Mark Planck says it is no coincidence that Schweitzer, which was ranked as one of the 100 best places to work by Fortune Magazine, is employee-owned.
“It has always been part of the company culture” to place a high value on its people, said Planck, who joined Schweitzer in 1989 when it had only 40 employees. Since then, Schweitzer has grown to employ 3,500 people, designing and manufacturing relays and other power management equipment for customers in 142 countries.
Putting employees first was a big factor in the 1994 decision of founder Ed Schweitzer to begin transferring ownership of the company to its employees. Before he came to Schweitzer, Mark worked in Alaska and elsewhere in the West before settling down with his wife near Schweitzer’s headquarters in Eastern Washington. Twenty-three years later, he’s grown deep roots that are connected to his shares in the ESOP, which have multiplied in value as the company has grown and thrived.
Mark sees his work for Schweitzer as helping protect a sizable asset, and says that his co-workers do too. “It comes up surprisingly often, actually,” he said. “Someone will say, ‘is that the right thing for the ESOP?’ I feel like it helps people make good decisions.”
In honoring Schweitzer as a great place to work, Fortune relied on a survey of employees who highlighted the ESOP and other ways that the company values the contributions of employees. For example, every employee is given $80 each month to use for education.
Like most Schweitzer workers with children, Mark knows the math for a simple calculation: $80 a month for 18 years in a basic savings account adds up to something above $20,000. Mark’s stipend is headed to help pay expenses for his daughter, now attending college in Helena, MT.
A remarkable thing about Schweitzer’s education stipend is that, like the ESOP, it is 100 percent employer-provided, requiring no employee contributions to receive the benefit. “I feel blessed to work for a company with such a culture of respect and caring for its employees,” said Mark.