Kyle Kast

LEIGHTRONIX Museum: Part Two
By Kyle Kast

NAB_1996_Booth

1996 NAB

 

 

 

Digging through the mountain of retired products and circuitry, I found a curious collection of photo albums tucked away in the LEIGHTRONIX Museum. After flipping through their pages for a moment, I was surprised by the organization of images: countless shots of product development and quality control documentation mingling with images of company get-togethers and employee parties. You can literally look at the insides of a TCD-RT on one page and view a bunch of pictures of people enjoying cake on another. It’s a corporate history log that reads more like a family photo album.

I think sometimes it’s easy to downplay corporate culture. Though it’s certainly important to represent the worth of products and services, how a company runs and cares for its employees can go a long way in representing the quality of the business it does. Case in point: LEIGHTRONIX.

Shoe store to sprawling warehouses

When LEIGHTRONIX first started picking up traction in Michigan, the very first official headquarters for the company was a small, 400 square foot rental office. At this time, employee numbers totaled only one: President and CEO David Leighton. This number grew to three after a short period of time and the company moved to what we colloquially refer to as the “shoe store.”

Shoe_Store

Pictured: “shoe store”

Old_Building

More like “shoe box”

The rental space wasn’t for selling shoes at all, but was located behind a small shoe store in town. It was here that things really started to take off. With the business ever expanding, the meager office space quickly lost its usefulness.

Jarco Drive address, pre-expansion

Jarco Drive headquarters, pre-expansion

In 1989, LEIGHTRONIX officially entered the big leagues, building new facilities containing thousands of square footage. Over the years, this space would more than double in size until eventually being replaced by the current headquarters in Mason. While all of these physical upgrades happened, LEIGHTRONIX continued to grow internally as well.

The latest and greatest LEIGHTRONIX headquarters

The latest and greatest LEIGHTRONIX headquarters

Over time, LEIGHTRONIX hired on droves of new employees, providing further expansion and development as the company size grew. While spending an inordinate amount of time fishing through these old photo albums, I noticed a number of the images’ subjects, even ones from the eighties and early nineties, are faces I recognize from my everyday work life here.

Employee satisfaction

When I started working at LEIGHTRONIX, one of the first things that became readily apparent was that turnover is not a regular occurrence. There are some employees here that have been employed by the business for over 20 years. That really says something about the working culture of any organization. If members are willing to stick with it for such longevity, there’s got to be something going on that works.

A big factor in this employee retention could largely be from the time spent outside of the workplace. Ever since LEIGHTRONIX started being more than just David Leighton, special events and staff getaways became common place. Employee celebrations for birthdays and marriages are the tip of the iceberg. Those lucky enough to be employed by LEIGHTRONIX found themselves at private getaways in Northern Michigan, driving jeeps up sand dunes, or VIP access to the Blue Man Group and other shows.

Holiday_Party

One of many celebrations

I was actually at one such event (a huge company picnic for all of our families, complete with catered barbecue and treats) thinking that no one has to do this. These things surely cost a lot of money; it would be easy to avoid them altogether. I asked David about this; why it’s important to congregate outside of business hours. His response:

“We spend so much time together during the day that you can’t ignore the fact that we all develop connections in the work environment and this is a way to extend those connections into a play environment.”

Extending those connections only strengthens our resolve as coworkers and employees of LEIGHTRONIX. It’s beyond a perk of employment here to be treated to such things, but an aspect of the culture that resides in these walls.

Fast forward to our current facilities and working culture: you’ll find many of the same tenets of the last 35 years working well here. Even though the products have evolved to include high definition video, like the UltraNEXUS-HD™/UltraNEXUS-HD Blade™, and the live/video-on-demand streaming services of VieBit™, how we operate in the creation and support of these products reflects the same mentality from the business’ conception, a fact that bears repeating: how a company runs and cares for its employees can go a long way in representing the quality of the business it does.

Kyle handles a number of communication-based responsibilities at LEIGHTRONIX from social media to proofing manuals. He holds an MA in English from Northern Arizona University and has years of experience teaching college writing and technical communication.

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