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Retaining staff by paying attention to details

Retaining staff by paying attention to details

Home improvement manufacturer addresses staff concerns with innovative corporate care

Rapid growth can take a toll on a company’s staff. Craig Mullet, vicepresident of corporate care at ProVia, knows that well.

ProVia manufactures building products, steel and fibreglass entry doors, aluminum storm doors and vinyl windows, vinyl siding and manufactured stone.

Based in Sugarcreek, a small village in eastern Ohio, the firm employs 980 at five plants in Ohio and Mississippi. ProVia acquired a number of companies over the years. One early acquisition doubled their business, but left the firm understaffed and lacking adequate management depth.

Company founder Bill Mullet and his wife were serving as overseas missionaries in Romania. Their son Craig, only 22 at the time, carried responsibilities beyond what his age and experience warranted. “I was in way over my head, didn’t know what I was doing,” he said in a seminar at MEDA’s annual convention in Tucson, Arizona.

Employees were unhappy, with turnover above 50 percent. One evening, after Bill Mullet had returned home to the firm, he gave a young Amish employee a ride home late one evening. The worker unloaded and told him why so many people were leaving.

Hearing the complaints, the elder Mullet knew changes were needed.

“Our goal became, we want to be the employer of choice in whatever area we are in,” Craig recalled. “We want to be the place that people want to come to work for.”

They took a number of steps to make that shift.

The first was learning from Character First. Character First delivers professional development and character education programs that focus on real-life issues, at work and elsewhere.

The program ProVia adopted required supervisors to recognize their employees publicly for one good character trait shown in the previous year. Then, they had to tell the company how the employee exhibited that trait.

People are often better at singling out errors than recognizing people for what they do well, he said. “It (Character First) became a very powerful tool.”

Craig Mullet oversees ProVia’s holistic employee care program. 
photo by Michael Chansley

The company also developed  incentive pay practices. They allowed hourly paid employees to go home early once their work was done and still be paid the same as if they had stayed for the entire shift.

“Because of the incentive program, employees are constantly looking at ways to build the product better, faster.”

The change, a quasi-piece rate approach, took about two years to fine tune and get employee buyin. “It’s not perfect,” he admitted. Sometimes requests for employees to do training, maintenance and book study are met with resistance.

After an accident crushed an older worker’s hip, the company invested heavily in safety measures. In 2013, ProVia developed a purpose, vision and mission and values statement.

The firm wanted to ensure that the faith values of founder Bill Mullet, an ordained minister, were reflected. They adopted Jesus’ words: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16) “Whatever we do, we want to make sure we’re not taking the glory for ourselves,” Craig said.

Craig Mullet and his siblings were raised in the Beachy (Amish) Mennonite tradition. They had a conservative upbringing “very strong in the values of faith and hard work.”

ProVia’s pricing niche is at the higher end of the market. They decline offers to supply big box retailers. The company wants to avoid “the race to the bottom,” and focus on making a good quality product at a fair price, he said.

Growing up, Craig repeatedly heard his father remind staff to: “Build this door, build this window like it is going on Jesus’ house.”

Ohio firm grew through series of acquisitions

In 1977, Bill Mullet and his brother Andrew bought Hochstetler Door & Window of Walnut Creek, Ohio, which produced and sold aluminum storm doors and windows. They moved the business a few miles away to a rented city garage in Sugarcreek, Ohio.

The next year, they brought in a line of steel entry doors to increase business.

In 1980, Andrew Mullet moved to Texas and sold his share of the business.

In 1982, Bill Mullet became sole owner of the firm and changed its name to Precision Door & Glass, Inc. Two years later, he moved the business to its current location.

In 1995, the Mullets purchased the assets of Sugarcreek Window and Door, a firm that had gone into bankruptcy.

In 2002, they had become weary of regularly receiving substandard products from a supplier, so they bought an automated glass insulating line and formed Monarch IG in Cambridge, Ohio.

Five years later, they merged the three firms under a new corporate name, ProVia Door.

In 2009, they purchased Heartland Building Products, a Booneville, Mississippi firm that had gone bankrupt. In 2011, they bought Heritage Stone in Zanesville, Ohio to add manufactured stone to their product portfolio.

Two years later, they merged their companies into one corporate entity under the ProVia name.

ProVia sells to most US states except for the Pacific Northwest. The firm’s core is business to business, selling its products to remodelling firms instead of through retail channels. ◆

All companies should have purpose, vision, mission and values statements, he said.

In 2014, ProVia started a corporate care team. Two years later, the firm started the Inspire program. Inspire aims to create and enhance employee well-being in six areas: emotional, social, financial, physical, spiritual and professional.

They hired a former pastor and a woman with a counseling background to deliver the Inspire program. ProVia also developed a relationship with three faith-based counseling programs. The company pays for a large part of the first six to eight sessions when an employee needs counseling.

Mullet has five staff on the Inspire team, two of whom are dedicated to holistic discussions of wellness. Once a month, ProVia shuts down the plant for 30 minutes to discuss values and updates.

Investing in future leadership development is also a key objective. “We’re really trying to invest in future leaders of the company.” Each year they accept 10-12 staff who apply to be part of ProVia Leads, an intensive leadership training program, three hours a day, three weeks a month. At the end of the year, the team who completes the training is given $30,000 to do a community project of their choosing. Mullet often challenges his colleagues: “What are we doing everyday in business that we do differently because we are Christians?” ProVia is successful because it has built its business on a foundation of scriptural principles, and because his father, now retired from the firm, had the foresight to hire people smarter than himself, Craig said.

“You can’t do it on your own. You hire people smarter than yourself and get out of the way.” Staff turnover at ProVia is now down into almost the single digits. The company now has a long waiting list of people who want to work with them. ◆