When it comes to being a top privately owned company in the Greater Lehigh Valley, business leaders take a cue from the old Broadway standard – “You Gotta Have Heart” from “Damn Yankees.”
Heart – that’s what business leaders in the region say got them and their companies to the top of their respective industries and have kept them there.
It’s also how those top companies find, inspire and keep their top talent.
Andrea Funk, CEO of Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC in Ontelaunee Township, Berks County, said she feels as a leader that she has to do more than just lead. She has to coach, inspire and motivate people to want to see the company succeed as much as she does.
That means keeping them up on the latest company news and making sure there is buy-in to the company’s core principles and mission. And it also means to listen.
“When we give our ‘state of the union,’ we solicit their input,” Funk said. “We ask every employee to submit a ‘why’ question and explore those ideas.”
Listening also is important to Lisa Keeney, president and CEO of Atlas Machine &Welding Inc. in Northampton.
“Keep team members feeling appreciated and remind them how their work is important,” she advised.
“Keep them in the loop with continual feedback about the impact their efforts are having on company goals.”
Silvia Hoffman, founding partner of MKSD Architects in Bethlehem, agreed that employee engagement is one of the most important factors in creating a top company.
“They see that we’re highly committed to them personally,” she said.
Hoffman also is looking for a strong sense of commitment from those employees.
“Everyone in our office is very passionate about what they do,” she said. “They love to design. They’re artists, and that’s what drives them.”
She said her office strives to make sure employees have a sense of ownership of their work so that everything they do is a matter of personal pride.
Hoffman said when employees care about what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it for, it is clear to clients and it builds a strong relationship that will last.
Customer relationship may be the end game, but having a highly motivated, enthusiastic workforce benefits a company on many levels, said Funk, who oversees more than 500 employees.
She said employee engagement leads to longer tenure, and that means keeping the best people in their jobs, lowering turnover costs and increasing the company’s overall knowledge and skill base.
And so the overall goal of being the top executive at a top company is being a great coach, agreed many of the leaders that Lehigh Valley Business surveyed.
Michael Fromm, CEO of Fromm Electric Supply Corp. told Lehigh Valley Business what that means to him.
“Provide the tools needed to accomplish the task; instill individual, as well as collective, accountability; and celebrate success with sincere passion,” he said.
And as that executive “coach,” Angela Nolan, COO of Vistacom Inc. in Allentown said there is a clear message.
“If we work together, we can – and we will – accomplish great things,” she said.
ARRAY OF TALENT
There is no shortage of success stories among Greater Lehigh Valley businesses.
The region is home to nationally recognized names from Just Born, which makes the ever-popular Peeps marshmallow candies, to C.F. Martin Guitar Co. Inc., which makes guitars played by some of the world’s top musicians.
It’s no surprise that the region boasts such a wide array of top business talent, said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
He said the region is rich in resources, infrastructure and a skilled and educated workforce and has a desirable central location along the eastern U.S. corridor.
“It’s a great place to access a good portion of your customer base with reasonable costs and access to quality staff,” he said.
WHERE COMPANIES CAN GROW
Jon Scott, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership, said the region’s desirable locale is not just a local belief.
“Individuals in the site-selection industry, which includes multiple professional principals where someone has the ability to make or influence a locational determination, think that the overall workforce in our region is significantly higher than average,” Scott said.
While the Greater Lehigh Valley’s top privately held companies may have many well-known national and international names, there also are highly successful companies that don’t have international name recognition such as Pencor Services Inc. in Palmerton or Easton Coach Co. in Easton.
The value of those companies is no less significant to the people who work for them and the customers who rely on the products and services they bring to market.
With nearly 20 divisions, including the live music venue Penn’s Peak, Pencor brings everything from telephone, Internet and cable service, newspapers and ice cream to its customers. Meanwhile, 1.5 million senior citizens, Medicaid recipients and people with disabilities rely on Easton Coach Co. for transportation through the company’s paratransit service.
“We’re very fortunate that so many top companies have chosen to grow here over the years,” Cunningham said. “They’re smart companies in the right market.”