Bill Dobbins believes that safety is a critical part of a conscious organization.
Safety is something that must be visible says Dobbins who is CEO of Caster Concepts. He points to the standard of cleanliness, as a perfect example. “We are sticklers when it comes to cleanliness as it’s a key part of providing a safe work environment,” he says. “Keeping the machines and the equipment clean and in good working condition is not optional. I couldn’t invite a customer into our facility if it wasn’t clean. The customers wouldn’t feel it was a safe environment and wouldn’t believe that we were producing a quality product.”
The company, which is based in Albion, Michigan and has 110 employees in four locations, builds industrial, heavy-duty casters and wheels. The company also developed an ergonomic line of casters to help its customers improve the safety of their workforce. Expanding the safety value chain, per se, isn’t entirely surprising given Dobbins was a practicing physician for 25 years before becoming CEO of the company. He was a founding member of the company in 1987 and maintained an advisory role while in medical practice. Seeing workplace injuries has helped shape the company’s laser focus on safety.
The physical structure of the facility in Albion also reflects the emphasis on safety. The company prefers large spaces for its employees. In fact, in January of 2023, they broke ground on a 16,000-square-foot expansion. “We like having a lot of space as it’s part of having a safe environment,” Dobbins says. “If you pack too much in one area, it’s not a safe area for employees, especially since people are often moving from the assembly area to the machining area, so they need to be able to travel safely.”
The company’s metrics reflect the emphasis on safety, as they have had just one recordable injury in the past 14 months, and no lost work in 1,205 days.
Those strong statistics arise from the company’s culture. “We have a great relationship with our workforce,” says Dobbins. “A lot of our leadership has come up within our company.” So leaders are rooted in the company's values which Dobbins explains as follows:
Loyalty- Our workforce is loyal to the company and to other employees.
Trust –We want to earn the trust of our employees and we want to earn the trust of our customers.
Adaptable – We have a flexible work environment, and the business is built on people who have a variety of talents.
Hard Work and Dedication – No matter if you are on the floor in the office, we value a work ethic that is reflected fairly in compensation and benefits.
“Core values are the foundation of our culture, and when we get off track (as in the pandemic) we reflect on our core values that support the business that we have built together. The Core Values are the 'company compass' that keeps us traveling true north. They align with our Mission and Vision and when followed closely, will lead to sustainability and success,” says Dobbins.
An essential element of that culture is transparency when it comes to safety. “We have built a culture of open communication so that employees speak up about safety issues when they occur,” explains Doug Backinger, vice president of sales. “No one has to wait two weeks for a formal safety meeting. And this attitude is across the board; there is no generational divide on this.”
This openness expands to all areas which include financial. Dobbins uses the classic book, Great Game of Business, by Jack Stack released in 2013, as the model for his company. Every two weeks the company provides a view of all of the company’s financials that includes gross profit.
This open culture supports the concept, which is becoming more common, of having a purpose that expands beyond the company walls. At Caster Concepts, their purpose statement is “manufacture greatness within our employees to positively impact our families, communities and customers."
All Stakeholders Commitment
And that purpose statement feeds into the larger goal of the company. “We are a Conscious Capitalism Company that supports all stakeholders of our business units.” This philosophy is the backbone of the company's community efforts which was recognized by the state of Michigan when it received the 2022 Governor’s Service Award. (For a look at the activities the company supported in the community click here.)
“Conscious capitalism is something that our leadership team has spent time on and reflects on at every leadership meeting. It’s our commitment to all of our stakeholders,” says Dobbins.
And this structure is tied back into the culture. “Culture in a lot of ways is the most valuable aspect of a business,” explains Dobbins. “If you can build a culture of quality, respect, cleanliness, and safety, it is a value both for employees and the business and the families that send their loved ones here to work.”