Milan, Ill. –
When Bob Ontiveros founded Bi-State Packaging Inc. — now Group O Inc. — he focused as much on the core values of commitment to employees and the community as he did on business success. The company is ranked among the top Latino-owned businesses in the country. Group O continues to live by Ontiveros’ values. And that’s what attracted new CEO Kevin Kotecki to the company.
“I wanted to have an impact on something greater than just the bottom line,” said Kotecki, who grew up with Group O principal owner Gregg Ontiveros, Bob’s son. The elder Ontiveros died in 2022.
“I’ve known the Ontiveros family and Group O as being tremendously charitable and supportive of the communities in which we work,” he said. “If I can help the organization grow financially expand the great community activities they’ve led for years, it will be a fulfilling experience for me.”
Kotecki had previously served in leadership roles at large consumer goods companies including Pabst Brewing, Brach’s Confections, Coors Brewing and Procter & Gamble. He was also on Group O’s advisory board for three years before joining as CEO in March 2022.
“On the advisory board, I spent time with the Bob and Gregg Ontiveros discussing company strategies and plans. That gave me a deeper understanding of the businesses we are involved with and helped prepare me for my role as CEO,” he said. “Above all, it provided insight into the unique culture we have of supporting the growth of our team members, giving back to the community and driving sustainable solutions.”
Kotecki is collaborating with company leadership to review and revise the company’s growth strategies to propel continued growth.
“Successful businesses are driven by a clear vision for the future, a solid business plan and great implementation,” he said. “But the key to becoming an industry leader is to embrace change as the vision always needs to be renewed and refocused and strategies must evolve.”
Group O is focusing on technology and sustainability solutions for its customers.
“One way Group O will continue to evolve is by expanding our technology center of excellence, which offers customers state of the art supply chain solutions including process optimization and automation. In addition, we will expand our focus on sustainable solutions for our customers across all business units,” Kotecki said.
“For example, we are increasing our focus on custom-engineered, sustainable packaging. By designing custom packaging that aligns with our customer’s existing processes, we not only reduce costs but reduce negative impacts on the environment. We have demonstrated these results in many projects,” he said. “It’s a great way to differentiate Group O, but it’s also the right thing to do in the larger sustainability picture.”
Kotecki said he will continue to nurture the strengths that have contributed to Group O’s success, including a focus on high, value-added products and services, exceptional customer service, and a highly motivated and committed team.
“Group O’s growth is driven by our team,” he said. “Our philosophy is that everyone wins when people are given the opportunity to show what they can do. We encourage employees to identify ways to improve processes and offer them the opportunity to succeed both professionally and personally through continuous learning, career advancement and philanthropic endeavors.”
Of Group O’s 1,200 employees, more than half are minorities and women. The same culture that drew Kotecki to Group O has kept many of them there for long-term careers.
“We have more long-term employees than any company I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “We have many people who started in entry-level positions 20 years ago and were given the chance to demonstrate what they can do and are now in significant leadership positions. It is a recipe for success that few companies truly follow.”
Beyond professional success, employees are also part of the company’s philanthropic efforts. In addition to volunteering with community organizations, Group O has an employee group called Purpose Tomorrow that helps generate ideas and participates in projects to support the local community.
“Employees can see the impact the company is having on the community in which they live,” Kotecki said. “I think it’s a big part of why employees enjoy working here.”