Last week we had a group of visitors (from a prestigious design firm) here at our Kalamazoo headquarters who came, not to see our amazing product line, or our incredible manufacturing facility, or our innovative design and engineering teams (although we had to show off a little bit!)…they came to see our culture. They were interested in picking our brains about how we have created a culture that in 2008 earned us recognition as one of the 15 best small companies to work for in the US by the Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces. So, you may ask, what does an outdoor furniture company in West Michigan know about creating culture? Well…Plenty!
We have been consciously developing our corporate culture since our founding in 1969. In fact, the two founding principles, that are still the bedrock of our company are – Design and People. We hope that those of you who know us will attest to our enduring commitment to the design and quality of our products. What you may not know is that we have made that same commitment to purposefully develop and sustain our people systems and practices (aka, our culture).
We know that our people are a critical component of our competitive advantage in the marketplace. Taking as much care in the development of our people as we take in the design of our products has been a cornerstone of our success for over 40 years. So when one of our customers asked to come and see our culture, we weren’t surprised at all. In fact, it was fun to have an opportunity to talk about what we have learned and take some time to appreciate the culture we have worked so hard to create. As with most things around here, we spend a lot of time working through the challenges and often forget to take a breath and celebrate our accomplishments. Sharing our best practices with our visitors was a chance to do just that.
Our culture is based on four principles adopted from the Scanlon principles. They are Identity, Participation, Competence and Equity. Since the late 1970’s, they have allowed the company to grow and incorporate new people and ideas, while keeping the intimacy of the small company that existed.
Identity is about knowing “what day it is” for Landscape Forms. Everyone must know what we do, how we do it and who we do it for if they are going to be able to meaningfully contribute to the business. One of the things we do to ensure ‘identity’ is to hold all-hands company-wide meetings every quarter.
Participation is about “making and accepting offers.” Each of us must make offers and accept offers of participation in our areas of expertise. One way we do this is through our Kaizen improvement events that ask team members to evaluate and make improvements in their immediate work areas.
Competence is about “always becoming.” We must all commit to becoming better personally, professionally and as an organization so that we are prepared to take on the challenges of the future. Spending lots of time training is important to maintain our competitive edge and is one way we live the Competence principle (learning to “blog” falls into this category!)
Equity is the final principle and is about keeping our shareholders in mind as we make decisions. We have stated mandates for each of our constituencies, our employees, our investors, our customers, our partners and the community and the environment. One example of equity is our employee bonus system. We have been sharing profits (when we have them!) since 1981.
Although we take creating our culture very seriously, we are not a particularly serious bunch. In fact, if you ask our visitors last week I’m pretty sure they would say that we know how to have fun at Landscape Forms. (Some of which may even show up in this blog!)
Category Corporate Culture