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HoneyBaked Ham CEO Visits Kirkwood

Chuck Bengochea toured area stores this week and planned to lead a seminar about branding Thursday at Saint Louis University.

Chuck Bengochea is chief executive of and an Iron Man triathlete who bikes regularly. So he loves the fact that he can help employees grow professionally and personally as part of his job.

It's "such a privilege to do that," Bengochea said Wednesday during a stop at the company's .

That commitment carries over to HoneyBaked Ham and brand promise, a subject the CEO plans to speak about Thursday morning at Saint Louis University as part of the Institute for Private Business Seminar Series.

Bengochea, 55, left Coca-Cola for HoneyBaked Ham in 1995. He knew Coke was a well-respected brand. But he didn't know what people thought about the company that sells hams, turkeys, gift baskets and other products.

That didn't last long. People who see his HoneyBaked Ham-branded shirt routinely stop him to talk about their positive experiences, he said. That includes airport security agents.

People have an emotional connection, he said, because of holiday meals or other family gatherings around a common table that have included HoneyBaked Ham products.

"You feel like a steward for people's special occasions," he said.

That means customers have to have a perfect experience every time they interact with the HoneyBaked Ham brand, Bengochea said. So on trips such as the one to Kirkwood, he has employees pull out a few hams so he can review attributes such as slicing and glaze. He also serves as a cheerleader, working to ensure the company's core values—first among them, "do the right thing"—permeate the mentality of hourly workers and employees on up.

On Thursday, Bengochea plans to tell the entrepreneurs in attendance that they should spend time developing their company's mission (the HoneyBaked Ham mission statement is "Celebrate life, one meal at a time," for example), vision and brand positioning. Doing so ensures they look not only to the immediate needs of paying bills and creating products but also to the needs of their business in 10 years.

It's a focus he plans to continue bringing to HoneyBaked Ham.

"My passion is to be a very, very unique company that has a commitment to excellence," Bengochea said.

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