A simple concept. When I had a chance to visit PITSCO Education I did not realized the treat I was in for. In the town of Pittsburg, Kansas there is a company that understands culture. They understand what it takes to find people who are proud of their work. They understand the importance of creating a sense of family in the workplace. This was clear the minute I checked into the hotel to have a little gift box from PITSCO welcoming me on my trip.
When I finally arrived on the campus I was met by Nancy Peterson. She is someone who I admire so much over my years of knowing her. She has provided me countless advice, ideas, and book suggestions. I was given a tour by the president, Lisa Paterni. I had a chance to meet the owner Harvey Dean. Each and every single person I came across treated me like I was one of their own. Nobody was too good to speak to me. Nobody is too good to not do any of the work in any of the buildings when needed. I had the chance to hang out with VP Matt Frankenbery for several hours to help me understand my vision, STEM education, and how to fit all the pieces together. I could go on and on with each person I met, but in every single case I was blown away by their treatment of me and their interest in me as a person.
This matters. It matters so much that I started to think about why we always gloss over this element when we try to figure out how to improve schools.
I kept thinking over and over again how many times we act like we are better than others? Maybe not intentionally, but it happens. I felt like I belonged. I was able to walk through all of their buildings. I walked from corporate to packaging, to R&D, to where they print materials, to the marketing wing. I spoke to the IT department and everyone else in between. In every single case, the people were genuine. The people cared about their work. They were proud and wanted me to know.
This type of culture does not happen overnight. There is not a book you can buy to replicate. It once again comes down to a few things.
- Believing in the cause
- Making sure your actions speak louder than you words
- Treat people right
- Love your job
These four things are hard to do. Many people can probably claim one or two, but not all four.
I left the tour of the space understanding that the words I write, the ideas I think, and the vision I want to craft for my own non-profit can happen. I witnessed it. I was able to see that as I develop and grow the vision I can create the culture that I want by
- Leading by action
- Learning to say NO
- Understanding when not fall prey to easy short term gains that sacrifice the long term vision
- Find people who believe in the cause just as much as I do
- Work really damn hard
You can do the same. You can be the catalyst of change that does not give up and become part of a toxic culture. You can choose how you treat others and how you approach your work. If starting fresh, then you have a clean plate that you can fill up with greatness. No matter your situation you can begin to develop the culture that we all know we want to work in by taking a step forward and leading with our actions. Don’t lose sight of this when you have a bad day or you are tired. You must fight through it and keep your eyes on the prize.
On my second day of visiting the PITSCO Education operation I was able to get a tour of the manufacturing plant. This is like a makerspace on steroids that delivers real world products. I was once again so impressed by the passion people have for their work. What is amazing to me is that every single person I talked to wanted to provide the history of the building, of the company, of the owner, and how connected they are to the operation. There are over 25 employees who have worked at PITSCO for over 25 years which is amazing considering how small of an operation the company is in size.
I asked each person who I met(I met a lot of people) what they loved about working at PITSCO and almost every single person provided the same answer with the same reasons
- The company cares about them as a person.
- Working at PITSCO feels like family.
- Every single day is a new challenge and not like the day before.
- There are very high expectations that they must meet, but when they do they are appreciated.
Is this not the ingredients for anyone who wants to feel fulfilled in their work? How many of us would love to have a workplace like this? I know I would.
The thing about it all is that I felt like I belonged and I don’t even work there. I felt like I was part of the family. People were so interested in my thoughts. They were invested in my family. It was everything that I could think of when I imagine the culture I want to create and work in.
Nothing felt fake. There was a sense of pride that I have not seen in many places. There was nothing fancy as everything was about the product quality and treatment of each other and the customers. I was curiuos as to how they make this culture happens and one story brings it all together.
When I was touring the manufacturing plant and checking out all the awesome equipment they have(like the machine that uses electrons to spread aluminum on plastic wheels in this vacuum apparatus) I was amazed by how it all comes together. We were watching the creation of furniture and it was shared with me that the guys don’t just sit on the assembly line all day. Once the product is created, packaged and ready for delivery the trucks head out on a Friday. The crew who assembles the furniture in the plant are then asked to travel on Sunday to the location of the order to build it all out for the school. The workers don’t just sit all day doing the same things, but they are able to see the fruits of their labor. They are able to see the impact they are making in their work. They are able to understand how important their work is to the education of the students who will be using their products.
This is awesome. This shows people care. I love it.
As an educator who has very little sense of the business world and how things come together I was blown away by what it takes to bring a product to a school. As a person in school I see the catalog, the online social media sharing, and the products when they arrive. I had no idea what it takes to design, test, prep, package, deliver, and ensure all standards are met. PITSCO does just about everything in house which goes against what most companies do. But it works for them.
In the end, I learned a great deal. I learned how important it is to have a vision and to stay true to the vision. I was reminded about the importance of the treatment of people. We have to treat people right to allow the proper mindset to develop in which then allows people to feel valued enough to believe in the vision as well.
I hope one day that the work I am developing takes off and I can create a similar culture and return the favor to others by having them experience something similar to what I was able learn from these few days. This might have been one of the most inspiring and insightful moments of my learning career and am so thankful to have had the chance to have this opportunity.
If you need to understand culture, then I would look no further than PITSCO Education.