Mike Olosky is the Chief Executive Officer at Simpson Strong-Tie as of January 1, 2023. Before that, Mike served for two years as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. In what follows, he discusses some of the characteristics that define the Simpson Strong-Tie culture and make it stand out.
My Introduction to Simpson Strong-Tie
When I arrived at Simpson Strong-Tie in late 2020, the company was, like so many others, still in pandemic lockdown. At that time, I had more than a dozen years of experience in senior management and executive roles at Henkel. I also had a background in engineering and sales, and had thoroughly researched Simpson Strong-Tie before I interviewed here. But as valuable as all those things are, they can’t really prepare you for the actual experience of joining a company culture like ours.
Everyone in the construction industry knows who Simpson Strong-Tie is. While it’s a great privilege to be in a position to lead such a distinguished and successful business, at the same time it’s humbling to be the newcomer in an organization where many employees measure their tenure in decades rather than years. By our last count, well over a quarter of our people have been with the company for more than 10 years, and close to 10% have been here 20 or more years. Some of them are even second-generation Simpson employees.
What I found at Simpson was a company culture unlike any other I’ve known — casual, friendly, powered by hardworking, helpful employees who are extremely knowledgeable about their roles and how those roles affect other people. Everyone’s an owner here — we call each other by first names, collaborate easily across groups and departments, and support each other as much as we can. There’s a lot less hierarchy, with more individual initiative and branch autonomy, than at other big companies I’ve worked for.
I read once that the culture of a company consists of how things get done and how people behave even when no one is watching. More generally, it’s defined as the shared beliefs, values, goals, practices and attitudes that characterize an organization and help distinguish and separate it from others.
At Simpson Strong-Tie, our culture is framed by our Mission (“We provide solutions that help people design and build safer, stronger structures”) and Vision (“To provide the most trusted construction solutions on jobs worldwide”) and rooted in our company Values. These values come from our late founder’s Nine Principles of Business, and include the key elements that make a great company, such as Relentless Customer Focus, Risk-Taking Innovation, Long-Range View, Everybody Matters, Enable Growth and Give Back.
The Culture in Action
Our values at Simpson Strong-Tie inspire us and guide us in everything we do. I’d like to share a few examples of how we put our principles into practice.
Relentless Customer Focus is listed first among our values because we know our company wouldn’t even exist without customers. Ever since the original hanger that Barc Simpson created for a neighbor, our top priority has always been to solve our customers’ problems. From our value-engineered, easy-to-install products to our strategically located warehouses and next-day delivery, to our field engineering and training services, we’ve organized our business around the customer.
And because our customers’ success is built not just at the construction site but also in their offices, we’re constantly developing and refining software solutions to simplify processes and increase productivity and collaboration. In addition to web and mobile applications tailored to specific customers, such as engineers, builders, lumberyards, truss manufacturers and homeowners, we continue to enhance our customer ecommerce site to make doing business with us as easy as possible. The goal is always to be wherever the customer needs us to be and to support them every step of the way.
For many years, the company has collaborated with academia to better understand how structures perform during natural disasters as well as to develop and test solutions to advance building design and performance. This spring, we had the honor of participating in an historic engineering test. Six universities and many project collaborators joined together to test the resilience of a 10-story mass timber building on University of California at San Diego’s shake table. The Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) TallWood project was the world’s tallest full-scale building ever tested. The building was subjected to more than 80 seismic simulations, including a magnitude 8.0 earthquake. The research project, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), was built with Simpson Strong-Tie mass timber connectors and fasteners and performed as expected with very little damage. Our commitment to supporting projects like this illustrates our Risk-Taking Innovation and our own product development efforts to better support the industry.
We put a lot of effort into onboarding because we want everyone to feel welcome and prepared as they integrate into the company. Several times a year we invite newer employees to participate in our interactive, four-day orientation class, which includes learning about many aspects of our business from product knowledge and basic construction practices to company procedures and, most importantly, our culture. We invest this time in our people because we believe that, when they join our company, they’re looking to build their career here. This is a part of how we Enable Growth — by creating an atmosphere that encourages learning and connection.
A last example of how we put our values into practice is demonstrated in our efforts to Give Back to the communities where we live and work. Every November, we host a Do What You Can Day, when our branches participate in various charitable activities as a team. We created this day in honor of Barc Simpson, our founder, who was a dedicated philanthropist and inspired the Put Something Back fund, our employee matching gift program. We also recognize individual employees for their outstanding community contributions with our Barc Simpson Community Hero Award and encourage employee participation in Habitat for Humanity builds.
In my relatively short tenure here, it’s become very clear to me that honoring Barc’s legacy by living up to our values is one of most important things we can do.
Culture As a Renewable Resource
As the company activities I’ve mentioned show, culture isn’t static — it’s what people do. A living culture is always changing, always developing, even while it retains its fundamental character. Simpson Strong-Tie culture reflects the diversity and ingenuity of our employees — all of them. Together, they continually renew our values and ambitions with fresh experiences and ideas.
Our values provide the framework for our decision-making, and that helps everyone understand why a choice was made. By staying true to our core values, which reflect our deep commitment to our customers, employees, and communities, we ensure that our growth will always be organic and sustainable, whatever we take on.
The “Secret” of Simpson Strong-Tie Success
At Simpson Strong-Tie, we talk about our “Secret Sauce” as the reason for our success. While you could argue there are many key contributing factors to our longevity, the secret sauce at Simpson is more than sales revenues, stock prices or the specific tactics and business decisions that lead to those results. But it’s also something more than a set of written values or a Code of Ethics. At Simpson, we recognize that our Secret Sauce is really our people — the one-of-a-kind employees who bring their passion and their creativity to work every day in collaboration with each other and in support of our shared goals and values. More than anything else, it’s our people who fuel our success and accomplishments.
In our culture, we support each other and trust each other to make the best decisions for the company and for our customers. We believe it’s vital that everyone feels they can share their ideas, ask questions, make connections, develop their career skills, speak up when something doesn’t seem right — and innovate in whatever role they take on. Similar to our people, our culture is truly one of a kind, and that’s the secret to our continual growth and business success.
Simpson Strong-Tie has achieved a lot in its 67-year history, and we’ll continue to achieve a lot more together — our journey is still just beginning.
President and Chief Executive Officer
This article originally appeared on Mike Olosky’s LinkedIn page.