Plainfield, Conn.-based Westminster Tool is a custom injection mold builder for plastics and medical manufacturing that was honored as a Plastics News Best Place to Work in 2023. Thomas' father, Ray Coombs Jr., founded the company in 1997.
When Westminster Tool started to make a culture shift in 2014, it had 20 employees with an average age of 52. Profit was slim to nonexistent. Thomas said there was neither cross-functional communication nor conflict resolution in place, and her father was "sacrificing a lot for little in return." There were limited repeat sales, and the average employee workweek was more than 50 hours.
There was turnover of about 60 percent, and Coombs even had to let go people who were in his wedding party, Thomas said.
The company brought on a coach to create an organization that not only wanted to manufacture great tools but also made a difference. "None of my siblings wanted to work for the family business until the culture changed," Thomas said.
EQ in action at Westminster includes the DISC (dominant, inspiring, supportive or cautious) model for understanding personality and communication preferences; brain training; having crucial conversations to reflect and digest; and employee onboarding with global orientation and team training. The company once did an afterhours training session with employees' spouses so they could learn as well.
From 2014-16, company metrics did not change and "we struggled" during that time, Thomas said. EQ was implemented in 2017, and by 2018, Westminster Tool's numbers started to trend upward. The company also experienced improved internal and external customer service.
Employees spend at least 75 minutes per week on training, improvements and communication.
Today, the company has 30 employees with the average age of 33. One-third of employees are women. Westminster has two facilities totaling 24,000 square feet, including 17 computer numerically controlled machines and four injection mold presses.
Thomas added that there's a consistent cash flow and profit margin to reinvest in the business, and 60 percent of sales are from repeat business. "The best way to know you're doing something right is getting repeat business," she said.
Employees now enjoy a work week of 45 hours — "most work weeks are actually 42-45 hours a week," she said — with self-managed schedules. Staff members can go to their child's sporting events or attend other commitments. "None of that happened until we implemented emotional intelligence," she added.
Thomas said the family would not be working together had their father not implemented these changes; she mentioned that employees' wives said it helped save their marriages.