Generations Pulling Together in a Straight Line

Last year, our company was recognized in Business NH Magazine for being a “Top Family Business.” This got us thinking about what it took to get where we are today, and what will move the company forward.

With the third generation of Gilchrists adroitly at the helm, we’ve discovered a few of the ways successful businesses succeed for multiple generations. For us, it began with principles set by the late John Stuart Gilchrist, our company founder. The common sense and pragmatism he espoused remain imbedded in our culture & methods today.

Aligning Goals and Methods

Creating large metal fabrications for global clients offers plenty of challenges. Differing approaches on the same executive team can lead to problems and even greater challenges. What we’ve figured out is that if you’re going to have two generations leading the company, “the old horse and the young horse need to pull together in a straight line.”man with goggles walking inside

For the last three of his years at Northeastern University, Stuart Gilchrist worked for a large electrical contractor that was soon absorbed by a top five US construction company with annual sales in the billions. Four years after graduation, Stu brought his education, corporate experience and younger insights to GMFCo. New perspectives, processes and systems were introduced and some were debunked by the management team. Though not all suggestions survived the process, “The old horse and the young horse’’ often found themselves aligned. Gilchrist Metal Fabricating’s performance improved significantly since the young horse teamed up with the old horse.

Everyone Pulls Together

We try to make sure that all our team members are pulling together in the same straight line. A business like ours needs to find the best people it can and keep them. It takes a unified team to help carry out the strategy set by the leaders. At Gilchrist, we have patiently built a team that takes care of our customers and often amazes others in our industry.

Pulling in a straight line includes supporting all contributors equitably and all our employees matter to our continued success. Everyone working full time at Gilchrist receives the same benefits package as senior management because health is hugely important, and paramount to a successful life and career.

Lessons learned and applied since 1975 have worked at GMF for three generations and we’ve enjoyed record-breaking years with our young horse now in charge.

A Real Safety Policy is End to End

A workplace is safe only when EVERYONE is safe.

In a heavy equipment manufacturing plant, safety takes a total team effort from the front desk to the corner office, all the way to the last loading dock and out the driveway.

At GMF, we work with large, heavy metal parts and fabrications which don’t yield easily to pressure. We never take safety measures lightly. In reality, employee safety is a very heavy topic. We make sure that everyone goes home healthy and happy when their shift ends.

Building a Safety Culture

We look for potential risks. That means proactively seeking out and  retiring those risks before they occur. For example, we report any and all “near misses” and process them as nonconformances to our quality management system. We seek out the root causes, identify any potential for hazard and implement procedural changes, often bringing in outside experts when needed.

It’s better to proactively retire a looming hazard than reactively rehabilitate an injured team member. Therefore, safety training must be systematic and ongoing. It is required to work with the materials and equipment in our plant. This is on top of learning all the various machine and materials handling operations.

A Rewarding Initiative

Fabricating large metal parts used in construction, transportation, maritime operations and manufacturing is often fun and exciting, especially when workers feel safe and confident in their roles. Building a safety culture that promotes “having everyone’s back” goes a long way in fostering trust in the team and the established safety systems.

Setting Goals and Measuring Progress

The goal is simple: an injury-free workplace. GMF has established a safety team designed to get management and employees together in a cooperative effort to promote safety and health at work. The team is composed of equal numbers of senior management and staff representatives. This assures accountability across the company in all matters of safety standards, training and track with goggles walking inside

The goals of the GMF Safety Team are:

  • To create a hazard-free work site
  • To create an injury-free work site
  • To attain zero lost-time accidents

These are the procedures we follow to achieve these goals:

  • Engage all employees in safety awareness and training.
  • Report all “near misses” as nonconformance, investigate trends and causes, and implement appropriate improvements.
  • Review all first reports of injuries.
  • Conduct injury investigations and take corrective action.
  • Conduct regular safety inspections.
  • Oversee ongoing training.
  • Develop safety incentive programs.
  • Encourage and reward adherence to safety rules.

Our ongoing commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment is one of the most important things we do. It’s a key factor in attracting some of the best and brightest talent in our industry to come work for us.

Liberal Arts College or Trade School? Who Thrives Sooner?

Culturally and societally, high school students are pressured to attend a four-year college and pursue a bachelor’s degree, and maybe a master’s degree and beyond to get the best start in life. Almost every teacher and guidance counselor in America follow this conventional wisdom while advising their students. This is understandable because it’s what they know. Academia is their world

Unfortunately, following this advice has been financially debilitating for some kids and their parents, putting  them in long-term debt with little to no return on the long-term and extremely expensive educational investment.

Vocational tech schools, trade schools, the military and community colleges offer better options for many of today’s youth in spite of the pressure to conform to academic expectations. Without having family wealth or earning full-boat scholarships, students and their parents must seek financial aid, borrow huge sums, and pay for college even while they are still unsure of a career path. This approach to higher education is unnecessary, and many parents need to wake up about other options for their growing children.

The construction and manufacturing trades pay well from the start and provide practical business experience that college cannot offer. Consider the benefits of a starting job at GMFCo:

  • Hands-on technical experience in a high demand industry 
  • Get paid while learning valuable skills 
  • Vocational Tech classes paid by the company 
  • Great benefits such as healthcare, dental, flexible hours and paid vacations 
  • Unlimited advancement opportunities 

We are not down on education. Just the opposite as we strongly encourage everyone in our company to continually learn, whether taking outside classes or attending our in-house training on the job. Our point is that education comes in all shapes and sizes and everyone should be able to learn and grow according to what’s best for them. For some, that’s 4, 5 or 6 additional years in college and for many others, great careers begin right out of high school. We’ve had the pleasure of watching people in our company flourish who had previously no means to go to college.

Every child is different so it’s important to work with them closely to discover their talents, interests and best career opportunities. Trade schools and colleges both have advantages. The important thing is understanding their differences concerning time, money and value return. A comprehensive article from discusses the key differences and benefits of each option so whether you’re a student or parent, you can make a more informed decision. 

Lastly, please consider the great earning and growth opportunities at our company or pass it on to someone looking for a job. We’re always looking for people who love to build the things that make the world work!