Lippert Components CEO Jason Lippert recently won the regional Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2018 – an award that can act as a talking point for how other companies can improve. Presented at a gala on Chicago's Navy Pier on June 13, there were several nominations chosen by the Ernst & Young firm. Now in its 32nd year, the national awards will be held in Palm Springs, Calif., on Nov. 10.
“Most of the noise was on our focus and intensity around our cultural transformation over the last few years, the leadership initiatives we got going, and our community service initiatives,” Lippert told RV PRO. “I kinda pinpoint everything to those three.”
A large company is one thing, but targeting people on an individual level can lead to self-improvement. Workplace stress, broken families … the complexity is there, so finding ways to make employees happier is all-around beneficial. Lippert sought to “tackle the larger issues plaguing our society.”
Focusing internally, developing LCI’s frontline as individual people worth investing in, has led to an overall sense of community. Empowering each of those 10,000 people leads to better results.
“Especially the ones that have been neglected so long,” he said. “If we develop relationships and trust and care about our people more, they’ll go home and probably have healthier relationships at home. It’s a bigger picture than just trying to do good at work.” He’s heard of employees having better relationships with their children and spouses as a result. “It’s pretty far-reaching and pretty cool.”
And it was bound to garner attention. Whereas most companies solely focus on metrics and results, Lippert wanted to see a stronger commitment to family.
The philosophical shift began four years ago after Lippert saw how busy LCI’s management and leaders were getting as the company expanded and new facilities were added.
“There’s more people under their scope of care, more products, more volume, more revenue – so they’re constantly managing that growth,” he said. “They don’t have time to invest in how to make their people better leaders.”
So LCI hired a leadership coach. The benefits trickled down to all 10,000 employees. Today, LCI has 14 leadership coaches. Lippert attributes that to his nomination and, ultimately, win of the Midwest regional Entrepreneur of the Year award.
“We’re results-driven like any other business,” he said, “but we said let’s make one of those top objectives a social responsibility-related goal, and that’s what we did. … We’re bringing the frontline workers in to Serve.”
That’s why last year LCI accomplished 100,000 hours of community service, changing, as Lippert said, “people’s hearts … that’s where the transformation starts for people.” This year, the company’s Acts of Service initiative is asking other companies to join in to reach a collective goal of 200,000 hours.
Equally impactful is LCI’s innovation. Dedicating a team of 40 to push new boundaries has led to developments like OneControl along with new products coming down the line.
“I think that’s the difference between us and other companies is that we’ve got a full-fledged R&D facility,” he said. “We’re trying to transform the company into a leisure and mobile transportation component supply business, as opposed to just an RV component supply business. We can’t just copy what’s out there.”
For budding entrepreneurs, Lippert said that the commitment to innovate has to be there. Otherwise, you can fall into the commodity game in a battle to compete against companies doing the same thing.
“Leadership, culture, and community service,” said Lippert. “Unselfishly, they will help transform other businesses.”