DePaul plans aggressive growth

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Articles - March 2012
Friday, March 02, 2012


ABOVE: Dave Shaffer, CEO of DePaul Industries
BELOW: DePaul workers pack boxes of snacks at the 100,000-square-foot packaging facility.
// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina

The two lynchpins of DePaul Industries’ aggressive five-year strategic plan hoping to grow revenues to $86.5 million and create nearly 3,500 jobs are customer satisfaction and getting the right jobs to the right people.

DePaul Industries is a nonprofit organization providing employment opportunities to nearly 2,000 people with physical or mental disabilities by operating three outsourcing businesses in food packaging, temporary staffing and security services.

Dave Shaffer, DePaul’s CEO, says the 40-year-old nonprofit is expanding because of demand from companies wanting to outsource jobs to DePaul, and to fulfill its mission of providing employment opportunities to disabled people.

Unemployment among people with disabilities is disproportionately high — with estimates around 60%. But Shaffer says if the time is taken to find a job tailored to a particular individual’s skills and limitations, they are as hard working as anyone else.

Matching employees to jobs they will be good at ensures that DePaul’s product satisfies the companies it contracts with. “The key for us is that we make our customers happy,” Shaffer says. “If we don’t hit numbers, productivity or quality,” companies won’t renew their contracts.

Maintaining a focus on the business side of DePaul Industries is paying off. Gross revenue last year was more than $30 million, nearly doubling since 2007, when revenues were near $17 million.

Shaffer attributes growth to getting large contracts with companies such as Frito-Lay. Conversations are under way with similarly large companies who will be essential to DePaul’s growth. “The folks we have on board will take us to $86 million,” Shaffer says.

DePaul has a strong presence in Oregon and Washington, but opened a branch in Tuscon, Ariz., last September. Shaffer says DePaul is working to open offices in Pennsylvania, near Chicago and other areas.

“If given a chance,” says Shaffer about those with disabilities, “they become very good employees.”



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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

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New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

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