Human Resources and Manufacturing

Growth is all in the family at Custom Profile

Manufacturer goes to great lengths to keep employees happy and engaged.

March 25, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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Custom Profile
Custom Profile’s annual employee meeting this year included “superhero” recognition for set-up operator Bob Williams, left, and Bob Rhoades, director of sales. Courtesy Custom Profile

For a company to undergo explosive growth, it’s important to keep key employees on board.

For Grand Rapids-based extruded plastic manufacturer Custom Profile, 2535 Waldorf Court NW, those key employees are all 265, which is why the company holds an annual meeting and shuts down production for all three shifts so everyone can attend.

This year’s meeting was March 11 and brought the 165 local employees together with additional employees in Mexico with a video conference.

Bringing a company to a halt for a day is tough, especially one that has grown from $22 million in 2012 to $36 million so far in 2016 under the leadership of CEO John Boeschenstein, but it’s a necessary step to ensure the company is working at peak productivity, said Christa Bird, chief people officer.

“If we don’t shut down production, people on separate shifts never meet,” Bird said. “Off-shifts also don’t get as much administration contact as the first shift. This really allows everyone to get to know each other in a way they wouldn’t be able to if production was running.”

The annual All Employee Meeting includes a training session, and this year’s topic was an initiation into lean manufacturing. Custom Profile also took a look back on 2015 performance and a look forward to 2016 plans, Bird said.

The meeting also included employee recognition, with each executive team member asked to recognize someone from outside their organizational chart. This year, the awards carried a superhero theme.

“Our employees dressed in superhero shirts and full costumes,” Bird said. “There were awards for that, too. We made a big deal about recognition.”

Following the gathering, the employees hosted Kids’ Food Basket. The employees split up and employed their lean manufacturing training from earlier in the day to figure out the best way to set up assembly lines to put together the 1,000 sack lunches made during their volunteer time.

Although the cost of shutting down production for a day is steep, Bird said it’s well within the company’s culture to come together while giving back to the community. Each month, a different department picks a charity to host an event of their choosing to raise $1,000, which the company matches. Bird said in the past five years Custom Profile has raised more than $76,000 to give back to the local community.

Custom Profile was founded in 1992 by Sam Nicholas and grew to its $22 million size in 2012, when Blackford Capital acquired the company. The company has grown by servicing its existing furniture and appliance clients with an expanding capacity, but also has branched into several other categories such as retail and marine.

Despite a promising future, Bird said it’s important Custom Profile doesn’t forget its culture and the people who make the company work.

“It’s so important to engage and retain our employees,” she said. “It’s difficult and fast-paced work, and they’re hard employees to find. We want to keep that family feel throughout our growth.”

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