Lead photo: Packer Fastener CEO Terry Albrecht seen with the company’s 10-foot tall, 3.5-ton hex nut mounted at its headquarters in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
So much of the labor discussion today in distribution focuses on culture — a word that has always been of importance to companies in this industry, but the role of which has become of utmost importance in recent years as employee recruitment and retention has become more challenging than ever.
Our newest MDM Podcast features a discussion about culture from a distributor that has managed it better than perhaps any that I know of: Packer Fastener.
I visited the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based distributor of OEM fastener products back in November of 2017 for a facility tour and a chat with its leadership team. It was an uplifting experience to see a distributor filled with Millennial-aged employees and had only had to post one job opening in its then-20-year company history. Packer’s remarkably strong word-of-mouth reputation as a great place to work for young people has always given it a steady pipeline of interested job candidates and a current retention rate well over 90%.
That company visit led me to invite Packer Fastener Co-Founder and CEO Terry Albrecht onto the MDM Podcast to catch up with him on how the company continues to leverage its culture today.
Albrecht Co-Founded the company in 1998 when he was just 22 years old. Today, Packer Fastener spans 10 branch locations throughout the upper Midwest, including seven in Wisconsin. The company has recently launched a full-service freight broker company — Packer Freight — and a national sales division. It’s employee headcount has doubled from about 80 at the time I visited in late 2017 to approximately 160 today.
All that growth has been purely organic, without a single acquisition.
Leading that growth has been Packer Fastener’s culture, or, “Swagger” as the company calls it. That Swagger boasts a certain bravado of confidence, evidenced by the company’s slogan of “We’ve got the biggest nuts (and bolts) in town,” and its landmark 10-foot tall, 3.5-ton hex nut outside of its Green Bay headquarters about 1 mile down the road from Lambeau Field.
“We’re a people-centric, people-focused company. So, we will only be able to grow as fast as our ability to recruit and develop and empower good people,” Albrecht told me in our podcast interview. “It’s more challenging now than it ever has been. The game has changed. But I think we’re playing it better than most.”
I’m pretty sure our conversation mentions culture about 50 times, but it was fascinating to hear how Packer Fastener has managed to leverage its staff’s youthful energy into an atmosphere where other young people want to work. And it’s not with bean bag chairs and foosball tables renown at offices in Silicon Valley — though the company does have an immaculate fitness center and a golf simulator within its Green Bay facility. Packer Fastener’s unique culture derives from an employee development program that all employees are enrolled into shortly after they get started there. It shows them early on what their career path can be at the company and the upward mobility shown to be a critical retention component for Millennial and Gen-Z employees today.
“We’ve got an incredible story to tell,” Albrecht said. “We’ve got a fairly robust development program in-house. And we’re able to continue to feed our system with good, talented, culturally-aligned people going out and telling their friends. That’s been a key to our secret sauce and what has led to at least some level of our success. We feel very fortunate and very blessed. But we’ve also worked really hard at it for an extended period of time.”
Listen to the full podcast episode via the audio player above, and check out our full library of MDM Podcasts here.