In 1987, Oakland County entrepreneur Kim Haveraneck had an idea. She believed she could improve the quality of the Meals on Wheels program, which delivers hot meals to homebound senior citizens, and run it more efficiently than ever before.
Thus was her private firm, Berkley-based Emerald Food Services, born. Today, Emerald serves delicious meals everywhere from senior-assisted living centers to private schools throughout Oakland County cities including Southfield, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Oak Park, Royal Oak Township, Berkley, Troy, and Keego Harbor.
Success didn't come automatically for Haveraneck. The county initially awarded her the Meals on Wheels contract in 1987 only to revoke it shortly thereafter due to a state law that prohibited more than one such contract in a county, and Oakland was already contracting with another firm for a similar service.
Undeterred, Haveraneck and other interested parties campaigned against the law for two years and finally convinced enough politicians, as well as a number of administrative law courts, that the law should be revised so she could be allowed a chance to improve Oakland County's Meals on Wheels program.
Haveraneck was again awarded a contract in 1988. Since then, Emerald has become one of Oakland County's primary suppliers of food services, expanding into Oakland County private schools, adult day-care centers, and banquet facilities. The company's 30 employees now operate out of 20 locations, serving 2,000 customers each day.
For Haveraneck, customer service is the name of the game. And her dedication to it shows in the fact that Emerald so far enjoys a 100-percent contract renewal rate.
How is Emerald able to run so efficiently while earning the confidence of so many clients? According to Haveraneck, one of the methods that Emerald uses to provide the most effecient food service to its private contracts is to guarantee profits up-front, based on sales. Whereas most companies bill the cost of labor and supplies, plus a management fee, Emerald absorbs the risk and guarantees a fixed price, sticking to it regardless of company costs. Haveraneck has also created and trademarked her own sophisticated software package, called "Opus", to help Emerald employees smoothly and efficiently administer their programs.
While Emerald has had to deal with the usual controversy that greets private companies entering public territory, this hasn't dimmed the company's enthusiasm. In fact, the higher level of scrutiny has forced Emerald to make that much more certain that it provides the highest standards in food quality and the most for its customers' dollars.
As Haveraneck says, "We take nothing for granted; we assume all problems can be solved and we always follow through."