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No. 14: ETS Express, Best Places To Work 2018

Dominating every category in the Best Places to Work employee-driven survey, the industry’s premier drinkware supplier has employees and management so devoted to each other, the company is redefining what it means to be a family business.

Counselor honors the top industry workplaces through an exclusive survey and rankings. Find out what makes ETS Express a great place to work!

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Rank: 14
ETS Express (asi/51197), Oxnard, CA

Taly and Sharon Eyal, the sister and brother team who own Top 40 supplier ETS Express.

Benefits & Perks: Offers 401(k) plans, bonuses, profit sharing, departmental awards, incentive trips, a competitive benefits package, gifts like TVs and Xboxes for high-achieving team members and, on summer Fridays, visits from taco and ice cream food trucks, In-N-Out Burger most notably.

Workspace Highlights: CEO Sharon Eyal is a self-proclaimed “minimalist,” so when the company built its nearly 160,000-square-foot state-of-the-art production facility in Concord, NC, in 2015, Eyal made sure the spaces were wide open, white and light-filled – a stark contrast to dark, dull and dingy factories so ubiquitous in manufacturing.

Culture: “Sharon believes in ensuring ETS is a place where employees can find success and provide for their families with a strong sense of company strength and job security,” says Brandon Bell, VP of sales.


To say it’s been a hell of a year for Top 40 supplier ETS Express (as/51197) is a masterpiece of an understatement: The company’s Northern California rep was named the 2018 SGR Supplier Sales Rep of the Year; in January, it handily won both Counselor Distributor Choice drinkware categories; and its year-to-date sales are up double digits. And now, of course, this accolade – based on an overwhelming amount of responses from its enthusiastic team.

With over 500 employees in two locations – its headquarters in Oxnard, CA, and in its nearly 160,000-square-foot state-of-the-art production facility in Concord, NC – ETS has a culture so genuine, unique and compelling, you only need to look to its owners to know why.

(Clockwise from left): Adam Kovar, ETS’s vice president of marketing; Jason Shepherd, the vp of finance; Taly Eyal, the CFO; Sharon Eyal, CEO; Derek Hansen, vp of operations and Brandon Bell, vp of sales.

Sharon Eyal, ETS’s enigmatic CEO, at the company’s new 160,000-square-foot production facility in Concord, NC.

From the Top Down
If one were casting the role of charismatic CEO, Sharon Eyal – a whip-smart and laser-focused Israeli-American – would get the callback. A study in contrasts, Eyal is at once humble yet formidable, tough-as-nails yet effusive about his love for his team, driven and hands-on yet laissez-faire enough to trust his people. “To be honest with you, things run so well here they don’t need me,” he laughs.

His sister, Taly, is the company’s CFO and, as Eyal says, “a human calculator.” The two have never worked anywhere but ETS, as their father, Ely, started the business in 1985 and Sharon took over the day-to-day in 1994 at the age of 22. “ETS wouldn’t be as successful as it is today without Taly,” Eyal says. “Because she takes care of the financial side of the business, it gives me the freedom and clear mindset to focus on everything else.”

That “everything else” includes finding star staffers in the most unusual places, such as when a waiter impressed Eyal so much during a dinner that he hired him on the spot based on a “gut feeling.” That person, Rob Derrig, started with the company as an inside sales rep and due to the company’s ability to identify and nurture individualistic talent, is now one of its top team members and the national accounts manager.

It bears noting that the Eyals have the luxury, because the family owns the company outright, of not being beholden to banks or a board, and with that autonomy comes the agility to move fast when making decisions, like taking the company paperless in 2014, and implementing strategy. “Look, if we screw something up, we take care of it immediately, and my customer service people know they don’t need approval to do that – just keep our clients happy.”

Podcast

With over 500 employees in two locations, ETS Express (asi/51197) has a culture so compelling, you only need to look to its CEO, Sharon Eyal, a whip-smart and laser-focused study in contrasts – humble yet formidable, tough-as-nails though effusive about his love for his team – to know why. Click here to listen to an interview with Eyal and Michele Bell, the head of ASI’s Editorial department.


Nicki Russo, a customer service rep who handles the company’s top accounts and has been with the company for over 10 years, echoes Eyal’s family-first mantra for the company. “I have an amazing management team and co-workers,” she says. “When I started in 2007, we only had a few employees. The company has grown so much since, but it still feels like we’re a tight-knit family. I can always count on them to keep me going whenever I’m down or having a rough day.”

Eyal admits that as he’s gotten older, he’s also become more patient, more empathetic and more adept at delegating. “I learned to let go, and that it’s OK if something isn’t done exactly the way I would’ve handled it – I learned to trust my people because they know what they’re doing.”

Integral to ETS’s success is the brain trust of talent Eyal relies on to keep the business operating smoothly every day: Brandon Bell, Derek Hansen, Jason Shepherd and Adam Kovar, the vice presidents of sales, operations, finance and marketing, respectively.

“Our owners allow the employees to have true autonomy to make decisions they feel are best,” says Bell, who’s been with the company for nearly eight years. “This includes allowing supervisors and managers to organize and run departments on their own.” And because the company is owned by the Eyals, Bell says that emphasis on family is truly its defining trait. “If a personal event comes up, good or bad, be with your family. End of discussion.”

Bell points out that the company feels it’s vital each employee is sufficiently trained and given the necessary tools to ensure they’re successful. “We don’t think you can quickly place people into a position with minimal guidance and expect them to succeed,” he says, noting the longest-tenured employee has been at ETS for 27 years. “For most positions we plan on three to six months of training or more to make sure employees are where they need to be before transitioning them fully into their role. And while there’s specific criteria covered in each training for every department, we also recognize each person is different. Certain individuals may require more time and attention. If they carry the right attitude and are working hard to progress, we will invest the time and resources necessary to make them comfortable in their new assignment.”

At its nearly 160,000-square foot state-of-the-art production facility in Concord, NC, ETS has over 200 employees, each of whom is made to feel as though they’re part of the ETS family – so much so that Sharon Eyal, the company’s owner and CEO, flies in from CA at least once a quarter to spend time with them.

Team-building activities, such as Halloween costume parties, food trucks on summer Fridays and offsite group events keep the employees at ETS cohesive and loyal to one another – and the company.

Xbox & Friday Food Trucks
With an almost Talmudic knowledge of his people – what they like, what makes them tick – there’s no doubt Eyal is an unrelenting champion for them and rewards them accordingly: 401(k) plans, profit sharing, departmental awards and, during the summer, taco, In-N-Out Burger and ice cream food trucks on Fridays. There was also a recent five-day sales meeting and recognition trip to Tulum, Mexico, with spouses invited. High-achieving employees receive periodic bonuses and gifts like TVs, Xboxes and PlayStations.

“ETS can really throw a great holiday party,” Russo says. “There’s nothing better than enjoying great food and letting loose with all of your co-workers. Aside from all the food and fun, ETS also takes care of their employees with a very competitive benefits package.”

That kind of appreciation isn’t lost on the staff, who match the level of the Eyals’ loyalty with their devotion to his family and the company’s management. “I’m always amazed with how involved ownership is in the company at all levels – they’re not afraid to step in for any task,” Bell says, recounting how the company astonishingly opened its built-from-the-ground-up Concord, NC, production location at such a fast pace and so on the down-low that no one – save about seven people – knew about it.

“When we were implementing our North Carolina facility, Sharon was basically living there for over six months with a small team to get this going,” Bell says. “He was working 18-hour days pulling wires or whatever it took to make that project a reality. Their attitude is that no one is too big for any hat, and it’s infectious for others that see them in action.”

Bell says that because it’s a family-owned business, the Eyals truly feel the employees are instrumental to the company’s success. “Decisions aren’t made at this company without considering how it could potentially affect employees,” he says. “I’ve seen decisions that were viewed critically by outsiders, but were done to help make this company and its employees more secure in the future. Sharon believes in ensuring that ETS is a place where employees can find success and provide for their families with a strong sense of company strength and job security. As our company has grown, he’s felt an increased amount of pressure to make sure the team has continued job opportunities in the future. Our ownership’s loyalty to this cause helps foster dedication and effort from the team to do their part in making ETS successful. It’s that dedication and mindset that keeps me, personally, driven to help take on the challenge of making ETS stronger and better than ever.”

And for Eyal, who says he loves going to work every day because he so enjoys the interaction with his team, he knows exactly why his company is one of the best in the business. “There are no attitudes here; we’re one team and one family, and I care about everyone’s happiness and well-being,” he says. “Because I know if I take care of them, they’ll take care of ETS.”

For the Eyals – Taly, Sharon and their Dad, Ely, who founded the company – family is everything, a sentiment that permeates every aspect of the company, from how decisions are made that affect the staff and the breadth and quality of its award-winning drinkware.

More Photos

Check out more pics from ETS Express in our online photo gallery!

Michele Bell is the senior executive director of ASI’s Editorial Department.