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Argus Industries W
By Derek Gagnon
hile Argus Industries has enjoyed a long but steady road to success, you might be surprised to know how the business started out.
Before becoming the leader in manufacturing that it has
become, before even adopting the name ‘Argus’, the com- pany sold portable and chemical toilets when it started in 1962. Bill Easton purchased the company from the original owners, when there were only five employees. Te potential was seen that the rubber side of the business had lots of room for growth. Michael Easton is the president and CEO of Argus Indus-
tries, having taken over from his father Bill in November of 2009. “My dad bought the company in 1979, said Michael. “It
was a husband and wife that were splitting in divorce with five employees, and their main product was portable toilets for the RV industry. Tey had a little gasket corner in their shop that made gaskets for the seals if they blew. My father noticed there was a potential to grow that gasket side. Tere were a few other things going around in Winnipeg that they could use some rubber for.” Eventually Argus started finding more work for their first
machine and added a second machine. By the mid-‘80s the toilets had become a distraction and the rubber side of the business was taking off. Te staff had gone from five employ- ees to around 25 employees and added another 10 going into the ‘90s. When Michael Easton began working for his father there were 38 or 39 employees. Argus became streamlined with more technical and industrial projects, and aerospace started coming in during the mid-90s. By the 2000s they started getting military contracts. Future plans include fur- ther manufacturing in the military and aerospace industries, as well as purchasing a smaller manufacturing company. “Aerospace is super-progressive and super-cutting edge
with equipment, technology and processes,” said Michael. “You have to be at that level. If you’re not, nobody is inter- ested in you.” Corporate Culture Since taking over, Michael has overseen a major shift in
corporate culture at Argus, literally flipping the existing workplace model upside down. “Most business are all about profit and product market
share,” said Michael. “For Argus, those are the results of our efforts, but not the focus of our efforts. We haven’t invented anything, but we take existing ideas and twist it a little bit to make it sit better within the leadership of Argus. Our logo is the upside down triangle, and the premise behind that is supportive leadership, which puts the president at the bot- tom. Te typical organizational chart is the pyramid with the president at the top, with production workers and those in a similar role being at the bottom. For us, we didn’t like that.” “It’s an oppressive model. So we flipped it upside down
and I put myself at the bottom, and from the bottom I need to support the executives and give them the support they need, and they need to support their leaders to make them success- ful and give them what they need, and then you keep going all the way to the production people. And the production people, without them, nothing would happen. A customer doesn’t care about me; they care about the production person actually making their part. So as a production company, we celebrate those people.” Open Doors and Open Communication One of Michael Easton’s biggest changes to the Argus cor-
porate culture was to literally tear down the walls between departments within Argus, creating a more open concept workplace, with glass walls and doors on the private offices. “We’ve made it a friendly atmosphere where people aren’t
intimidated to talk to leadership,” said Michael. “Anybody can talk to anybody, and anybody’s door is open and there’s no stigmatism against communication. Everybody’s excited because there’s no fear of failure. Failure only happens when you give up. We’re not going to give up as an organisation, and moving forward is just what we do. Te first thing we have to do is break the habit of people not accepting change. Well, we live in change. When we stop changing, people get bored. Other people get set in their ways and you can’t get them out of their ways. At Argus, they’re always changing. When things stop changing, that’s when people start to have questions and concerns.” Michael said some of his first jobs were very difficult, with
managers all too happy to ask for more and demanding long hours while only giving a salary based on a forty-hour work week. “I learned a lot on how not to treat people. One of my biggest
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life lessons came through working in the back shop here at Argus, and hearing the hopes and the dreams of all the people on the presses around me, knowing that my father, who was the owner at the time, had those same hopes and dreams. “A lot of people think that because they work in a factory
that they are more expendable or less important than an executive or a leader. Te executive’s dreams are deemed to be more important than someone who makes 15 dollars an hour on a press. For me, there is no difference. Tey’re people with families and kids and they have the same hopes and dreams and you need to have the same respect. In our organization, the two things that we constantly strive for are a positive attitude and a respectful attitude. If you don’t have those two, you can’t work in the tribe.”
Carlos Godinez, VP of Quality Systems, Michael Easton, President and CEO, Leslie Galbraith, VP of Finance & Admin, and Jeff Thomas, VP of Manufacturing & Engineering. Photo courtesy of Argus Industries.
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