Posted: April 22nd, 2016
Practicing Business Communication: Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc.
America’s original penny candy, the Tootsie Roll, celebrated its 110th birthday in 2006. Despite its long history, the famous Tootsie Roll (named for company founder Leo Hirschfield’s five-year-old daughter) still looks today very much like it did when it first appeared in candy stores, and the cost is still just a penny a piece. At that price, Chicago-based Tootsie Roll Industries (TRI) must surely sell a lot of candy to generate annual sales of over $487 million—and they do. TRI, also the world’s largest lollipop producer, makes more than 60 million Tootsie Rolls and 20 million Tootsie Pops per day.
TRI management encourages an open organization where employees confront and resolve conflicts, and a culture where business thrives on skilled negotiating with business partners, competitors, and even the government.
In the 1990s, TRI president Ellen Gordon negotiated with city officials in Chicago to secure an urban enterprise zone around the company’s headquarters on the city’s South Side. The agreement offers area businesses tax incentives. Chicago also offered TRI a low-interest loan to buy the plant it was leasing and $200,000 in job-training funds.
Since TRI employs union workers, its hundreds of middle-income jobs were valuable to Chicago’s economy. For its part, Tootsie Roll Industries agreed to open a loan fund for employees who wanted to buy homes in Chicago and to add about two hundred more jobs by the end of the decade.
Communication Top-Down and Across the Organization
Even with operations in Massachusetts, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Mexico, and Canada, Tootsie Roll Industries employs fewer than two thousand workers. The basic corporate structure is traditional. Departmental staff report to department directors who report to TRI vice presidents. Corporate VPs report to president and COO Ellen Gordon and to chairman and CEO Melvin Gordon.
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