Unique Product, Unique People
VSSL manufactures what may be the coolest flashlight you’ll ever use. It’s got a flashlight on one end and a compass on the other end and in between, the canister holds camping equipment or first aid products or, for that very special occasion, collapsible shot glasses that you can fill with a drink (you provide) to celebrate “the summit, an epic day, or with good friends around the campfire.”
And while the cool factor here is undisputed, that’s not what makes VSSL such an amazing company. What sets them apart is the people – those who run VSSL and those they hire.
Founder Todd Weimer and his operations manager, Nathan Bosch agreed to a policy of inclusive hiring when the company first began. Working with staff at Communitas Supportive Care Society, they have hired several people for their production team who live on the autism spectrum. The company has received an award from the Inclusive Employers Awards for their efforts.
Bosch is often challenged on the wisdom of hiring people living with intellectual disabilities but he is quick to talk about the positives.
“Managing our staff is no different than managing anyone else,” he says. “It’s different energy, not more energy. It sounds cliché but I always say you love them instead of manage them.”
The young men who are employed here thrive on the repetitive nature of the assembly work and their attention to detail is an asset to the job. They often tell Bosch how much they love both their jobs and the community in which they get to work. Some have told Bosch about past employers who didn’t take the time to get to know them or help them work through their challenges. At VSSL, they feel valued for the work they do and for the skills they bring.
“We really want to see our employees succeed in life – not just in work – but in life,” Bosch says.
Part of the VSSL philosophy is including their employees in the visioning process. This helps all of their staff understand where the company is headed and what to expect as the company grows. And grow it will – in 2019, they expect to ramp up their production and their team will be crucial to this work.
“It’s going to be a fun challenge but we know the guys are totally up for it,” says Jarris Neufeld, the VSSL sales rep for Canada.
The company also has a unique perspective on giving back. At Christmas, they held a “12 Days of Christmas” sales campaign, pairing their flashlights with Kaye Foye custom-made knives. On the 12th day, they held an auction for this unique product pairing and chose to use that as a fundraiser to support Communitas, raising $1000 for the organization.
“All of this is just part of the VSSL business plan,” Neufeld says.