During this election season, there is much discussion of U.S. manufacturing jobs being sent overseas. One domestic manufacturer of hand made art pedestals, Pedestal Source, is keeping jobs here in America…
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It’s funny how the older I get, the older “old” gets. For example, when I was 15 and my oldest cousin turned 19, I felt sorry for her. She was so….old. But, of course, as the saying goes~youth is wasted on the young. Case in point, our fearless leader, Greg Glebe, turned 53 this week and back in the day when I was a wee lad, I would have assumed he was headed to the old-folks home. But, to the contrary, Greg is in the midst of the most creative time of his life (not withstanding the creating of his three lovely daughters). Our gift to him this year is wonderfully symbolic of his creative energy and drive.
As all you faithful followers of this blog may remember, Greg gathered all of us together earlier this year for the First Annual Xylem Design Mud Run. This was part of Greg’s brainchild to build a culture within the company of closeness, team-building and self-awareness. And perhaps a little desire to kick our butts! We took the shirt that Greg wore that day along with a photo of us all covered in mud from the run and framed it in a beautiful frame made by our talented master woodworker, Brad.
This gift is symbolic of so many things about Greg ~ his leadership, his desire to create a close team of employees (that creates wonderful contemporary pedestals and products and service for you!), his ability to think out-side of the box and his willingness to get his hands (or his whole body) dirty when the task calls for it. His energy manifests throughout Xylem Design and creates amazing products and customer service for our devoted customers. Happy Birthday, Greg! We can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us who work here at Xylem Design and all our loyal customers!
There’s a certain contradiction I have become aware of since starting to write this blog post about the history of Xylem Design, Pedestal Source and it’s CEO and founder Greg Glebe. He’s completely not into “self-gloss”. His level of uncomfortable-ness is as apparent as his disdain for the concept of hero worship in our culture today. Yet to understand the company, you must understand the story of Greg and what makes him get up in the morning. Without trying to make Greg into the hero he doesn’t want to be, let’s look at one of Greg’s highest values: “leaving your ego at the door”. So let’s leave that ego at the door and step inside the Xylem Design shop here in Fort Collins, CO. One thing is inescapable when you walk in that door and that’s this: There is a vibe. It’s not necessarily uber-cool, and certainly not swanky, snarky, or hipster deluxe, and definitely not egoic. I’m talking about the vibe that comes as a result of a person’s personality. That person is Greg Glebe. It’s apparent this company has taken on his personality. That personality? One of confidence, humor, creativity, humility and most important – service. This certainly comes as no surprise, especially given information like this article in the Phoenix New Times archives some 20 years ago. Make no mistake, Greg is CEO of a for profit business today. But it’s a business that is trying to do more than make that profit. It’s trying to make an impact on people’s lives. The lives of the customers, employees and vendors. What compels a person to help someone without any tremendous gain for themselves; to look around and say, “Nobody’s doing anything for that person, I’m gonna do it”? A look into Greg’s upbringing may help to explain.
Long before the first easel or pedestal came off the assembly line, Greg was being brought up by a unique confluence of parental traits in suburban Philadelphia. His mother – artistic, humble, very spiritual and practically a saint by all accounts; and his father, innovative, creative and a renaissance man of sorts. Both intelligent, caring individuals that were known as a safe haven for people in their community. Anyone looking for wisdom, advice or even just someone to lend an ear could come to the Glebe household anytime. “[My upbringing] is the underpinning of why I get up in the morning,” says Greg. “It’s not all about making the almighty buck.” Perhaps this intersection of creativity, hard work and innovation along with being well grounded is what provided the foundation for what was to come in Greg’s life.
With that picture of his early life in mind, it’s easy to see how Greg was already doing woodworking by the time he was in the 7th grade. With constant access to his father’s shop filled with machines that would soon become his tools not to mention his muse in some way, Greg quickly developed a taste for designing and to go with it, the skills to bring his designs to life. These skills afforded him the opportunity to transition into construction and carpentry jobs throughout his teens. At 18, he found himself headed west to Washington state; falling in love with the town of Fort Collins, Colorado along the way; the city to which he would one day return. A few years later in his early twenties, he would find himself in the art gallery business, where he would create the product that became the flagship for Xylem Design for many years: The Bi-fold Easel.
Greg was once called a “hyperactive-genius” and admittedly, is not your classic CEO. He loves inventing and getting his hands dirty. You can see that what makes him tick is more than the skill of a tradesman, and the inventiveness of a designer, both of which he possesses ample amounts. It’s really where those two things intersect with compassion and service. He sums it up this way: “All the stuff that we do here in the world is about becoming better people. Becoming better people involves doing what you love to do and then finding where it intersects with serving people. If you’re good at something, master it, then find a way to make a living doing it. Hopefully master something that you love. If you’re doing it right – it feels right.” So as you can see, making easels and art pedestals is our business, but making a broader impact in people’s lives is our work. Stay tuned for part II of our series in a few weeks as we look at the early days of Xylem design.
The Pedestal Source/Xylem Design Culture Club is not for fans of obscure 80’s bands. It’s not that kind of Culture Club. But we did have our second meeting of what we call the Culture Club last week. While it’s certainly an opportunity to hang out and have a meal with our ultra-cool co-workers, and to discuss a few of the ins and outs of the pedestal display business, it’s really more about sitting down as a group and not only discussing what the culture of our company is, but moving towards the definition of what the culture will be. This is achieved through defining our values; first individually, then collectively. Each employee has been given a long list of values and asked to rank each one in order of importance. Then, after everyone’s thoughts and opinions are heard, our fearless leader Greg Glebe will take a lot of the input and formulate it into the “Stone Tablets” that reflect his values for the company.
The #1 rule of the Culture Club is this: Leave Your Ego At The Door! The ego is always and only self-serving. We value serving each other and serving our customers and vendors. The #2 rule of the Culture Club is this: Don’t forget about rule #1! This is part of what we call the “basic” values: honesty, integrity, kindness, respect, and humility. Without the starting point of these basics, the discussion of our cultural company values is a moot point. So when our employees bring these basics with them, we have a good, common starting point.
Greg came up with the idea of the Culture Club, and believes that by defining what we value, we can move more intentionally towards nurturing a culture that draws the best out of everyone. As the meeting progresses, certain values rise to the top. Values like: “Wowing the Customer”, “Over-communicating”, “A Fun Work Environment” and a desire for “Continuous Self-Improvement”. As we move forward with our Culture Club meetings, we hope to move closer and closer to defining what that culture will look like. Because ultimately, culture is the key and values are the constant point of reference that great cultures are built on. Making pedestals may be the nuts and bolts of our business, but our mission is so much more.
As Paul Simon once said, “You know the nearer your destination the more you’re slip slidin’ away”. And so a very filthy yet determined Xylem Design (the parent company of Pedestal Source) team found out first hand last week in the Survivor Mud Run. Have you ever wondered what it feels like to frolic in a chilled, soupy mess of mud? “It invigorates the soul!” says Xylem team member Joel. “The only reason I kept running was to get to the next muddy oasis”.
The Survivor Mud Run is designed to test your strength, stamina, fitness and mental determination to be sure, but it’s also designed to be an opportunity to rely on your teammates and build relationships with people whom you spend so much of your time with, but may only say “hi” to around the office. “It really made me feel good to be part of this team,” said Joel. “The group with the strongest physical condition continuously stopped and made sure everyone was doing ok and offered help in some of the more difficult obstacles. Even our fearless leader, Greg Glebe, ran back after finishing to check on the team and inspire us to keep going. Overall I felt this was a cool way to bond with people you may not have the opportunity to very often. I do feel more connected than before”.
Loren Jones, who finished first of all the Pedestal Source team members in their heat, said that his favorite thing about the event was “the idea that we are laying the foundation for a company wide culture of cooperation, health and self-respect”. He went on to add, “I have the pleasure of working with some great people. This run only fortified my respect and desire to assist them in our day to day toiling. I don’t get a chance to hang out with the office people that much, so that was a good opportunity to be a team, with them, in a new way.”
One of the lasting images from the day is that of Greg marching into the event with our “mascot” hoisted on his shoulder. That mascot? One of our White Laminate Pedestal stands. But we like to think our business is about more than just that physical product. The mascot is merely a symbol of our small community. A community committed to the people within, and the people it serves. The reliance and dedication exemplified in that product is what we’re most proud of. To quote the great Henry Ford – “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”. Words to live by here at Xylem Design, where we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty, or any other part of us for that matter! Here’s our video that totally sums up the day’s events, check it out!
No alarm clock can awaken you with the sense of panic that the smell of thick, heavy smoke can do. But in the early, pre-dawn hours of June 10th, that’s exactly what Pedestal Source team member Emily awoke to; and she knew what was coming next. Indeed, the eerie silence was broken at 5am with the phone call to evacuate. In utter shock that the fire could actually be that close, she took only what couldn’t be replaced, and left her home not knowing if she would see it again. The days that followed were filled with stress, anxiety and a helpless feeling of knowing there was nothing she could do. Hoping that going to work would provide some normalcy, it only added to the stress. Her office window faced directly towards where her house was, complete with a view of the billowing smoke and a constant reminder that her house could be a pile of ash by now.
Here in Fort Collins, CO we have recently had our world shaken by the High Park Fire. The images of devastation have been hard to view, and the stories of loss have been heartbreaking. And while we all have joined in the sentiments of many of our community members in thanking the firefighters, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I really understood what I was being thankful for.
My family and I decided to take a drive on Sunday to view some of the burn area. I was immediately struck by how seemingly random the fire was, but at the same time how selective it seemed. Burned vegetation yet a wooden fence untouched. A row of mail boxes with a random one melted to the ground. Blackened, charred, dark as coal trees in one spot and not 20 yards away the greenest and most normal looking, unaffected trees you’ve ever seen.
And the houses as well. We saw our share of destroyed structures, but in the case of so many houses, the building was spared. With Emily’s house, the fire came within 200 yards, and in some cases in her neighborhood the fire burned right up to the foundation, but didn’t burn the house. After giving this some thought, you realize what this means. These houses had most likely been protected by firefighters. House after house still standing amongst the charred forests and burnt brush covered hillsides.
Now, it’s easy to understand all the signs. Just on my short drive alone I saw dozens of signs trying to express the un-expressable to the firefighters and emergency personnel. Incredible gratitude. Thank you indeed. Yes, okay. It’s their “job” right? But the unpredictable nature of fire automatically puts these men and women in harms way. They risked their lives to save someone else’s memories. Someone else’s hard work. Someone else’s reality. For that, our community can express no adequate words of thanks.
Community. Although just a bunch of individuals, together we make up a collective consciousness that keeps us bound together on a certain level. Here at this company, we join in with our community in saying “thank you”. We say it because we know the firefighters would do the same for any us. Emily’s relief of her house being spared was tempered of course by knowing so many people were not so fortunate. But it’s the same community that thanked the firefighters that now helps the devastated, less fortunate ones pick up the pieces. It’s what community does, and we’re proud to be a part of it.
View our Pinterest board dedicated to the High Park Fire here.