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UWRF alumna addresses tough economy, business concerns

October 15, 2009

Margaret Keating spoke on behalf of Hallmark Cards, Inc., in the Kinnickinnic Theater of the University Center on Thursday as a part of the Executive-in-Residence program.

The UW-River Falls College of Business and Economics chooses one speaker every year as a part of their Executive-in-Residence program that highlights UWRF graduates and their accomplishments.

The lecture is open to the public as well as students, staff and faculty. 

Margaret Keating is a UWRF graduate who received her MBA from the University of Missouri. She grew up in New Richmond, Wis., and still has close ties to the area. She now works as an executive at Hallmark Cards, Inc., out of their home office in Kansas City.

Keating’s speech was entitled, “When You Care Enough,” and it addressed some of the concerns that corporations are having during the tough economic times facing the country. Keating gave this speech to show that there is more to a business than just the financial side.

Instead of worrying about the short-term financial gains that a company can possess, Hallmark is worried about the long-term basis as well as the employee’s well-being.

Hallmark has a set of beliefs and values that they maintain when it comes to each employee and their connection to the company. They include such things as, “We value and are committed to:

Excellence in all we do, high standards of ethics and integrity, caring responsible corporate citizenship for Kansas City and for each community in which we operate,” according to Hallmark’s Web site.

Hallmark believes that its products and services are available to enrich people’s lives and they try to give their employees as many options for maintaining as well as upholding these values.

Keating said many times that this company was made from its employees, many of whom have been working at the corporation since they were in high school or started upon graduation.

With the downturn in the economy, Keating says that now more than ever it is important for businesses to treat their employees well and to show that they care.

“When you can see how warm people are and how concerned they are that you like your job it makes a difference…that is why I took the job,” Keating said.

Although the company is growing, tough economic times have called on Hallmark to make some changes. In the company’s 100-year history it has never laid off an employee. Instead Hallmark offers voluntary retirement or separation programs, and depending on how many years the employee has worked for the company, they receive pay for leaving their position. Although this has cost the company
money in the past, it has maintained its ideals of caring about its employees.

Dave and Don Hall, the owners of Hallmark, were worried that many people would not want to take this route, but when 450 people offered, the company decided to take them all. This allowed 30 percent of the department to voluntarily leave the company, which concluded this June.

“I feel great about the decision to take the volunteers; it helps us to make the greatest workforce possible,” Keating said.

The last thing that Keating wanted to note was the fact that Hallmark was completely union-free. Hallmark thrives on using seniority as a basis for all employee pay raises and who gets chosen to work in each city that the company has locations in.

“A union should not be necessary. A union means you need to talk to a third party and we like to talk to our employees face-to-face,” Keating said. 

The overall message that Keating’s speech, “When You Care Enough,” was to show that Hallmark is able to keep their company message intact in tough economic times while caring for its employees. It was also meant to show that that as proven by Keating, UWRF students can be successful in large corporations, according to Glenn Potts, Dean of the College of Business and Economics.