‘Flat’ Company Culture is the Model for Innovation
By Alexandria Mason
May 8, 2020
Jim Carbone spent three decades of his career in the corrugating industry. But it wasn’t until he began working with Biocut Systems that he truly began to find a passion for his work.
Founded in 2016, Biocut Systems builds tools and technologies for those in the bioscience field that specialize in regenerative medicine. Specially trained engineers focus on designing machines and products that cut, cube, mesh, and press samples of tissues like skin or bone to maximize organ donations.
“There’s almost no part of a donation that isn’t used. Depending on the tissue that’s being processed, depends on what kind of dies, tools or machines we make,” said Carbone.
While the company is still very much in its youth, many of its staff have worked in die development for years. For over a decade, late founder Mark Jeske operated Steel Rule Diemasters (SRD) — making dies for the printing, packaging and leather making industry. Jeske began shifting SRD towards creating and developing other bioprocessing tools in 2009, ultimately rebranding the company as Biocut Systems in 2016. Jeske sold the company to private equity firm STUCK in 2017 before his sudden passing.
“We’re not just a die shop anymore,” said Carbone.
Carbone joined the SRD team almost 10 years ago and when the company shifted directions to the bioscience industry under new leadership, he admits an initial wave of skepticism.
Now those tensions have dissipated, Carbone even proudly mentioning his nickname of “shop cheerleader.” He says as a senior manufacturing technician, he’s been able to completely love what he does for the first time in his life.
“Every manager here, their door is always open. Everybody’s opinion counts. Nobody’s ever demeaned or demoralized. It’s just unbelievable… I just think our leadership has a really good vision, you know, and they’re really well-grounded and know where they want to take us.”
This is a key component of what President Don Melnikoff describes as a “flat” company culture.
Egos are checked at the door to foster an environment that welcomes different perspectives, no matter seniority. The company centers its foundation on five pillars: growth, productivity, product innovation, customer delight and “GPTW” or “great place to work.”
The “great place to work” pillar rings true for an overwhelming majority of the 15-person staff at Biocut. The welcoming atmosphere pushes people to innovate without fear of stepping outside of their comfort zone.
Thamy Lor joined SRD shortly after graduating high school and takes pride in the progression he’s been able to make while at Biocut. What initially began as a means of paying the bills has blossomed into a career. Lor hopes to continue to push the company forward with innovative designs in his role as a processing engineer technician. For Lor, the fact that he began his career in shipping and receiving and today holds his own U.S. Patent for design, is a testimony to the idea that open doors truly do foster greater creativity and innovation.
“We’re always striving to get diversity into this group and driving in a way in which we’re not all the same…and I want to say that in every, every aspect, even hiring non-technical people instead of engineers to do business development,” said President Don Melnikoff.
When Anjie Peck filed her application, she felt there was a slim chance she’d get the job with no background in regenerative medicine or engineering to strengthen her pitch. Peck had been working as a waitress at two restaurants while attending UW-Whitewater and preparing to give birth to her now 2-year-old daughter. Now a year into her business development position, she points to her outgoing spirit and inquisitive mind that gave her success in her interview and also with clients she’s met around the country.
“They believed in me, took a chance on me, and trusted me to go out and travel to different companies,” Peck said.
Peck and others visit clients and observe and talk through their “pain points” when it comes to soft and hard tissue bioprocessing with the intention of creating new technologies that will provide a solution to these “pain points”.
“When you think about making someone’s life easier, you know, they have to cut all these different shapes by hand with a scalpel. Now, we can just stamp it. And from there people have trusted us and allowed us to grow with them,” said Peck. “We’re gaining input from customers as to what they want to see in the market.”
When achieved, customer delight comes in the form of “aiding in human recovery” benefiting clients, patients and families to come.
In a way, you could say the company’s “flat” work culture impacts lives in and outside the office.