Landscape Forms Team Members on What Makes Workplace Excellence
For over 50 years, Landscape Forms has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most gratifying, compassionate and community-oriented workplaces in the manufacturing hub that is Kalamazoo, Michigan. And recently, as the company has experienced extraordinary growth, expanded their facilities, and received international design acclaim, word of this unique workplace culture is spreading nationally. Celebrating being named Michigan Manufacturer of the Year in 2020, four-time Great Place to Work Certifications™ in 2019-2022, and as the company seeks its third top ranking on Fortune’s Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production™ in as many years, we decided to chat with some Landscape Forms team members to see what all the buzz is about.
Landscape Forms’ culture takes its roots from our company’s unique history. For over 50 years, we have shaped our values based on the power of design and a belief in people.
We first sat down with Mario Burney, a sixteen-year Landscape Forms veteran who began his career as a summer temp employee and has since risen to his current leadership role as an Assembly Supervisor. "Ever since I started, it’s been clear that our founder, John Chipman Sr., laid the foundation for this positive, inclusive culture,” Mario describes. "And witnessing the growth of the company over my time here, it’s been really special the way we have been able to keep that spirit alive. The feeling of involvement, the feeling that your voice is being heard, and the feeling that your work is recognized are as strong as ever.”
Speaking to Landscape Forms team members across different departments, all of whom have different responsibilities and specialties, mentions of quality communication and collaboration, active listening and company’s “open door policy” surface again and again as key elements to its cultural success. "It’s empowering when you feel confident to talk to anyone in your organization and when others make an effort to check in with you and seek out your feedback,” Burney continues. "When you have Margie—our CEO—walking out on the floor asking you how you’re feeling and posing meaningful questions about your day-to-day work, that’s huge. Now as a leader myself, I really appreciate the trust and freedom I have to develop my own leadership style, but it comes with the responsibility that I show the people I work with those same feelings of engagement, respect and inclusion that I felt when I was new."
Culture is the shared passion and common purpose that inspire us. Our culture of participation, responsibility and integrity is laser-focused on providing outstanding products and service.
One of the team members central to its continued workplace success is Landscape Forms Vice President of Culture, Jim Marshall. He sees this high level of participation, and particularly the sense of autonomy created through flexible scheduling, as an evolution of John Chipman Sr.’s vision adapted to modern workplace expectations. “We have a longstanding commitment to participation and participative management,” Jim describes. "We’re always working to evolve our culture and our organization, and I think these efforts show. We want to empower people to make the decisions that are right for themselves and for their families. That’s how John Chipman Sr. led the company, and that continues to inspire us today.”
We believe in the “Design of Everything” as artful problem solving – more than the design of our products, design is creative thinking and problem solving that takes place throughout the organization.
Building on Marshall’s philosophy of autonomy and empowerment, Welding Supervisor Tony Ide says that the encouragement and opportunity to grow both personally and professionally is one of the reasons he is most proud to be a Landscape Forms team member. “Landscape Forms is the first place outside of the military I have worked where I want to talk about it and, honestly, brag about it in regular conversation. Everyone has such a sincere interest in you as a person here—people want to develop you, and because we’re a growing company, there’s constant opportunities to do that,” says Ide. "I started out as a Material Coordinator, went through our Welding Academy, and really found my passion there as part of a top-tier metal fabrication team. But, there are so many people who have a similar story to mine. They started out in one area, then Landscape Forms teaches you who you could be, and encourages you to find the passions you maybe haven't discovered yet."
We take what we do at Landscape Forms very seriously – we want to be the best. We try not to take ourselves too seriously – and have a little fun along the way.
"It can’t be emphasized enough how important and gratifying it is to have a sense of pride in the place that you work,” sums up Landscape Forms Director of Talent and Organization, Natalie Jackson. "Internally, we all know our culture is unique, we know we have one of the best workplaces in our field, but it really is special to have well-known, outside organizations like Fortune validate these feelings. Seeing the commemorative banners for these achievements hanging up around our facilities, it’s just that extra little reminder to congratulate one another and share pride in our accomplishments together.”