150 years of success: Business' secret to employee retention

Zoe Greszler • Jul 18, 2018 at 2:00 PM

BELLEVUE — During the past 150 years, hundreds of people have worked at Gordon Lumber Holdings Co. From the early sawmill men in the 1800s to today’s skilled people employed by the company throughout the state, including its Bellevue and Huron locations, many have made lifelong careers with the company.

President Erin Leonard said turnover is low at the company’s lumber yards. Thanks to training and advancement programs, most employees stay at the company for decades.

“The back bone of our company is key people in key positions who got there by starting at the bottom and learning on the way up,” Leonard said. “We try to ensure that every employee has the same opportunity available to advance his or her career.”

Dedication to training

To assure that staffing retention stays a key focus at the company’s six home center/lumberyards, component manufacturing facility and contract/installed sales business, Gordon offers a comprehensive assistant manager training program and has plans to roll out a commercial driver’s license (CDL) training program. The company also offers tuition reimbursement to employees using outside sources to help them earn their CDL B or CDL A driver’s license. Additionally, the company has historically offered training opportunities to designers in its components business.

“There are many situations in our company where people started with part time work in the yard, learned from good managers and eventually earn a management position,” Leonard said.

“That’s a good history, but we want the future to be better. We plan to expand our training into every job class within the next few years. The goal is to have a full line of training, from the simplest job in a yard to a full-fledged store manager.

“We are trying to ensure that all employees have the same opportunity available to them to advance their careers. We make employee retention a daily priority at Gordon.”

Advice to today’s workforce

The largest concern Leonard harbors regarding the workforce is the loss of a generation during the recession in 2007 to 2012.

“In our industry there is a bubble of baby boomers who are starting to retire without much in the way of trained employees behind them to take over when they leave,” he said.

“Wrongly, our industry will never be seen as the sexiest industry to build a career. That stigma has kept younger people out of our workforce. The reality is this industry has arguably the most upward career mobility available of any industry. There are not many industries left where you can start in the yard or on the counter and make your way to the top.”

Leonard said he believes the need for outside sales staff and managers is going to accelerate in the next few years, along with counter sales people, yard staff, drivers and clerks.

“My advice to young people looking to join Gordon or any of our competitors is that they’re only limited by their personal effort,” he added. “The sky is the limit if people have curiosity and motivation. The jobs are here. The training is here. The compensation is here. Younger people should get in this industry, stay motivated and watch their career take off.”

Gordon currently operates six home center/lumberyards, a contract/installed sales business and a components manufacturing facility in Ohio. In addition to Bellevue and Huron the company also has locations in Bowling Green, Findlay, Fremont, Genoa and Port Clinton.


Sensory-friendly Cedar Point

SANDSUKY — If you have someone in your family on the autism spectrum, planning an amusement park trip can be hard. This week is Autism Awareness Week at Cedar Point, in partnership with the Autism Society of America. A trip to Cedar Point can be overstimulating, so the park is providing additional information to make the trip a little smoother.

Earlier this year, Cedar Point added a sensory room to FrontierTown First Aid, located around the corner from the Jitney Arcade. This space provides a quiet area for families, as well as sensory tools with which to interact. It features soft and calming color tones, special lighting and seating.

Families also can receive a “sensory pack” that includes headphones, fidget toys, non-verbal communication cards and weighted lap blankets. These are available for check out daily. The sensory room is available during park operating hours to all guests.

Cedar Point also offers additional quite spots throughout out the park, information on locations using strobe lighting and other overstimulating performances, and those that accommodate those with sensory-friendly needs. This information can picked up at guest services. 


N. London student recognized

Firelands Electric Cooperative has announced the winners of The A Team drawing for the month of July.

Among the three July winners was Kaitlyn Detterman, who just finished seventh grade at New London Middle School and is the daughter of Kurt and Maria Detterman, of New London. 

Sponsored by Firelands Electric, The A Team recognizes students in sixth through eighth grades who had a minimum of three A’s on their most recent report card. Applicants also must reside in a home served by the co-op. Students who submit a qualifying report card are entered into a drawing held after each grading period. Three winners from each drawing receive an iTunes gift card and are recognized in Ohio Cooperative Living magazine and on Firelands’ website and social media outlets. The deadline for the next drawing is Dec. 10.


Area student earns leadership tour

WASHINGTON— Emily Brannon, of Mapleton High School, and Faith Griffiths, of Ashland High School, attended the Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives Youth Tour to Washington from June 8 through 14, representing Firelands Electric Cooperative.

The Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives Youth Tour is an annual youth leadership experience for high school sophomores and juniors from families served by electric cooperatives. Students visited the nation’s capital and its many famous and historic sites. They also met members of Ohio’s congressional delegation on Capitol Hill and learned about public service and the cooperative business model.

Brannon, daughter of Roger and Valeria Brannon, and Griffiths, were two of 39 students from the state of Ohio — and 1,888 students from electric co-ops across the country — who participated in this year’s tour.


Bettcher achieves new certification 

BIRMINGHAM — Bettcher Industries, Inc. announced it has achieved ISO 9001:2015 certification, which verifies that the company meets rigorous requirements for quality management processes in today’s manufacturing arena. 

The new certification covers the latest standards as issued by the International Organization for Standardization pertaining to quality management systems. It  

In announcing the news, chief executive officer Don Esch said achieving the “ISO 9001:2015 certification demonstrates that our company continues to adapt to the always-changing environment in which manufacturers operate today.”

Ed Steele, vice president of manufacturing and quality, said the certification assists Bettcher in organizing and improving the efficiency of its quality management processes by applying a “plan/do/check/act” methodology.

Among the specific areas covered by the standards are: Requirements for Bettcher’s quality management system include the responsibilities of company management, management of human resources and the company’s work environment, the product development process and covering all steps from design to delivery, and measurement, analysis and improvement of the company’s quality management system.

“Achieving ISO certification is a rigorous and multi-faced process," Steele said.

“I would like to commend Shawn Marcy, our quality assurance manager, who provided an invaluable service in navigating a smooth process to obtain 9001:2015 certification. Shawn was in charge of planning and managing the steps to obtain the new certification, including preparing the extensive documentation required as part of the application process.”

ISO 9001 standards of quality management were first brought out in 1987 by the International Organization for Standardization. These standards have been updated several times since then, with the most recent version published in September 2015.

More than 1 million organizations located in 160-plus counties have applied ISO 9001 standards to their quality management systems, making it the largest recognized certification program covering quality management systems. Bettcher Industries has been an ISO-certified organization since 1997.


If you have an item for the business roundup column, send the information to the Norwalk Reflector in care of Zoe Greszler, 61 E. Monroe St., Norwalk, Ohio 44857, or email it to [email protected]

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