Then & Now: Steve Blair channels the past at The Harvest Group

by Jeff Della Rosa ( 429 views 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story appeared in the Aug. 20 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s  Forty Under 40 class.


When Steve Blair had the opportunity to work at The Harvest Group, it allowed him to use the skills he learned and enjoyed the most from his past experience.

“It really all came together when the Harvest opportunity came up,” Blair said.

In 2009, when he was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class, Blair was director of national accounts for Ghirardelli. He was spending nearly 70% of his time traveling and wanted to reduce the time away from home. He also traveled a lot in his previous position with Procter & Gamble, and after seven years, he was ready for something different.

“Traveling was really tough,” Blair said, adding his daughter was starting to notice his absence. Ghirardelli had offered him positions to work in San Francisco with less time away from home, but he didn’t want to move from Northwest Arkansas again, since the family had already moved here twice. But his daughter said if they lived in San Francisco, he wouldn’t be away from home as much.

He started to look for positions in the area, and through a connection with a college friend, he knew about Walsworth Publishing in Kansas City, Mo., which is where he was raised, and his wife grew up in a nearby suburb. The company offered him a position as executive vice president of sales that would be 10% travel. At about the same time and out of the blue, a Realtor asked if he wanted to sell his home. He sold the house, accepted the position and moved to Kansas City in 2011.

“It was a pretty big step of faith,” he said.

In the position, he led the yearbook segment of the business and worked to improve the yearbook experience through apps and augmented reality. With one app, readers could scan a yearbook picture with their smartphone, and it would play a video related to the picture.

However, Blair soon found the amount of travel necessary to be successful in the position increasing.

He left the publishing company in 2014 and worked as senior director of sales at Russell Stover Candies in Kansas City for nearly a year before he received a surprise call to work at The Harvest Group in Rogers. Blair took the opportunity to return to Fayetteville for the third time. In August 2015, he joined the company, which helps grow the business of consumer packaged goods suppliers for Walmart, Sam’s Club and Kroger.

When Blair started at The Harvest Group, the firm had 27 employees. The company has since grown to 77 employees, with offices in Cincinnati and Tunisia, Africa. About 60 of its employees are in Rogers, and Blair expects the company will be at 100 employees sometime next year.

“We have 10 openings,” he said. As director of people and culture, Blair, 47, handles everything that takes employees’ focus from the company’s more than 50 clients and sets employees on a path to exceed clients’ expectations. He explained his role is similar to that of a chief operating officer, and he seeks new employees, manages company culture and handles business development.

Over the next three to five years, he hopes to continue to help Ross Cully, co-founder and CEO, find ways for the company to innovate in the consumer packaged goods business. He plans to remain with the company, staying on the front-end of relevancy and playing a central role in the omnichannel marketplace.

Blair is chairman of the board for Workmatters, a non-denominational Christian ministry aimed at finding purpose in work. He’s served on the board for seven years and has been chairman for four years. He’s also a volunteer at Fellowship Bible Church in Fayetteville.

He and his wife, Ashley, have a 16-year-old daughter, and Blair enjoys camping, road trips and spending time thinking on the lawn mower.