Q: Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
We faced a huge challenge agreeing to a new contract with the United Steelworkers Union in the fall of 2009. It was right in the midst of one of the worst economic periods our company and our industry had ever experienced.
Through open and honest communication, our company’s leadership team gained the trust and faith of the workforce. We met often with all of our associates, face-to-face, to present the facts and answer questions and concerns directly.
As proof of that, we were presented with a petition signed by a majority of those covered by the collective bargaining agreement, requesting that they no longer be represented by the union. In January, we withdrew recognition of a 45-year incumbent union, and we have never looked back.
Less than a year later, morale, teamwork, and business prospects at the company have dramatically improved. We are now working around-the-clock, seven days a week, to meet customer requirements.
We continue to meet regularly and listen to our associates. In response, we have new work teams, new reward and recognition systems, significant overtime and new bonus opportunities, and we recently increased wage rates and shift premiums.
Thanks to cooperation between management and the workforce, our business has a bright future, our people are involved and engaged in their work like never before, and – in spite of very challenging economic conditions – we are now considering plans to significantly grow our business.
In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
Even our most senior people, many of them respected industry veterans, are open to new ideas and approaches to our business. Our people fuel innovation every day, allowing us to continue to develop and grow new products and services that benefit our customers.
We have a number of patented alloys, and – in an occupation that has been around for thousands of years, melting brass and bronze – we continue to push the envelope of what is possible.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned and how have you applied it?
Be honest and fair in all business dealings. We enjoy a wonderful reputation in the industry, thanks to integrity that has been part of our fabric for generations. In an industry where customers tend to perceive your products as commodities, where price too often is the primary decision attribute, there is plenty of temptation to take shortcuts. We refuse to do it. We don’t compromise on this. Instead, we do all we can to treat our customers, our suppliers, and our employees fairly. This approach does not get us every order, but in the long run it is good business. I suspect it’s a big reason why we soon will be celebrating our 100th anniversary, while so many of our competitors have faltered.
How does your organization make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?
We supply foundries in the region with the finest brass and bronze alloys so they can sell their castings competitively throughout the world. We spend tens of millions of dollars each year procuring scrap metal, buying supplies, and purchasing utilities from area companies. Nevertheless, the single greatest impact we make is providing a thriving workplace, where more than 80 people can come earn a living, express themselves, be part of a high performing team, and have fun in the process. In turn, hundreds of family members rely on our company to improve the quality of their lives.
We take that responsibility seriously. We provide fair and competitive pay, excellent benefits, and opportunities for advancement. We provide a safe workplace in which our people have worked more than 810 consecutive work days without a lost time accident. We are environmental stewards, recycling hundreds of tons each week, and seeking ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Without question, our most significant impact is with our people, and it’s something we are proud of.