Where people matter

The approximately 1,000 employees who build the Stark Truss Co.’s roofing systems, flooring systems and prefabricated wall panels are the ones responsible for making the Canton-based company a success, says Stark Truss President Stephen Yoder.

“Our original philosophy in 1963 was that in order to become successful, you must love people and see the great potential in them,” says Yoder.

That philosophy still governs employee relations. Many employees signed on with Stark Truss while they were still high school students and have worked their way into management positions. In fact, very few managers are hired from the outside.

“When people are properly trained and given the opportunity to succeed, they will respond positively to any adversity they encounter,” Yoder says.

When it comes to hiring, the company bucks convention and embraces nepotism. Yoder counts five families, in addition to his own, which are involved in the business. They aren’t owners, but successive generations who have been brought into the business by family members employed before them.

“We look to other family members and siblings to hire them,” Yoder says.

Many of the jobs Stark Truss has to fill — truck drivers, forklift operators, sawyers, press operators — require a lot of hard work, a fact that doesn’t shock friends and relatives whom employees have recommended.

“They know what type of work it is, and they know what type of worker fits into this organization,” Yoder says of employees.

The family business, founded by Yoder’s parents in 1963, operates manufacturing locations in Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Missouri and Kansas. Gross sales were $110 million last year.

Yoder says the company was nominated for the Canton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence awards primarily for its contributions to the community. One of its first major charitable contributions was to a children’s home India, which it still supports today. And each year since 1995, it has sponsored a house built by Habitat for Humanity of Stark County, at a cost of $19,000 to $20,000 annually.

Last year, Stark Truss donated the materials for an entire home after accidentally ordering materials for one too many HUD houses it was building for a contractor.

“We found a way to eat it,” Yoder says of the mistake.

Other recipients of Stark Truss’ generosity include the Boys Club at the J. Babe Stearn Community Center in Canton, various fire and police department fund-raisers and projects and Christian-based organizations whose missionaries work in schools and medical clinics around the globe. In fact, Yoder, who comes from a devout Mennonite background, says the company donates 10 percent of pretax earnings to charity each year, and the reason for such philanthropy is simple.

“Really, we feel the key to our success has been honoring God with our first fruits,” he says. “We believe that’s what the Bible tells us to do.” How to reach: Stark Truss Co., (330) 478-2100

Lynne Thompson