One of the trickiest things to running a company is being able to adapt to changes in technology and innovation that can alter how a company does business but still maintain a focus on putting people at the top of what you do. But that’s a challenge OSI Industries CEO and Chairman Sheldon Lavin has met in all the years that he’s run the company. Unlike some big meat processing companies that have bought up smaller farms and factories, Lavin has often kept the companies he’s bought intact and likes to maintain the customer relations that those companies have had over the years. He also seems to understand how important the mom and pop model is even though many corporate chains are the ones making big profits.
Sheldon Lavin saw firsthand how a family-run business is important to local communities because that’s what OSI Industries was when he first got to know it. It was actually named Otto & Sons back then, a name given to it by Otto Kolschowsky and his sons who managed a Chicago butcher shop that became a prominent local supermarket and wholesale company. Lavin had earned a reputation for orchestrating deals in investment banking and was now advising other companies as an independent financial consultant, and Otto & Sons wanted his help to make a deal for a large loan to open big production plants. During this deal one of the loan officers made a request to Otto & Sons that Lavin become an owner in the company. He told the bank he did not want that offer at the time because he was singularly focused on his consulting company, but he did say he was interested in being a little more involved on a part-time basis with Otto & Sons.
Lavin actually started offering more input to grow the company, and soon Otto & Sons partner McDonald’s asked that he come on full-time. He realized eventually that the company was special and that if he did become an owner that he could build something great while still maintaining the Kolschowsky family way of doing things, so when the Kolschowskys retired he agreed to buy their shares and do just that. OSI Industries then grew into 17 different countries, and Lavin helped acquire Flagship Europe, Baho Foods, Select Ready Foods, Amick Farms and K&K Foods. He also serves on non-profit boards and gives to groups like the Jewish United Fund and Inner City Foundation of Chicago, and he is the recipient of the Edward C. Jones community service award and the Global Visionary award.
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