Keith Buswell headshot_150

Category A: (1-25 Stores)

Keith Buswell

Skogen's Festival Foods Company
Onalaska, Wis.

When it comes to successful store leadership, Keith Buswell keeps it in the family.

This particular family is a team of employees at the Skogen’s Festival Foods store  in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Indeed, his team rarely leaves home—his store has the lowest turnover rate of the company’s 33 locations and is well below the average for the grocery industry. This high retention is notable at a time when frontline workers are facing the stress of a global pandemic that greatly affects food shopping.

Buswell was a proponent of collaborative leadership even before that concept became a company model for the family- and employee-owned Skogen’s Festival Foods Company in 2015. As the proverbial head of the Onalaska store’s work family, Buswell fosters collaborative leadership through cross-training, which allows associates to find roles that fit their passion, further contributing to low turnover rates.

Another priority for this 22-year veteran of the Skogen’s Festival Foods organization is adhering to the five basic principles of increasing sales: quality, cleanliness, stock level, signage and accurate pricing and service. Here, too, Buswell engages his team, often asking employees to look at the store from a customer’s vantage point. Asking questions has proven effective for Buswell. His queries prompt team members to share their feedback and suggest improvements. In turn, he encourages questions from employees as a way to collaborate on solving issues and pursuing new opportunities.

On another level, he is part of a select group of company leaders who teach collaborative leadership throughout the organization. The longest-serving store director at Skogen's Festival Foods, Buswell has been a mentor to dozens of leaders which span every Festival Foods store location. Store statistics bear out Buswell's approach to store management. His store’s 2020 Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) as a percentage of sales is substantially higher than the company average; last year, the store had its second highest sales and EBITDA since 2013.

His awards also reflect his value to the company and its people. Buswell received the organization's first Marlin Greenfield Legacy Award for exemplifying a servant leader and driving financial/operational success through collaboration and positive accountability. As part of that reward, he chose a local hunger task force to receive a $1,000 donation in his name; Buswell has been involved in that task force for nearly 20 years, underscoring his belief in broader definitions of family, team and community.

“’All hands in the middle’ is among Buswell's favorite sayings, along with ‘The decisions we make are so much stronger when we work together in making them!’” --Frank Abnet Senior Vice President Store Operations, SLT, Skogen's Festival Foods