Laidback Atmosphere Rules Stran

Close-Knit Group Eats Lunch Together Every Day

Stran Promotional SolutionsThe employees at Stran Promotional Solutions (asi/337725) like each other, but it took a little more effort to show it at their old location. The company was growing, space was an issue and the employees were scattered about the office. Not so in the new location, which the company moved into this spring and where the 2015 Counselor Best Places to Work Road Tour kicked off yesterday. President Andy Shape and executives favored an open layout and low cubicles to facilitate communication, and the larger space behooved a company that has grown steadily.

"When we moved here, we finally could put people where they should go," says Rob Haughey, vice president of sales & business development for the distributor.

Moving wasn't a cinch. The distributor had been a Boston company for two decades and loved its location, even as the company's leadership realized its former space was no longer workable. "It was a hard decision when finding a new place," says Howie Turkenkopf, director of marketing. "We still wanted to be a Boston company." But the distributor's new location in Quincy (just outside the Boston city limits) proved too inviting. Employees have quickly taken to the space, which also includes a fitness room and cafeteria space in the office building's first floor. (The view of the Boston skyline is nice too.)

Stran started out as a joint venture between Shape and Andrew Stranberg, both of whom attended the University of New Hampshire. The pair started out selling greeting cards, but today the distributor has attracted a nationwide roster of brand-name clients that utilize Stran's value-added services: program management, e-company stores, sourcing and more. Fostering a comfortable work environment, says Shape, starts with the people. Stran searches for self-motivated employees who are "independent thinkers" rather than being task-oriented, and allow them to make their own decisions. "It's about getting the right people, training them properly, and having them represent the values of our company," Shape says about his firm, which espouses a laidback culture that calls for shorts, jeans, t-shirts and other casual attire.

The result is a like-minded, close-knit group that eats lunch together every day en masse and works together to get the job done. "It's not a competition here," says Debbie Asprogiannis, an account manager who has been with the distributor for a decade. "We help each other out."

Unless it comes down to the various games the company plays – a mini shuffleboard set in the office, or a bowling tournament where the winner claimed "The Stranley Cup." The trophy sits proudly in the middle of the office, which everyone can easily see.