By Michelle Nguyen
How would you like to work for a company that has great benefits and specializes in breaking stuff? Westpak, Inc. provides product and packaging testing services to an extensive list of industries, such as life sciences, pharmaceuticals, military/aerospace, cold chain (a temperature-controlled supply chain), sustainability, hazardous material, supply chain, and more.
Founded 31 years ago by engineer Herb Schueneman, whose philosophy was that work should be enjoyable and professionally fulfilling, the company strives to deliver testing services that are of the highest quality and best caliber possible.
Herb Schueneman, founder and chairman; and Nora Crivello, vice president, Westpak, Inc.
Today, Westpak operates at two locations, San Jose and San Diego, Calif. The company continues to be involved with a variety of interesting projects, including testing the effects of hail damage on a solar panel with a specialized pneumatic gun, testing the amount of compressive force an exercise ball can withstand, and drop testing technological devices like handheld game consoles and laptops. Employees are passionate and participate in many exciting company events, such as those that promote science and engineering, like the Bay Area Science Festival and the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering. Further, Westpak’s Corporate Social Responsibility program offers the ability to partner with local organizations such as Feeding San Diego and Sacred Heart Community Service.
Westpak is made up of more than 50 employees, primarily test engineers and technicians who are highly motivated, and well-trained and have a vested interest in the company’s ongoing success. And now, thanks to Herb’s generous gift, the implementation of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), the company is 100 percent employee owned and in the good hands of those who will continue its success.
Herb sought advice from the consultants at the Beyster Institute, during the ESOP planning process. “When you go on a trip and you don’t know the way, it helps to have a guide,” he said in the ESOP rollout meeting with employees on August 9, 2017. “These guys know everything about what we’re trying to do.”
Herb had several options to consider in planning for retirement. He could a) dismantle the company; b) sell the company; c) give the company to his kids; or d) give the company to his employees via an ESOP. He ultimately chose to share the company with its employees. “It gives you control of your future,” he said. “If I was working for this company, that’s what I would want to see.”
Some of Westpak’s key visions are to build a company that places significant value on the employees and the communities and to never stop building the best possible organization. “Westpak has never laid anyone off and I’m proud of that,” said Schueneman.
The implementation of the ESOP is expected to foster the growth of an employee ownership culture, in which everyone has a stake in the company’s success and strives to improve it. It adds more value to the market-based compensation and generous benefits package that Westpak already provides for its team members, which includes good healthcare coverage, a health savings account and 401(k) contributions, volunteer time off, and the remarkable Westpak Day Off, a ‘free’ day off, the fourth Friday of every month. According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, ESOP companies pay 33 percent better median salary and are eight to 10 percent more productive. The generosity Herb has shown his team through the years seems to fit within the typical ESOP model.
Michelle Nguyen, Rady MBA 2018 candidate