May 4, 2008
Times Leader Newspaper
Some companies have Christmas parties to raise morale or thank their employees for their work.
But employees of Solid Cactus have their own cafe. And a basketball court.
It’s all part of the plan owners Scott Sanfilippo and Joe Palko have to give their employees a better, friendlier working atmosphere.
Planning started about two years ago when the duo began to seek a larger home for their growing business. The first place they looked at, the former Westmoreland School on Lehigh Street in Shavertown, turned out to be the building that now houses 126 of the company’s 163 employees.
The transition into the former schoolhouse began in March, when employees moved existing computer equipment into the building. Everything else – from office furniture to basketball hoops – is new. Thirty employees still work in the Wilkes-Barre office.
Sanfilippo said the move was the final resolution to working in a cramped area of the Jewelcor Center.
“We were on top of each other, it was hot … we weren’t friendly,” Sanfilippo said. “Now, we’re away from downtown, there’s a caf�, a gym, and trees all around with fresh air. It’s a much better working environment.”
Sanfilippo believes the comfortable surroundings help Solid Cactus to succeed.
“Employees are the reason our company expanded. Because of our quality, because of our reputation – our employees are happy and dedicated. We want to provide them with an atmosphere where they will strive to do their best,” he said. “If our employees weren’t happy, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
Upon arrival, visitors and employees see tables and chairs on the first floor, a wall painted bright blue, as well as a small kitchenette, complete with items for breakfast and lunch, including a recent $7.99 daily special – a sausage and peppers sandwich, side salad, chips, slaw and dessert.
Soft drinks are free and employees can even order a personal-sized pizza – Old Forge style.
The color scheme encourages creativity. Green, orange, red and blue walls can be found throughout the business’s three floors, including a green wall in the sales department.
Get it? Green. Money.
Sanfilippo said there were a lot of skeptics when it came to his color scheme; some were worried it wouldn’t work out.
“But now, the first thing people say when they walk is in that they love the colors,” he said.
Music plays from overhead speakers fed by satellite radio, and since the dress code is virtually non-existent, workers look more like they’ve come in on a weekend rather than a hectic Monday.
Each floor has its own break room, complete with coffee, soda and bathrooms. The one on the second floor even has a courtyard, which Sanfilippo hopes to have completed soon, with landscaping, a circular stone wall with a large shade tree in the middle and benches and picnic tables.
“And eventually a grill so we can have a cookout,” he said.
The relaxed atmosphere and quirky benefits may have helped the company win coveted recognition.
“It’s a cool work environment. That’s why we were voted one of the best places to work in Pennsylvania,” Sanfilippo said.
The company also was named to the 2007 Inc. magazine list of 500 fastest-growing private companies in the nation.
Sanfilippo said the business has expanded because of the dedication of Solid Cactus employees, and the amenities of the new building are a sort of thank-you for their work.
“Not that many employers have a gym in their office,” Sanfilippo said. “I’m sure if we expand more, I’ll come up with the next best thing.”
In addition to the indoor basketball court, which will open on Monday, as well as locker rooms and an exercise room, there are seven employee-of-the-month parking spots on the grounds, and Caesar the rat terrier on the upper floor.