86.6 F
San Fernando
Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

Profiting From Personal Attention

Every day at the stroke of noon, the 12-employee staff at Green Pharmaceuticals sits down at a long table to dine on a gourmet three-course meal prepared for them by a full-time company chef. While employees dine on anything ranging from soups, to sushi, to cappuccino, no one is allowed to pick up the phone. Though Green Pharmaceuticals might go a bit further than most family run businesses in caring for their employees, it remains safe to say that many family run companies possess an exceptionally strong employer/employee bond. “Our employees spend more time outside the home than in it, so you have to make the environment like home,” Christian de Rivel, co-owner and vice president of sales and marketing for Westlake Village-based Green said. “I hate to train someone and to have them be fired or leave because they aren’t satisfied. We try to have a culture not based on fear but on goodwill. No one works in a cubicle and there isn’t one bad office in the place. From the warehouse to the top, everyone eats at the same table. It’s about equality.” A manufacturer of anti-snoring nasal sprays, oral sprays and chewable tablets, Green Pharmaceuticals has managed to balance growth with doting attention and care of its employees. Founded in 1997, the company grossed $400,000 in its first year with only three employees. Last year, Green grossed $5.4 million and employed 12. In addition, to offering daily gourmet lunches, the company provides free medical consultations for employees by phone for any medical condition, as well as babysitting for workers’ children when sick or when their school is closed during working days and the children have no one to supervise them. However, times at Green weren’t always flush; several years ago the company ran into tough straits and relied upon its employees to stay with the company through the difficult period. “We’ve succeeded. No one has left the company in years and all of our employees understood when we had rough times. They all believed in us. It takes a lot of back and forth,” Rivel said. “It’s a two way street and now the company is enjoying tremendous sales and everyone is saying that they were right to stick it out. They will definitely be rewarded. This year we plan on being able to give a raise to them for the first time in three years.” With four Rivels working at Green, including Christian’s wife Dominique de Rivel, daughter Melody de Rivel and daughter in-law Andrea de Rivel, company employees say that the family environment definitely leads to more unity within the firm’s ranks. “The Rivels empower us to make decisions. They allow us to have flexibility. They really encourage us to take interest in the business, much more so than your typical owner. It makes us so much more motivated when you feel like you have a stake in the ownership,” James Baker, a sales and marketing representative at Green said. “I go beyond the call of duty at the office, as does everyone else. They’ve accepted me and every employee as a part of their family.” Close ties Jim and Paula Sheftel, owners of Sherman Oaks-based Heavenly Low Carb and Humphrey Yogart, also maintain that being a family business allows them to develop a tighter bond with their employees. Though many business experts warn against it, the Sheftels have built such close relationships that they socialize with some of the employees in their off-time. “We’re very flexible with employees’ wants, needs and scheduling issues. Usually the first rule in business is don’t socialize with the employees, but there’s a lot of trust and we’re all helping each other. We pay them well and they realize that we expect them to treat the business the way we would,” Jim Sheftel said. “We’ve had employees stay for 11 to 13 years, which is really unusual for a frozen yogurt store and we get very sad if they do leave. It’s like our children that are graduating into the world.” Becca Coffman, a general manager at Humphrey Yogart enjoys working at a family business because she finds it more personal than her previous job, where she worked for a large school district. “I’ve worked for a school district and now I definitely get a lot more personal attention. Being the general manager, I oversee the people that work. I can see the crew’s morale and their attitude is more active and interested because they know the people it directly affects. People work harder and it becomes such a close knit group,” Coffman said. “It’s definitely more of a paternal thing here. There’s less discipline because of how well they know us. They know how to run a business and they make sure that we know that.” Ernest Doud, managing partner of DoudHausnerVistar, a strategic family business advising firm, concurs that family businesses and their employees are often closer than the average company. “My experience is that family businesses do treat their employees with a great deal more respect and appreciation than other businesses. In some respect, it’s to balance the benefits that employees may not otherwise have, meaning it’s very unlikely that someone can get ownership in the family business,” Doud said “Also family businesses tend to be smaller than public companies and part of it is they just seem to really care about people.” Despite being only a year and a half old, Firefly’s Book and Toy Store has made inroads into the Valencia market by offering high end children’s books and toys that can’t be found at Toys ‘R Us or other large retailers. Owned by husband and wife Rob Hansmann and Brenda McClure, the business currently employs seven people, with more on the way when the couple opens up a Thousand Oaks store sometime in the next year. Like the aforementioned family businesspeople, Hansmann and McClure feel that being a family business creates an unmatched sense of fraternity within the store. Treated like individuals “We really focus on the individual. They aren’t numbers on a spreadsheet, they aren’t names on a list, they are people who we are involved with in their lives. We take their lives in consideration with ours. There is a loyalty that’s built and a respect for the employees,” McClure said. “It definitely makes them stay with the company longer. They feel like they’re a part of it. You form this bond, this friendship between Rob and I, and the employees. We go through life with them. They’ve been with us on the ups and downs of the business.” In order to show their appreciation, Hansmann and McClure bring their employees gifts after they return from a trip. Furthermore, the pair hands out Christmas bonuses, throws frequent company parties, and maintain a flexible work schedule. And when a worker has a special event in their life, the couple usually attends it. Danny Moser, a clerk at Firefly’s, likes working for Hansmann and McClure because he feels they give him the ability to be unique during his working hours. “I want to come to work here. There hasn’t been a time where I felt like saying ‘I have to go to work.’ It feels like I’m coming in to help them,” Moser said. “Working at a corporate non-family business made me feel like I was locked in, going there to do a chore. Now I can be who I am and I can see my developments through the store. I’m allowed to make artwork for the walls. At a corporate place, there’s only one way to do things and you can’t do anything differently. They are definitely more open-minded. They encourage me to be who I am and utilize my strengths.”

Featured Articles

Related Articles