But First We Have To Invest In Our People

By Loftwall September 13, 2021

Loftwall was just named as one of the Best Places to Work in Fort Worth

What earns a company the title of, “Best Places to Work”? Many would answer this question by listing a host of great benefits: free snacks and beverages in the breakroom, affordable healthcare coverage, or the flexibility to work from your home. I do not disagree that these “perks” are awesome and that they can play a part of what earns a company “Best Places to Work,” but in my experience the prestigious title takes a whole lot more than free snacks. To explain further, I think it is important to gain a glimpse into who Loftwall is as a company. 

Loftwall is a commercial furniture manufacturer that focuses on bringing creative privacy solutions to the workplace, and really any other place that could use privacy. Loftwall was named one of 2020’s fastest growing companies by Inc. Magazine. Not just “one of the crowd,” but actually ranking number 2 for fasting growing manufacturer in Texas. We’ve got north of 70 team members and are located in the heart of the DFW metroplex. We proudly manufacture all of our products right here in Texas, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. The plant is not temperature controlled, so it is more than a little hot in the summer and quite cold in the winter. Our office staff is lean, and many wear multiple hats, and sometimes work a lot of hours. Just looking at those facts, you would assume it’s difficult for Loftwall to win “Best Places to Work,” but here we are anyway.

So how did we do it? 

In October, 2020, the leadership team came together and asked a simple question, “what do we want to be known for?” This meeting proposed significant change that would challenge the company to grow, stretch, and invest. Below are the top 5 changes and investments that helped Loftwall earn an award we’ve had penciled on our “goals” list for quite a while. 

Core Values– We changed as a company. New leadership, new headcount, tons of growth – so what we stand for needed a refresh. Our prior core values were not bad – all seven of them were perfectly noble goals and buzzwords. Things like “accountability, integrity, and collaboration.” All things that are great goals. But they were not a part of what drove us to make business or people decisions. The output of that meeting drove us to select four core values that laid the foundation of who we are: Whatever it Takes, Never Stop Growing, Win Together, Lose Together, and Be Boldly You. These became battle cries for Loftwall. The way we start and end meetings. The way we evaluate our people. The words on trophies we hand out at the end of the year. Really, they became a compass for how we make decisions.

Thematic Goal- Have you ever worked at a company that continually changes the goal? Not the number, but the vision of where we are heading and what is important? I have, and it is incredibly frustrating. This year Loftwall rallied behind the Thematic goal of PROVE IT! After a year of crazy growth, we needed to prove that it was not a fluke. We gathered the team in an All-Hands- and shared what PROVE IT means. Prove that we are in control operationally, Prove that we can diversify our revenue, Prove that our customer base loves working with us, and Prove that our employees are what makes us successful. We openly shared metrics and what we track, and then proceeded to set quarterly SMART goals with individuals to assure that they were Proving It to themselves and aligning with the organization. 

Investment in Learning- As a small business, it is easy to put internal employee needs on the backburner for budgetary reasons. I would bet that very few organizations with less than 100 employees have a full time Learning and Development employee on staff. Of our four core values, one is dedicated to learning – so we needed to invest. As a manufacturer, we have a ton of diversity in education, background, and experiences. To help our team Never Stop Growing, we invested in a full time Learning and Development specialist for our People team. We offer individualized options and certifications, a book club, company-wide access to tools like Emma or Masterclass, and two courses per month on anything and everything from Excel 101 to Leadership Development. We even have a self defense class! 

Transparency- When you are growing fast, change comes often! The key to great change management is communication, and.. you got it, transparency. No one wants to feel like they don’t know what is going on and that they do not have a say in the outcome. Our internal meeting cadence allows everyone the opportunity to learn, ask questions, and process the changes that are coming. Our leadership team meets weekly, and we waterfall our messaging down to the teams and in one on one’s. This may seem simple, but it is not always easy to get right. I believe we are on the brink of perfecting this, and it has truly created buy in and investment from the team. 

Fun! At the end of 2020, we pushed out a survey asking people how they wanted to spend the Loftwall company budget for employee events and gifts. This step is too often missed. Generally, leaders think they know what the people want rather than asking them. The survey shared valuable insights around smaller perks like snacks and drinks, more time for our teams to enjoy each other in-person (COVID obviously made this tricky but desired by all), and individual gifts. This year, we took the ideas from the team and offer free snacks and drinks, 20+ in-person events at our HQ, celebrate team members for performance and alignment to core values with spot bonuses and gifts, closed our company for an entire day to celebrate the State Fair of Texas as a team, and have continued a tradition of the Annual Lofty Awards with huge raffle prizes and slapstick awards.  

So yes, we are a manufacturing company that has a hot and cold plant, occasionally work too many hours, and at times wear multiple hats. But we are also a company that invests in our employees through values, goal setting, education, transparency, and many excuses to just have fun together. Do we include the typical “Best Places to Work” stuff – yes! The snacks, drinks, themed events, awesome benefits are here, but I really believe we won the award because we deeply want to invest in our people. 

This year, we earned the number 30 spot, next year we are pushing for Top 20!