The Winner’s Circle

Small Business of the Year Award

Valerie Phillips, Owner/CEO
The Phillips Co. Inc.
Columbus, IN
Machining, assembly, subassembly, warehousing, distributing

Phillips’ keys to standout performance:
1] Create the right workplace
environment for employees
2] Reward positive behavior and
recognize disengagement

Twenty-five years in the management ranks at an engine manufacturer company, Valerie Phillips likes to think she was content in corporate America. Around this same time, her father, Sam Phillips, co-founder of Columbus, Indiana-based assembly and warehousing company PDI, was considering retirement. Recognizing that their goals were complementary, the father and daughter agreed in 2006 that Valerie would buy the company for $380,000. “I thought at some point I might join the company but only if it made sense, because I had some very good opportunities at my former employer, such as leading the startup of a corporate diversity procurement initiative and managing a plant in the U.K.,” admits Phillips.

After changing the name from PDI to The Phillips Co. Inc. ( and acquiring Edinburgh, Indiana-based manufacturing company Maximum Spindle Utilization Inc., Phillips saw TPCI revenues increase from $2.8 million in 2007 to $6 million in 2008.

Phillips attributes the company’s standout performance to internal catalysts. “I believe if employees are happy at work then they’re going to produce a quality product, and in the end the customers are going to be happy with our service,” says Phillips. And handling her employees with kid gloves is exactly what it took to survive the financial downturn.
“We saw it coming last November and then the orders kind of fell off in December,” recalls Phillips. “So, we quickly did the right things to get our costs in line.” To counter the slump, work hours were cut from 40 to 30 per week, resulting in a 25% decrease in salaries.

“The employees at first were skeptical, but they know that working 75% is better than not having a job at all. So, even though their personal finances are less, I feel that I gained respect,” says the 50-year-old. “We took the across the board approach: Each and every employee would be impacted, including me.”

Phillips looks to buy yet another company in the near future that will help TPCI grow to be 100s proportions. She adds,

“It’s about being financially strong so that I can give to employees and give to the community.”

—T. E. H

The Small Business of the Year Award is presented to the small business owner whose efforts and/or entrepreneurial pursuits exemplify the passion and commitment needed to overcome adversity as well as attain success.

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