reach its wide network of receivers with the latest news on operations and products, the company has reintroduced its popular newsletter, “The Cryer.”
Steve Gill said the mailed – USPS mail, to be sure – piece is seeing great reception.
“We are reintroducing ‘The Cryer’ as a relationship building tool,” he explained. “The newsletter provides customers and vendors with information about our operation and our products – information they didn’t know they wanted to know. You could say that choosing to keep it a print and mail publication supports our commitment of accessibility. Gills Onions is available when you are ready.”
And he added, “We’ve eliminated the electronic accessibility barriers caused by ‘in-box overload’ and spam filters.”
When asked if Gills Onions has additional marketing strategies on the horizon, Steve Gill said, “Every employee and customer visit, in person, over the phone, via e-mail, is a new marketing opportunity for us. We get to tell our story and share our product’s unique features and benefits. The information exchange ensures our commitment to continual quality improvement, from growing conditions to consumer experience.”