Plastic components for industries
Employees: 230 (including 30 with Alfred Industries)
"I'm third generation," says President and CEO Greg Alfred. His grandfather Lawrence started the business in 1948 and his father Douglas succeeded him.
"One of the overall successes of the company is transitioning through three generations," says Greg. "The most difficult transition is from the first generation to the second. My father had already lived on my side of the negotiation and was very generous and very open."
Lawrence was an engineer first and foremost, and made equipment that made coathangers and custom machines for big local manufacturers like Coors and Leprino.
He commends his father for making the necessary adjustments in response to the rise of the computer. "My father was able to see that computer-driven machinery was the way of the future."
"He grew up working at the business like I did, and so have my kids," says Greg. "When I was a kid, I sat around the table with my father and grandfather and I couldn't wait to give some input. My goals and aspirations are to give my three sons the same opportunity."
Greg came on board as a full-time executive in 1987 and looked to broaden Alfred's market. "When it came to be my turn, I thought plastic injection molding would round us out in terms of diversification," he says.
He was right. "Plastic injection molding has taken off," says Greg. "We've taken it all the way through to the packaging."
In 2001, the company acquired a manufacturer of freight van bodies and branded it as Alfred Industries. "Once you're aware of the logo, you see the trucks everywhere," says Greg of the operation, based in Henderson, Colorado. "We've got thousands of trucks out there."
Today, Alfred works with customers in industries ranging from medical devices to aerospace.
"Every 10 years we've done a major diversification," Greg notes. After four decades of the growth and diversification, however, he found the company was in need of a culture change in 2007. "We didn't want to keep fighting the same fights," he says."
He did want a culture of "appreciation and accountability" and brought in new management to help implement the change.
"It's taken a lot of heavy lifting," says Greg. "You don't just change overnight."
"With small companies, the founder-entrepreneur can be successful from a nurture-based management structure," he explains, noting that a shift from the do-it-yourself mentality was necessary for the company to continue to grow.
"Most companies don't make that leap," says Alecia Huck, an independent consultant who's worked with Alfred for the last two years. With Alfred, it's different, she adds, and there's a reason for that: "Accountability was built into the DNA of the family. The question is, how do you scale that culture and keep the good stuff?"
So Alfred changed its culture and brought in "specialized professional management," says Greg. The company also built its first website and hired its first national sales manager in the last two years. It broadened into supply chain management from sourcing to packaging to fulfillment.
All of these moves have paid off. The company has more than doubled its staff from about 90 in 2008 to over 200 in 2014.
"We are experts in injection molding, machining, stamping, and assembly," Greg touts. "Our structure and our process is set up to offer our customers the best solution without a bias."
Challenges: A good problem to have. "One of the challenges is supporting the growth," says Greg. He says the recent culture change at Alfred have gone a long way in this regard.
Opportunities: New facilities both inside and outside of Colorado. "We are developing and perfecting our multi-site capabilities," says Greg.
"Finding the space is the easy part," he adds. "It's the systems and the processes."
Needs: "Our goal is to attract the best and the brightest, because there is not a deep labor pool when it comes to skilled technicians," he says. He says "generous" profit sharing helps retain talent, but that's not the only reason staffers stay. "Those people want a challenge and want to keep growing and keep it exciting."
Greg says he made a vow to a key staffer in 2008. "I promised him I'd never let it get boring. That's the attitude here."
Aflred Manufacturing is a CAMT Innovative Manufacturer