By Haddon Libby

Over the last few weeks, I have been pointing out some of the companies that do not treat their customers and/or employees well. The worst of a large and motley group include Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, General Motors, Wal-Mart and H&M.

On the flip side of this, how do you tell which companies are good?

One telltale sign is if the company has a staff of people who have worked there for a long time.

Let’s start with your bank. Does it seem like you deal with a new person every time? Too much turnover often occurs because management does not value their employees adequately or dictates unrealistic quotas and goals. You will typically find that community banks have less employee turnover while seeming to value your business significantly more.

When you go shopping for food, you will find that locally-owned supermarket chains like Stater Brothers and Jensen’s Fine Foods have staffs that stay with their stores longer than many of their larger competitors.

Founded in Yucaipa in 1936, Stater Brothers has 168 stores across Southern California. They are also the first Riverside County company to be ranked in the Fortune 500. Stater Brothers has been run by Redlands resident, Jack Brown, 76, since 1981.

Smaller rival Jensen’s Fine Foods is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. Founded in 1940 in Blue Jay near Lake Arrowhead, the company is currently run by former clean-up boy, Gene Fulton. Known for gourmet food selections, wines and an impressive bakery section, Jensen’s is unlike many of their larger competitors in that employees often work their entire lifetimes here – a remarkable achievement.

Not all fast food chains rely on frozen food and cheap labor. You may be surprised to hear this but Del Taco has employee loyalty and longevity in the Coachella Valley that is unrivaled by literally any other fast food chain in America. Additionally, Del Taco food is made fresh at every location every day.

Del Taco found its roots in 1961 when former Air Force veteran and local part-time desert resident Ed Hackbarth started Casa del Taco in Yermo. Yermo is a town of 1,750 people east of Barstow that most of us drive through without a thought as we motor to Las Vegas on Highway 15.

Somehow, Hackbarth grew this business into the chain that it is today. While the core business has been sold, Hackbarth still owns and manages some desert locations.

One of his first employees owns and manages many Coachella Valley locations – Jerry Walker. Walker and his family also own and operate the Desert Sports Center – the place where many of our children go to play indoor volleyball.

So which car dealership group is the biggest supporter of local causes? The Jessup Family. With roots in the community that go back 75 years, they are the dealership that locals rely on when it comes to charitable causes.

There is a common theme to each of the businesses listed – each recognizes the importance of being a responsible community member that values the contributions of their employees. With each business listed, company leadership has started at the bottom and worked their way up giving each a better perspective as to the importance of every employee and customer.

When you spend your hard earned dollars, try and support local businesses like those mentioned as they contribute the most to our community. In comparison, larger competitors remove money from our community making it harder for us to have a vibrant economy.

If we are going to improve our community and country as a whole, we need to make that extra effort and buy local whenever possible.

Haddon Libby is Managing Partner of Winslow Drake, an investment advisory practice and co-founder of ShareKitchen. He can be reached at hlibby@winslowdrake.com.

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