Handle with Care

The drab industrial landscape of Mitchell Island in Richmond is the last place you’d expect to find occupational nirvana, but here, within the walls of new 250,000-square-foot plant, you’ll find more contented workers than anywhere else in B.C. Scheduler Carrie Dawson first arrived at GLBC as a pregnant temp in 1999, and she quickly sensed she was onto a good thing. “As a temp you get to see how people relate to each other, how friendly the atmosphere is – all that kind of stuff. And when I left, I was like, ‘I wanna work here.’” So keen was she to get a foot in the door, she was prepared to take almost any job on offer. “After the baby I had another job but I kept in touch with lots of people in the office and as soon as a job posting came up, I didn’t really care where it was in the company.” So what is it that makes a place that specializes in corrugated cardboard such a desirable place to work? Almost everyone mentions the river view from every office (the plans for the building were deliberately reversed to achieve this) and this year’s company-wide trip to Cabo San Lucas. There’s also the kids’ Christmas party where even the child-free turn up to witness the frenzy of 100-plus tots unwrapping thousands of dollars’ worth of presents. Then there’s the on-site gym for regular use. Many appreciate the small-company atmosphere that has persisted despite successful growth. But everyone has his or her own take on what makes the place tick. Packaging designer Tammy Archibald mentions the management’s open-door policy and recalls president and CEO Bob Meggy coming down to the office to wish her a happy birthday. Senior accountant Dave Dungy enthuses about the Thursday night slogs up the Grouse Grind with their ultra-competitive boss trying hard to set the pace. Sandra Fung, a 13-year veteran of the company, is grateful for the flexibility and understanding that allowed her to fit in breast-feeding sessions during her lunch break when she first returned from maternity leave. For Javed Ahmed, a supervisor in the foam department, it’s the opportunities for career advancement, the sporting events and fitness options, the general friendliness of the place and the numerous financial perks. Cash incentives at GLBC include a monthly bonus scheme based on a percentage of profits that is the same for every employee regardless of seniority. There’s a program where you get $10 for suggesting a sensible idea. If the idea is implemented, you get a percentage of the savings or a discretionary fee – last month someone got $500. Fees are paid to employees who take work-related classes. A cheque for $300 is presented to smokers who give up the habit for a year. No one is paid the minimum wage. Every employee’s child under 13 gets a $60 Christmas gift every year. Today, in a nod to openness and accessibility, the lunchroom has replaced the boardroom at GLBC. Amidst microwaves and fridges, the staff is gathered around laminate tables to discuss the company’s latest income statements, as they do every month. Bob Meggy, like everyone else in the room, munches on focaccia sandwiches supplied by the company and sips on a tropical fruit juice. Despite the general air of bonhomie, it is not a day for platitudes and pep talks. In fact, the summer hasn’t been a great one: sales and profits are down and targets have been missed. The good news is that everybody who is eligible gets the same bonus regardless of seniority. The bad new is that the bonus is only $110 because of the August downturn. Although the financial statements are presented in a condensed and simplified form, they are there for everybody to see and question. Even the debt-to-equity ratio is there on the overhead. The figures are compared and explained, plans for the future are discussed and representatives from different departments look at the issues they need to tackle to turn things around. It might not always be good news, says Dave Dungy, but such transparency ensures that everybody takes and interest. “It seemed a little extraordinary when I started here that there was information shared with everybody about profitability each month, especially with a private company. It’s the way it should work,” he says. “How else do you engage people to be motivated than to offer a share of the pie in terms of profit-sharing, and then give them the information and tools to make decisions in their day-to-day work to make it profitable and put that money in their pockets?” It may not be conventional, but it obviously makes for a happy ship. The company has 170 staff, most of them based in Richmond. It also has offices in Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver and Everett, Washington. President and CEO Meggy bought the GLBC assets from a receiver in 1982 and set about creating a company that was as serious about people as it was about profit. Hence, the yearly company-bonding trips to various hot climates and endless perks. “Most of your waking hours are spent with a company, so you better enjoy it,” Meggy reasons. “When everybody’s drinking margaritas together in a hot tub in Mexico, you can’t get better bonding in a company.” RELATED ARTICLES: Best companies to work for in B.C. No sweat A leg up Jet set That’s amore