Many of Bullen’s management and engineering team members cut their teeth on the shop floor, while furthering their education with the company’s tuition reimbursement. Every employee has a career development plan that says “where do you want to go and how can we help you get there?” says Beatty. “One of our favorite parts of our job here is when we sit down with employees and they say, here’s what I’d really like to do, and we can and say, well, let’s put together an education plan.” The company’s head of business development is one success story: he started out as an operator, earned a degree through tuition reimbursement and worked his way up into management.

Another employee started right out of high school in an entry-level position and excelled there, then continued to train on the job for higher-skilled positions. At 24, he was promoted to a shift supervisor. “He has all these older men and women around him who invested in him and saw his potential and the supervisor saw his leadership abilities,” Beatty says.

Partnerships

Bullen partners with the nearby University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) on a program called Fast Lane that helps companies solve technical problems and improve their processes. “There have been probably 15 active projects that we’ve had with them over the years,” he says. “A lot of times it might be a physics challenge we’re having, or something around the idea of metallurgy. It could be something where we need to do a technical modeling to solve the problem and we just don’t have the internal expertise.” In exchange for their know-how, UDRI researchers receive technical data from Bullen.

Bullen also recently won a TechConnect challenge that brought a NASA metallurgist to their plant for a day to work with their technical team on some tooling issues. And the company has developed a co-op with nearby Miami University (Ohio), employing and providing partial tuition for master’s level engineering students who need practical experience while they’re completing their degrees.

Being Flexible

Sometimes, a career development plan might actually involve scaling back on work to spend more time camping with the grandkids, or teaching part time at one of the universities. The plant is a three-shift operation, but there’s room for flex scheduling through job sharing or trading shifts with co-workers for a period of time.

Being in a Farming Community

“Farming is not a highly profitable business, so you’ve got to pull out your tools, you’ve got to get under the hood, you’ve got to figure out what you need to do,” says Beatty. “That kind of ingenuity—the ability to persevere, to use geometric principles to solve problems, to tinker—we’ve found that those people perform within the highest levels of our company.”