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'Work hard, play hard' part of the secret at Plastic Components Inc.

By: Jeannie Reall

March 19, 2014

Being named a Best Place to Work was no happy accident for Plastic Components Inc.

Owner and President Tom Duffey said his company works hard to hire employees who know what to do with autonomy. Employees who “fit.”

“It’s kind of embedded in our culture,” he said in a recent phone interview. “What we’ve tried to do is create an environment that rewards and recognizes initiative, insight and effort on the part of our employees.”

Rather than issuing top-down initiatives, Duffey said, he’d rather have people who develop ideas.

“We give people a lot of latitude. They have to be accountable, but if you ... can find a way to do things better tomorrow than you do today, this can be a great place to work because we recognize it and encourage it and we require it,” he said.

People can have strong technical skills, “but if all they want to do is show up, do their job and go home,” they just don’t work out well at the Germantown, Wis.-based injection molder.

“I’d rather take motivated people and train them ... than someone with a higher skill set, but who’s not really emotionally invested in their job,” Duffey said.

“We’ve really hit a sweet spot here in terms of our performance throughout the organization. Not only do we have a good culture, but we’ve done a really good job of bringing people into the organization that fit.”

And the company, which currently employs about 50, is bringing more people in all the time, thanks to a successful expansion.

In the fall, PCI opened a 15,000-square-foot center in Germantown to make rapid prototype, single-cavity injection molds. The enterprise “has exceeded every possible expectation we had,” he said.

“Within 90 days we knew we’d made the right decision. ... The benefits have been spectacular,” he said. “We filled a niche in our customers’ universe that wasn’t being filled.

“I’ve had good ideas about four times in my life, and this was one of them.”

A mindset common among the Plastics News Best Places to Work finalists seems to be, “Work hard, play hard.” There is fun to be had at PCI, which ranked No. 9 on the list.

The company holds appreciation lunches and has cookouts and softball games. Chair races. Remote-control car races. Halloween costumes. There was even an officewide wellness program known as the “pedometer challenge,” in which Duffey himself took part.

“I think I gained weight while I was doing it, though,” he said.

“From time to time, we’ve done a lot of silly things around here. It’s been fun. And we’ve got a great group of people in our organization that are catalysts for that kind of thing.”

PCI, which Duffy said has annual sales between $20 million and $22 million, was Plastics News’ 2008 Processor of the Year. The company won a 2013 Manufacturing Leadership award for operational excellence and a 2009 Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year award for commitment to community and employees.