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1-on-1 With Harmons VP Amber Harmon

WGB's November Endcap guest dishes on the importance of family ties and why it's good to mix things up
Amber Harmon
Illustration by Olivier Balez

Fourth-generation grocer Amber Harmon is VP of customer experience for West Valley City, Utah-based Harmons, which operates 19 stores.

Welcome to Endcap, Amber! You were chosen as one of our 2019 Grocery Game Changers. Taking this game-changing theme one step further, what has been the most transformative influence on your role in the past couple of years?

Wow, what a question. My mom and dad both retired from Harmons, and with their absence, I was given the opportunity to become involved in a different way than I had in my past 26 years. I moved into a vice president role and am now part of the operating board. I think with any new job, it takes time to figure out your role and what value you can bring. I am very lucky to join a group who are not only smart, talented and fun but they also care just as much about our company as the family does. They have made this transition much easier for me. I am honestly grateful every day that they choose to work for us. 

You followed in your parents’ footsteps as a fourth-generation grocer. Do you have any regrets?

I love the grocery business and equally truly love working with my family. We have worked very hard to spend as much time working to keep the family healthy as we have the business. It isn’t easy, and many family businesses aren’t able to make it to a second-generation business due to the unique challenges they face. For us, to be a fourth-generation company is something we are very proud of. And I’m not sure if this is a “regret,” but I do have a bit of an internal struggle at times, questioning if I am capable of giving what is needed of me. I don’t take my responsibility lightly, and I feel a weight to do what is best for our associates, their families, our vendor partners and the communities we serve. I think if I worked outside of my family’s company, I would maybe not feel as much pressure.

You’ve taken on a broader role of late as one of the public faces of Harmons, including representing your company on several TV and radio appearances this past year. What has that experience been like for you?

It’s an honor to be able to represent the 4,000 people that work for us. I have to be honest: It was a bit intimidating at first. I’m no Bob Harmon! But it’s pretty cool to be able to talk about our people and the incredible things they pull off each day. But yes, live TV ... it’s a little intimidating. 

Harmons is gearing up to open its 20th store—North Shore Market in Daybreak, a community of South Jordan, Utah—that will also be home to Harmons’ eighth cooking school. What do you feel is most noteworthy about the role the cooking schools play in your company’s overall strategy? 

It seems like once we added cooking schools, we were seen in a different light. They gave us credibility that we do know a little something about food (wink, wink). People are still surprised when I talk to them about the specialty items that we carry and the amount of production that occurs in our store daily. We make our product in-store, we use high-quality ingredients and we have amazingly talented associates. This just does not happen at other places. 

Harmons is renowned for its powerful community outreach, for which you play a large role, particularly with the “Go for the Gold” Special Olympics campaign. What has this experience taught you about yourself?

It’s taught me that there are so many good people in this world. I think sometimes it is easy to get bombarded with things that are wrong, but when I see how our community, customers and associates come together it reminds me how good things really are. When I get to spend my time participating in these events, like spending my afternoon bowling with a special Olympic athlete at our annual Bowlapalooza fundraiser, I feel like I get more out of it than I give.

 

Lightning Round

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and from who?

Recently I got some great advice from Paul Adamson, one of our vice presidents, who has much more experience in the business than I do. He is very wise. He told me to make sure that everything we want to get accomplished has deadlines and that what we want to achieve on that certain date is very clear. I think deadlines and follow-up help people to focus and, in the end, be able to feel successful.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse at the moment?

I’ve been using the word “awesome” quite a bit. I think I need to mix it up.

What superpower would you most like to have?

Flying. I mean, can you imagine how cool that would be?

Aside from your mobile devices and car, what is your most prized possession?

My dog.

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