FORNEY INDUSTRIES is a powerful company in Fort Collins. Never heard of them?
Well, it’s nice to know that the family-owned business was born and raised in Fort Collins.
Forney Industries makes welding and metal-working equipment and parts. It’s a fabulous business, powered from a solid reputation for delivering top value since 1932.
With about 220 employees worldwide, most in Fort Collins, they deliver their products through hardware, farm & ranch, automotive aftermarket, and industrial distribution stores. They sell online, and their sales force also works directly with customers who do welding and metal working as a part of their business.
I first learned about Forney at a Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting celebration in August. This was the first time that we’d ever held a ribbon-cutting using a cutting torch. It was high energy and memorable.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Steve Anderson, President and CEO of Forney. I was particularly interested to hear more about the unique culture that they’ve developed in this hidden jewel of a company.
I find this to be very common for businesses that have seen nothing but success for over half a century. But it’s extremely dangerous to get complacent, as the market changes shape and competitors snap up opportunities.
In addition to focusing on the core mission of the business, Steve established groups to specifically focus on morale and culture, built on a foundation of company core values. “The happiness of our employees has always been paramount,” he said. The groups have a strong voice in creating an environment where employees are empowered to make decisions, have integrity, and develop trusting relationships. They’re supported with a budget which lets them create programs, not just talk.
I find it fascinating that the first cultural value is “Humility”, something I’ve never seen outside of a non-profit. But you can see how this results in a company which is modest, honest, and delivers continuing value for its customers.
One way they’ve reinforced this culture is to name their seven conference rooms after these attributes. What a great way to help people remember their fundamental importance!
I also found out about a compelling little tool that Forney created to communicate the character of the business:
This is a wonderfully refreshing embodiment of the business character, powerful for employees and customers alike.
What’s next for Steve and his team? The journey continues. They’re looking at new team exercises and challenges, giving even more support to creating a great organization. The culture isn’t designed to be front-and-center or in your face. Instead, it’s something which is a natural part of everything they do.
Steve learned the lesson that his own passion and energy for this topic could come across as too gung ho, too enthusiastic. He’s finding that the strength of this organization comes when he is able to relax and support others’ ideas and energy.
So his role is to “learn and listen.” That’s humility as the first attribute of culture.