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The Middleby Corporation (MIDD)’s CEO On How to Foster a Great Culture

In the following video interview, Motley Fool CEO Tom Gardner speaks with The Middleby Corporation (NASDAQ:MIDD) CEO Selim Bassoul. Since becoming CEO in 2000, Bassoul has led a remarkable transformation at The Middleby Corporation (NASDAQ:MIDD), the cooking-equipment maker, turning the stock into a nearly 50-bagger over that time. In the video, he discusses the culture of The Middleby Corporation (NASDAQ:MIDD), and what gives the company such a high employee retention rate.

The Middleby Corporation (NASDAQ:MIDD)

Tom Gardner: So let’s talk about the culture for employees, because maybe somebody watching us is thinking, “Wow, that would be terrible to be working on New Year’s Eve.” What is it like to work at The Middleby Corporation (NASDAQ:MIDD)? What makes it a unique place to work? How well do you think you’re doing by the stakeholder that is your employee?

Selim Bassoul: Well, we are proud to say that our turnover is 2%, so 98% retention. And simply, it’s not because of perks. Our offices are not glamorous. In fact, our officers are most probably below standards. We don’t have day care on premise. We do not have open cafeterias. We don’t have free meals, but I’ll tell you what we have.

We have two things that are very powerful. We have a mixture of autonomy, great autonomy, and great incentives. And I think I’ve learned that from an early age. I used to hate getting up to go to school, so my parents had to drag me to get to the bus stop because I hated getting to that school. Why? Because it was highly structured, it happened to be a Jesuit school, and I will talk about my early experience because it’s relevant.

It was structured; it was military discipline. I was over-supervised at school. The teachers were not informative. They were basically going through the session without catering to a classroom. They were catering to the smartest, but then everybody else was left behind. I decided that in my company, I won’t leave anybody behind. I wanted people to be empowered. I wanted people to have fun when they come to the job, and having fun is the ability to do two things. One, to be able to not have to deal with bureaucracy and feel that they are empowered; number two, be able to have a voice heard.

So in my business, I think in many of your members, they run businesses that have 60 to 80% blue collars. In my case, they are blue collars. They are workers in the shop, so they are literally … doing work that has been designed by engineers with tools and equipment that been basically allocated and approved by accountants, and in many instances, they have to live with what they were given.

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