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Welcome to my blog on company culture! I’m traveling the country visiting companies with great workplace cultures and writing about them. Why? Find out here.

Julia Kortberg


CV #26: How Team 1 Plastics Lives their Championship Dream

CV #26: How Team 1 Plastics Lives their Championship Dream


Founded: Team 1 Plastics started doing business as a Michigan Plastic Injection Molding Corporation in December of 1987 with three equal owners: Craig Carrel, Gary Grigowski, and Jim Capo. Today, Team 1 Plastics is co-owned by Craig and Gary and is proudly located in Albion, MI.

Employees: 64  | Revenue: $13.3M

Championship Dream: Team 1 Plastics developed its Championship Dream in 1999 with input from all of its Team Members. The Championship Dream is similar to a mission or vision statement and focuses on customers,  Team Members, and community. In short, it has four tenants:

  • Customer Service Excellence

  • Team Member Success

  • Positive Community Member

  • Freedom to Succeed


“We lost our school system and hospitals, but at the end of the day, we are still here.” – Dave Sanford, Team Member

Team 1 Plastics has a long history of giving back to Albion, where they have been located for over 30  years. Their contributions range from smaller-scale giving, such as volunteering at schools, or donating to their Team Member’s children’s robotics team, to larger scale initiatives like contributing to the restoration of the Bohm Theatre and the redevelopment of a block in downtown Albion.

Co-Founders Jim Capo, Craig Carrel, and Gary Grigowski. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.

Co-Founders Jim Capo, Craig Carrel, and Gary Grigowski. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.


In the mid 1980s, three young plastic engineers (Jim Capo, Craig Carrel, and Gary Grigowski) recognized the need for a company to supply the international automotive suppliers setting up operations in the Midwest, specifically in Battle Creek, MI. United by their common dream to start a plastic injection molding company, they turned to their friends and families to raise the $110,000 they needed in capital. Eighteen months later, with only $2,000 of their original capital left in their bank account, they made their first profit. From there, (with the exception of the recession) business took off.

I visited Team 1 Plastics in Albion, Michigan, on a rainy day last November. Accidentally entering through their injection molding plant, a Team Member kindly walked me through the entire 55,000 sq ft facility to their offices. While visiting, I had the opportunity to meet with a handful of Team Members: Rob Clothier, HR Manager (5-year team member), Dave Sanford, Quality Manager (20-year team member), Shelley Lewis, Lead Captain of the Assembly Department (29-year team member), Craig Clem, Tool Maintenance Specialist (3-month team member) and Owner & President, Craig Carrel (32-year Team Member). Here’s what I learned:


Championship Dream banner on the production floor. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.

Championship Dream banner on the production floor. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.

1. Sharing the Championship Dream with Every Team Member & Remaining Accessible as Leaders

In 1999, Team 1 Plastics developed the Championship Dream, a document that outlines how the company lives and breathes as it does business. They developed the Championship Dream with input from all of their Team Members and had everyone sign it upon completion as a demonstration of their commitment. The Championship Dream has four tenants: Customer Service Excellence, Team Member Success, Positive Community Member, and Freedom to Succeed.

While it was developed over 20 years ago, Team 1 Plastic’s commitment to the Championship Dream remains as strong as when it was first written. One way in which they maintain their commitment is by ensuring that every Team Member learns about the Championship Dream during their first few weeks at Team 1 Plastics. Co-Owner & President, Craig Carrel personally takes new Team Members through each of the four tenants and explains how the company lives them. This both demonstrates ownerships commitment to the Championship Dream and to making themselves accessible as leaders.

Furthermore, as part of on-boarding, Craig, schedules 1:1s with each new Team Member to learn about what’s important to them. “Some are 10 minutes and some are an hour,” said Craig, “But what’s important to is that I learn about them and ask them questions about themselves.” By taking the time to meet with every new Team Member, it strengthens relationships with Team Members and makes leadership more approachable.“The owners are very involved and know about your personal lives,” said longtime Team Member, Dave Sanford.

2. Finding The Right People: Culture Index & Team Referrals

Team 1 Plastics is very committed to hiring for culture fit.  Four years ago, they implemented the Culture Index  as their first step in their hiring process. The Culture Index (CI) is essentially a personality profile assessment, which measures one’s natural tendencies for a role. The assessment has four main areas: 1) Autonomy 2) Pace 3) Social 4) Conforming.

The assessment takes less than 10 minutes. To take the test, you start by reading a list of words and check the words that best describe yourself. Then, you’re asked to select the words that best describe how you must behave to be successful in your current position. “If we looked for exact matches, we would have a very hard time hiring,” said HR Manager, Rob Clothier. “But the Culture Index is helpful as a predictor of success for a specific position.”

Whenever Team 1 Plastics is hiring for a new position, they create a CI profile for the role and look for close matches. “There are different patterns for different roles, so we may steer someone to a different path based on their CI,” said Rob.

The CI also helps Team 1 Plastics come up with questions to further investigate a Team Member’s natural tendencies. However, the CI is only the first step in their interviewing process. Following the CI assessment, the HR Manager has a phone interview with the candidate where they look for a candidate’s knowledge of Team 1, what they’re looking to get out of in a career, and whether they’ve been successful in past roles. After the phone screen, they have an onsite technical interview with their potential new supervisor.

Team 1 Plastics believes that the best representatives of their culture are their current Team Members. In fact, the average tenure at Team 1 Plastics is eight years. Therefore, they started the Team Member Referral Bonus Program to reward their Team Member’s for recommending candidates who they think would be a good culture fit for Team 1 Plastics. If a Team Member refers a candidate and the candidate is successfully performing for 90 days, the Team Member receives a $150.00 cash bonus. After the candidate reaches six months, the Team Member receives a $350.00 cash bonus. Team 1 Plastics members have the opportunity to earn up to $500 for referring a successful candidate to the team. They also have the option to convert it to PTO (Paid Time Off) if they prefer. Since implementing the Referral Program two years ago, they’ve welcomed a handful of successful new Team Members thanks to Team Member’s recommendations.

Team 1 Plastics celebrates rolling out Open Book Management in 1999. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.

Team 1 Plastics celebrates rolling out Open Book Management in 1999. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.

3. Practicing Open Book Management

Team 1 Plastics implemented Open Book Management 20 years ago. Open Book Management  (OBM) is a management approach where employees are provided with company financial information to enable them to make better business decisions. The owners rolled out OBM because they felt it would give Team Members a bigger stake in the outcome of the business.

Team 1 Plastics shares their numbers at least once a month with everyone in the company. Co-Owner, Craig Carrel and Human Resources Manager, Rob Clothier, alternate leading meetings.

When Tool Maintenance Specialist Craig Clem first started working at Team 1 Plastics and learned about their Open Book Management practice, he was shocked. “I couldn’t believe it at first, I thought, are you kidding me? I’m going to retire here.”

Not all Team Members know how to read a financial statement. To educate Team Members on the finances of the business, Team 1 Plastics partners with a local credit union to offer financial literacy classes. To keep the open book meetings interesting, Team 1 Plastics rewards Team Members with cash prizes between $5 - $100 by correctly answering questions at the end of the meeting. When Team Members answer a question correctly, they spin the rewards wheel and earn their cash prize.

The result is that a lot more of the Team Members understand Team 1 Plastic’s finances and feel ownership over how their work impacts the bottom line. “I value the monthly Open Book Meetings that management provides for the Team Members,” said longtime Team Member, Shelley Lewis.

Team 1 Plastics team member at her work station. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.

Team 1 Plastics team member at her work station. Photo courtesy of Team 1 Plastics.

4. Helping Team Members to Grow & Develop

As stated in their Championship Dream, Team 1 Plastics is committed to their Team Member’s success. One way in which they demonstrate their commitment is by helping Team Members grow and develop as individuals. When a new Team Member begins, they have a training plan for their role and how they can grow. They also ask each Team Member when they first begin, where they want to be in the organization and how they can help them get there.

“I would much rather promote internally versus hiring externally,” said HR Manager, Rob Clothier. "We outline positions on day 1 and how you can get to where you want to be. We try to have benchmarks set up along the way. We place more value on experiences, versus education. There are lots of examples of people who started out entry level who moved to a manager position.

For example, Dave Sanford has been working with Team 1 Plastics for 20 years. Dave started out in Production, was promoted to Warehouse Captain, then Shipping and Receiving Logistics Manager, then Production Manager, then Quality Manager, and is now the Operations Manager. He never intended to stay at Team 1 Plastics for so long, but he’s been able to learn and grow and they’ve worked with him throughout his life: providing him tuition reimbursement, working around his college schedule, allowing him to go on month-long international trips. “I always look internally what I can get involved in. For example, just because I was in Quality didn’t mean I was pigeonholed into it,” said Dave. After 20 years, Dave still enjoys working with Team 1 Plastics. “It’s not really work,” said Dave. “ I can’t think of a day where I woke up and didn’t want to come in.”

Shelley Lewis,  Lead Captain of the Assembly Department, is another example. She is going on 29 years at Team 1 Plastics. “ I joined when I was 18 years old, and I didn’t know a thing about injection molding,” said Shelly. She started out working in Quality (12 yrs) then Production (1 yr), then Warehouse (2 yrs) then in Assembly (4 yrs) then Material Handling (4 yrs). “Some people are fine with entry level positions,” said Shelley. “Other people want to get leadership and all you have to is ask, how do I get there? Because the company always want you to advance.”

Team 1 Plastics also works hard to foster a learning environment. “People make mistakes,” said Dave Sanford. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to make mistakes, so long as you have a thought process you could learn from … At the end of the day, we’re making auto parts. Sure it can be stressful, but it’s not tragic. Stuff that’s tragic is personal.”  This learn-from-your-mistakes mentality is a core part of the Freedom to Succeed tenant in the Championship Dream, as it encourages Team Members to take risks, learn from them, and have fun along the way.

Another way in which Team 1 Plastics helps Team Members grow is through their annual 360 reviews. Once a year, Team Members that work closely together evaluate one another on their strengths and areas of growth. The 360 review questions include opportunities to provide positive feedback, and areas of recommendation for improvement. Supervisors also fill out their input on the Team Member’s performance. “What we found in our old review style was that some supervisors led meaningful reviews, and for some, it was a weakness,” said Rob. “With the 360 reviews, your peers provide feedback along with the supervisor, and it makes the information more useful. People look forward to them. We also ask questions like, what do you think about your job? What do we need to make it better?”

A huge part of Team Member success is knowing what’s important to them. As longtime Team Member Dave Sanford shared, “At Team 1, you know the people you work with. You have a lot of good friendships here and a lot of fun outside of work too.”

Ultimately, Team 1 Plastics believes that Team Member success leads to the company’s success. “We really try to create an environment for people to succeed,” said Co-Owner & President, Craig Carrel. “We want to work together to make individuals successful in a team environment – and that will lead to making the company successful.”

CV #27 Comfort Research: How to Build a Culture of Awesome

CV #27 Comfort Research: How to Build a Culture of Awesome

CV #25 Macro Connect: The IT Company that Plants Trees for their Customers & Donates +80 Hours a Month to Serve the Community

CV #25 Macro Connect: The IT Company that Plants Trees for their Customers & Donates +80 Hours a Month to Serve the Community