What’s Under This Roof? Meadow Outdoor Ranked Top Workplace

Meadow Outdoor Advertising (based in The Dalles, OR) is ranked the best small company to work for in Oregon by Oregon Business.

In its 2021 rankings, Oregon Business described Meadow Outdoor like this: “Employee wellness is a focus at this family-owned billboard company. Staff are reimbursed for purchasing things that support their wellness goals. To help parents during the pandemic, employees can bring their kids to work for online school. Employees are involved in decision-making and are encouraged to take part in training.”

To find out more, OAAA asked Meadow principals Chris and Mike Zukin to explain their management style and the company’s culture.

OAAA:  Oregon Business cited Meadow’s emphasis on employee wellness. What does “employee wellness” mean at Meadow, and how does management support wellness?

The Zukin’s: The Meadow wellness program was initiated by a group of Meadow employees. Management got on board and we hired a wellness consultant to develop an ongoing plan. Our wellness program includes a monthly wellness newsletter with tips and ideas, quarterly presentations by health professionals on topics like diet, sleep, and exercise. We have held company-wide wellness challenges with points awarded for certain wellness achievements and prizes given to the winners. We have recently converted one of our conference rooms into a workout area with Peloton TV, rowing machine, weights, and floor mats.

OAAA: Part of Meadow’s top ranking was based on the company’s decision-making process and vesting authority with employees. Explain how that works (while also maintaining accountability).

The Zukin’s: We do give employees a lot of autonomy and authority. Management sets the goal and we let employees determine how to get there, while watching to make sure everyone stays on track. We practice “Ownership Thinking” (a book by Brad Hams) and try to create an atmosphere which encourages employees to think like owners. All employees (except management) are eligible for a quarterly bonus based on levels of profitability. Last year we paid a bonus for three of four quarters.

Other employees from top left to right: Conference Room with Cimmie Schultz taking the photo , Jeani Hodgen, Joe McRae, Barb McClure, Kylee Striplin, Kat Suess, Hannah Gray, Becky Mendenhall, Regina Tolentino , Chris Nash, Todd Rogers, Matt Fitchen, Betsy Hege, Joey Silver, and Mike Zukin.

OAAA: The pandemic affected most every workplace.  How did Meadow adjust, to achieve its mission and help employees get through it?

The Zukin’s: In February of 2020 we completed an office remodel that included six new offices and a door on every office. Good timing. This made it possible for employees to work here safely. We allowed some folks to work from home. Safety is #1 at Meadow whether working on a billboard or working in the office. We maintained CDC and OSHA guidelines in the office and the workplace.

OAAA: When Meadow hires people, what qualities are you looking for?

The Zukin’s: We look for smart people who have the potential to act independently, solve challenges, are dependable and accurate…people who are self-motivated and have a positive attitude.

OAAA: When people think of the phrase “annual board meeting,” it conjures certain images.  Could you explain Meadow’s annual meeting (and share a video)? 

The Zukin’s: We hold two annual meetings: an all-employee meeting and an all shareholders meeting.

The all-employee meeting is an all-day team building exercise. We have 25 employees and half of them do not work at headquarters in The Dalles. So the all-employee meeting is a chance for everyone to connect face to face. One element of these meetings is a “campfire” situation. We sit in a giant circle and explain to other employees what we do, what affects our jobs in what ways. This exercise creates empathy among employees and a greater understanding of what everyone does for Meadow.

Meadow is a family-owned business. All of the 23 shareholders are related, represented by four generations. Only two shareholders work in the business on a day-to-day basis so the all-shareholder meeting is structured to inform the other shareholders about what is going on in the company. A secondary purpose is to socialize shareholders on the philosophy of the family business and to educate them on governance and ownership.  We hope that some will gravitate to joining business, but if they don’t, we want the next generations to have the vision and ability to steward Meadow successfully. One of the traditions of the all-shareholder meeting is to create a music video during the two or three-day meeting time. Two examples of the family music videos are pasted below. The second one is the best.