Depending on ownership's philosophy and approach, working at a family-run business can be a blessing or a curse. For example, if the family leaders lack vision or feel the business is there to fuel their lifestyle, problems can quickly arise and trickle through the employee base. At Singer Equipment Co., though, the exact opposite is the case. "They keep building and investing in the company. This is something they have done for years and years because the company name matters. They want to see the business continue to grow," Buch says. "Fred has had a vision ever since he came to work here, and that vision has come to fruition. That's good for all of us."
Being a successful and evolving family-owned business seems to be somewhat of a badge of honor for Singer. "Being a family-owned business in many ways defines who we are and is at the root of our culture. Being a business that's been around for 95 years gives you the ability to have a long-term perspective on relationships," Singer says. "Our behaviors and our values are based around things that we feel if we execute are the underpinnings of good relationships. We believe we are trying to create great relationships not only with customers but with suppliers and employees, too. These great relationships will not only drive the success of our business, they will also enrich the lives of the people who touch our business. So it goes beyond purely financial goals. And that is the luxury of a family-owned business."
Despite the company's growth in recent years, most longtime employees feel Singer Equipment Co. remains true to its roots. "It's pretty much the same company, just on a larger scale. The ethics are the same, and at its core the company is the same," Buch says.
In addition to sharing a common belief system that takes form in the company's stated cultural attributes and values, Singer Equipment Co. continues its steady growth due to the entire company's unwavering commitment to its business model. "The fact that we are a dealer is what we do and not who we are," Woolcock says. "Fred runs this like a business, and you can take this model and sell any other product. The model and the foundation are very solid. Everything is run on a budget. No decisions are made hastily. We don't behave in that way. We look out for the customer's best interest. It is run like a true business and not a dealership. Fred stays the course — strong and steady. Not a lot of ups and downs. Everything is based on the numbers and the facts."
Indeed, while the company's culture is well defined and growth well documented, Singer Equipment Co. finds a way to maintain a warm and familiar atmosphere typically found only in really small businesses. No doubt, maintaining that small-company feel starts at the top, but it also has to be embraced by the employees, which is the case at Singer Equipment Co. "We may have grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, but in our heart we are a small company," says Paul Pasquarello, a 17-year company veteran who serves as customer service manager. "We made our bones working with the mom-and-pop restaurants, and we incorporate those beliefs in our day-to-day operations."
The bedrock of this warm and inviting atmosphere is open and free-flowing communication among everyone under the company's colorful corporate umbrella. "When I go into the lunchroom to eat my lunch, I am able to sit there and shoot the breeze with the president of the company, and that goes for all of our employees," Pasquarello says. "Senior-level management is very in tune with the employees. When we bring someone new on board, they take the time to get to know them."
Singer has monthly managers' meetings with department heads to make sure everyone is on the same page. And then there are quarterly employee meetings where everyone sees the numbers and gets an idea of the company's performance to date and the goals moving forward. "The lines of communication are very good," Pasquarello adds.
The communication is so good, in fact, that "no matter who you talk to, they can tell you where we are at and a lot more," Gallagher says. "Fred has a real open-door policy. He is approachable, and he will take time from what he is doing to listen."
Moreover, the communication with and interaction between management and the employees is ongoing. "Fred takes input from a lot of sources very well. He is a great listener and always has time for everyone," Buch adds. "When making decisions, he involves everyone that needs to be involved and does not go off doing his own thing."