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|Articles - March 2011|
|Tuesday, March 01, 2011|
Page 4 of 7
First came the recession, followed by the coldest, wettest summer in 15 years — meteorology that’s not very kind to a company whose flagship product is a salve for poison oak and ivy. Next, president and CEO Steve Smith lost his mother and went through a divorce.
Topping it all off, despite making the 100 Best list at least eight times before, Tec Labs failed to make the cut either year.
“I was very concerned,” says Smith, who founded Tec Labs in Albany with his father in 1977. “When you’re already down, it was just one more kick.”
But at the beginning of 2010, Smith and his 30 employees decided the trench mentality had run its course. Realizing that the company’s strong culture needed to be unhooked from the owner, Smith set up a culture team. Small perks like monthly lunches that had been cut to save money were reinstated. And in the first quarter of 2010, the company paid employees back for an earlier 5% payroll cut.
“You’ve got to take care of your horses first,” says Smith, alluding to his grandfather’s practice of always taking extra special care of his draft horses in the field.
The tribulations of the past couple years have underscored for Smith the important role that Tec Labs plays in the lives of its employees, not only as an employer, but as a place to develop lifelong friendships and become part of an extended family. When you create an environment like that, he says, employees enjoy their work and will go the extra mile — or 10 — in good times or bad.
“It’s like refining gold or silver,” Smith says. “You heat it up and that’s when all the impurities come out. But skim it off and what’s left is pure gold.”
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