Growing together: Employees praise business for positive culture

May 21, 2018

This piece is presented by Interstate Office Products.

If you’re going to help businesses achieve optimal work environments, you should walk the walk.

At Interstate Office Products, that goes beyond how the office is designed, the industry-leading furniture employees use and the cutting-edge collaboration tools in place.

Those things are all there. But the reason employees have stayed for years is a lot more personal.

“We’ve become a family,” said Kim Ducommun, an interior designer and account manager who began at IOP 19 years ago.

IOP at its roots is a family. Brother and sister Gary Gaspar and Sheila Casiello have owned the business since 1995 and bought out father Ken’s share in 2000.

While there might not be common DNA, the rest of the team members feel like they’re part of the family too.

“I love the people here,” Ducommun continued. “I really enjoy that it’s a smaller business and that I’ve had the opportunity to grow with my clients. I think there’s a personal touch you find in a family-owned business as opposed to being a number in a sea of people.”

Bobbi Jo Ranschau can relate. She came to IOP four years ago from the largest retailer in the world: Walmart.

She had worked her way up to assistant manager, but with four kids, the nights and weekends of retail weren’t working. She connected with IOP through a staffing agency and began in customer service.

Ranschau soon was promoted to operations manager after “they realized my Walmart experience played into shipping and receiving, so it was a good fit,” she said. “It’s fun here. I want to stay until I retire.”

She also convinced a former Walmart colleague to join the team.

“His first day here, Sheila hopped in the van and helped him with a delivery,” Ranschau remembered. “It’s amazing how everyone jumps in to get the job done. You’re not going to struggle because someone is always there to help you out.”

That’s a common theme.

“I just needed someplace where their values align with mine, and it’s a positive work environment,” said Teena Hogan, who came to IOP almost four years ago as an interior designer and account manager.

“The way our office is laid out is very open. You can collaborate with the other designers on different projects, and management is very open if you need help with anything. They’re there to support you in any way they can if needs arise.”

The mood in the office is positive, employees agreed. People smile and greet each other. The occasional practical joke is welcomed. There are impromptu ice cream treats or happy hours at nearby MacKenzie River downtown.

“We all get along and collaborate. We don’t have to call meetings because we can just talk to each other in the workspaces,” said Marcia Young, an interior designer and account manager who has been with IOP since 2004.

“The people I work with are awesome. The culture, the whole vibe here, makes it a fun place to work.”

It made a quick, positive impression on two former interns who recently began as interior designers.

Erica Endres, a Watertown native, interned at IOP during the summer of 2016.

“My internship was amazing,” she said. “I fell in love with IOP and what they stand for and the way they treated me as employee. They were always making sure I was seeing all sides of what we do as a company and giving me the full experience.”

She wasn’t sure she would enjoy working in a furniture business, “but I realized it was more about who you’re doing it with,” she said. “Working with great co-workers for a company that has great beliefs is what ultimately drew me in.”

Molly Veire, who interned last summer, had a similar experience.

A school project at SDSU working with the Steelcase line of furniture attracted her to IOP, which is a premier partner of Steelcase.

“I really liked the line and the idea behind selling furniture and also doing design work,” the Sioux Falls native said. “I love the community we have here, the open office and how you can pop over and ask a question. Even in three months I felt like I was a part of the family.”

For those not regularly in the office at 228 S. Main Ave., the culture lives on in the field.

Matt Brouwer has been a furniture installation specialist for 21 years.

“I love that there’s no monotony. I don’t sit at a desk. I meet so many new people every week,” he said. “I feel really lucky. It’s not a big corporate giant where you don’t know the face of the owner. If you’ve got a sick kid or need to take your kid to a game, they’ve been through it. They understand. They treat everyone amazingly.”

Taking care of employees is always top of mind for those at the top of the organization, president Gary Gaspar said.

“We care about our people. We care about their well-being,” he said. “We don’t want to create a culture where people have anxiety or fear about their job. I want to focus on the positive and lift people up and encourage them.”

It’s also important to him that people have opportunities to show their talent and advance professionally, he said.

“We want to encourage and reward them for achievement. Invest in them, push them out of their comfort zone maybe, but we’ve always been about recognizing and rewarding exemplary performance.”

Kristi Christensen has found those opportunities at IOP. After starting at a junior designer in 1994, she has gone from design director to vice president of sales and design.

“What has kept me intrigued throughout the years is the ability to do what is in the best interest of the client, knowing you have the full support of the company backing you,” she said.

“We are given the autonomy to make decisions on behalf of the company – showing their trust in each of us – and that is pretty special.”

The cultural focus on doing the best job possible for clients is the “glue” that binds the team, she added.

“We all respect what the other person has to offer, whether it’s sales, purchasing, delivery, accounting or design,” she said. “It takes a team to get the work done, and we all have the mind-set of focusing on the customer.”

Laurie Krump has seen a lot of work environments and agrees IOP is unique. She has been there almost 12 years in purchasing.

“I love coming to this office,” she said. “The culture and the people keep me here. And ownership has it together. I’ve never worked for a company that has it together as much as they do. They’re passionate, and the culture is passionate about the customers and each other.”

It was enough to lure workplace specialist Mark Payne back to IOP after spending five years somewhere else. He has worked a total of 26 years at the company.

“There are a lot of things that set IOP apart,” he said. “They have a good reputation, they are very good with their staff, they aren’t afraid to invest in the business and are progressive and very hardworking. It’s actually fun to come to work.”

That’s the goal, Gaspar said.

“If people are happy, they’re going to be far more productive and effective,” he said. “It shows with customers how they feel. We believe you get what you pay for, so we’re competitive with our compensation. We want to attract talented people, and we want to keep them. We’re particular about who we hire, though. They have to fit the culture. And the culture is to be exceptional.”

Growing together: Employees praise business for positive culture

Employees at this family business say they feel like part of the family — so much so that many want to stay until they retire. Here’s a closer look at positive workplace culture at work.

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