By the end of 2022, Showplace Cabinetry will have shipped more cabinets in a year than ever — more than 200,000.
“And we have a backlog that will carry us through year-end,” CEO Bill Allen said of production. “We will feel very fortunate to be blessed with a record sales revenue year as well. We now have 720 employee-owners — another record — at Showplace, who work their tails off every day to meet our customers’ demands.”
None of that happens without a strong company culture.
On Oct. 26, Allen will speak on a panel addressing workplace culture at the fifth annual WIN in Workforce Summit, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.
The topic is “Culture, Culture, Culture: If you don’t get it right, nothing else matters.” And Allen will be joined by Carrie Anderson of Avera, Tara Cox of Wilbur-Ellis and Teri Schmidt of Experience Sioux Falls for a discussion moderated by New York Life’s Anna Moe.
We caught up with Allen for a preview.
You’re speaking on the topic of culture, which is broad and in some cases open to interpretation. How would you describe how you and Showplace view culture? What does that mean to you?
It may be cliche, but the words “family, caring and good people” get used often by employees explaining how they feel about working at Showplace. When we are making decisions that involve employees, we go by the philosophy of treating people how you would like to be treated yourself. Every decision we make, we look at how it will affect our employees whether good or bad. When you respect people, are fair, honest and upfront with them, put yourself in their shoes, then the right decisions are easier to make. Our employees are a big part of our culture; they are always looking out for each other. Employees step up to help someone who is fighting breast cancer, has had a house fire or something as simple as needing a ride to work. It will always be our people that define us. We continually hear “That is why I work at Showplace: It is the people.”
Culture also can be hard to define, but from your perspective, how would you describe the culture at Showplace?
Culture is a reflection of the way you run the company; it is something that is woven into what you do every day. We have become more self-aware in recent years that culture can feel different to those in the office, in leadership positions, versus those who work on the production floor. That self-awareness drives us to want to ask questions, listen and learn more about how our employees think and feel about things at work. We are a manufacturer. The fact is some days things don’t go well. It’s hard work, we have issues just like everyone does, we can always improve. One thing is for sure, we try to make the work environment we have here the best we possibly can for our employees given the industry we are a part of.
What have you done intentionally to try to cultivate that culture?
Over the years, we have expanded benefits and employee programs, started company traditions and improved our facilities – all of this has become part of our culture. I have a tendency to want to list all those things as important aspects of our culture. Robust employee benefits, “perks” if you will, are necessary and useful to get people through the door, but they don’t always motivate people to stay with a company and do the best job they can. In addition to having nice “perks,” we are spending a great deal of time and effort trying to develop better leaders, foster creativity at all levels and encourage employee involvement.
I think our leadership team is very approachable, and it starts with me. I feel anyone at Showplace should be able to come up and talk to me about anything work-related. If I can’t answer their question, I’ll find someone who can. The goal is developing a mindset for all employees that they are not just a number here – they are an important part of our operation. One of our senior managers brought up to me that Showplace is really like a second family for a lot of our employees. It is a job, but it is more than that. It is stability in people’s lives, a place where they can contribute daily to something meaningful. When we work together, do our jobs well, we have the ability to produce something people want to buy and grow our company. That success in our work lives can spill over into individual’s personal lives.
Culture also always is evolving. Are there some elements of yours that you’re focused on improving, and how are you doing that?
This is something we talk about often. What was important to employees 10 or 15 years ago may or may not be important to employees today or in the next 10 to 15 years. If you are not consciously looking at how to evolve your culture in the workplace, it will come back to bite you in the long run.
We’ve put a focus on improving English language skills, and we actually teach English classes in-house now. We’ve strengthened our new-hire training programs, and we’ve really looked into and tried to simplify our application process, looking at how people conduct job searches today. What are potential employees looking for, how do we match up and making sure we are hitting the sweet spots the best we can. It is a constant process. Our goal is to be an employer of choice in the region. We focus on being forward-thinking, innovative and competitive with the benefits we offer.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to address or improve their culture?
Every business has a culture whether you want one or not; usually it is a reflection of how you treat your employees. Pay is one thing, but honestly listening to employees and showing them respect, fairness and appreciation will go a long way towards building a better culture. When you have a decision to make regarding employees, ask yourself how you would want to be treated in that situation and then make the decision. We certainly know that our culture isn’t for everyone, and every employee isn’t for us. But we hope the culture we do have attracts the people who are a good fit!
What broader benefit have you found as a business to your intentional focus on culture?
Happier employees! I don’t want to mislead anyone – it is very difficult to find and retain employees in the Sioux Falls metro area. I just read there are over 30,000 open jobs in South Dakota and something like 10,000 people actually looking for jobs. That is a big problem, and Showplace is not immune to the difficulties associated with that. The way we look at it is: How hard would it be to find and keep employees if we weren’t doing any of these things?
The Sioux Falls Development Foundation is an approved recertification provider for the Society for Human Resource Management, and human resources professionals who attend WIN can earn nine professional development credits.
Tickets are $89 for in-person attendance, which includes lunch and snacks, and $20 for virtual attendance. Group discounts are available. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.