'Procompers' live by work hard, play hard philosophy

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Progressive Components Inc. Progressive Components Inc. employees during a summer picnic outing.

At Progressive Components Inc., ranked No. 2 and based in Wauconda, Ill., the average tenure of current employees is nine years.

And 42 percent of "Procompers," the term co-owner and Chairman Don Starkey uses to refer to employees, have been with the company for more than 10 years.

So, what's their secret to retaining talent?

"The work environment is high pace, high energy," Starkey said. "We don't have an exclusive on the concept of 'work hard, play hard,' but the work is hard, and we're serious yet we have fun.

"When we do let our hair down, we let it down in style," he added. "For instance, the two events each year are the holiday party and the summer picnic, neither of which are traditional by typical standards."

Starkey describes the company holiday party as "a wedding reception without the mess of a bride and groom." Roughly 100 to 150 Procompers and their spouses get dressed up and head to a nearby banquet hall to enjoy food, drinks, music, a recognition ceremony and dancing.

As for the summer picnic, he said it's "not the traditional 'bring your softball or Frisbee' type of picnic." He and his brother, Glenn, who is co-owner and president of Progressive Components, alternate each year who plans the event.

"We do pretty wacky events, [such as] Vegas nights and I'm flying in some incredible talents," Starkey said. "We've taken over Italian restaurants in downtown Chicago, doing our own cooking of our own meals. We've taken over parts of Wrigley Field for Cubs games.

"It's usually a bit out of the norm, but that's what we want. We bring in people from around the world for these events," he added.

Starkey said one important point is that the mold components company ensures significant others are included in the activities.

"We hire the whole person, which includes their family. We recognize that we've hired deeper than just an employee. That's why we want significant others to be participating in these events and attending these events. It's a gesture of appreciation to them, as well," he said.

Progressive Components was founded in 1987 by Don Starkey Sr., who died Feb. 20. Glenn and Don Starkey Jr. joined forces to run the company in 1990.

"In the first five years, we introduced more new products to the market than anybody else who knew us, combined," Don Starkey Jr. said. "That's really what got us going — this innovative approach to what we do. We market big; we look big. We're very service-oriented, and that's how we have grown to where we are today."

Following the death of his father, Starkey said he hopes the legacy of his father to be based on the company's founding principles: being customer-focused.

"The show of support from Procompers through this process was nothing short of amazing, but also not unexpected, knowing the people that we hire and work with — physically showing up at the wake and funeral, the outpouring of care and sympathy," he said. "They haven't seen Mom and Dad much the last few years — Dad with Parkinson's — and they were no longer able to be attending the holiday party and summer picnic, but [their spirits] were in the room, so to speak, with us.

"Just the fact that Mom and Dad loved everybody," Starkey added, "that shows how we run the business 27 years later."


Progressive Components Inc., Wauconda, Ill., mold equipment supplier, 53 employees.

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