Celebrating 40 Years of Organic Diversity
Most companies need to make a conscious effort to make diversity a priority when hiring. But for Woodland Park, New Jersey-based data-component-tracked="1">FSR, diversity started when the company was established in 1981 with its three founders, Jan Sandri, Bill Fitzsimmons, and Charles Rodriguez.
“It was incredibly unusual back then for a woman to be in a management—much less ownership—position, but I always believed women brought something special to the workplace,” said Jan Sandri, FRS’s president. “We were multi-tasking long before the term became a common phrase, simply because we had to.”
Sandri began her business career working for a large conglomerate back in the days when it was frowned upon for women to travel for business, be promoted into management ranks, or go to work dressed in a pants suit. “I wasn’t going to let that stop me though and I managed to push the envelope. I traveled, was promoted into management, joined the all-male management club (with two other women), but I still preferred dresses! I didn’t stay in that management club long because it lacked the challenge I craved, but I’m happy to say that I helped break the ceiling for other women,” she said.
Bill Fitzsimmons and Sandri began in the AV industry with Charles Rodriguez at AV Services serving the staging and rental segment of the industry. “Charles wanted to move toward installation and Bill recognized the opportunity and began developing products that every installation company needed in a growing industry. And so FSR was born, and the innovation began! In addition to our standard product line, we created custom products for IBM, M&M, Allen-Bradley, etc. We developed wonderful relationships with the few consultants that existed back then and provided them with the solutions they requested,” Sandri explained. Initially the product line consisted of small control modules, a multi-plex control system, video and audio switchers, and of course its flagship floor boxes.
Over the years FSR watched as the industry transformed. “InfoComm grew into the huge trade show and organization it is today, the NSCA tabletop trade show disappeared but the organization remains strong and healthy, supporting and being supported by integrators,” Sandri said, “And as new technologies emerge and transform workflows and workspaces, we enjoy being part of organizations like BICSI that directs its trade shows and education toward the IT industry.”
As the company grew and needs increased, staff was hired based on talent and ambition. “FSR embraced diversity and gender equality from the beginning with a multi-cultural team comprised of different nationalities, skin color, religions and genders,” Sandri said. Today women at FSR hold positions that range from production workers, to accounting heads, HR management, inside sales supervisors, purchasing managers, design engineering professionals, and of course Sandri as the president. “I’m especially proud of the longevity of our employees,” she added. “Many of our production workers, engineers, sales staff, etc. have been with FSR for over 25 years. That says something about our company culture as well as our management style.
A Changing AV Industry
As the industry has changed over the last 40 years, FSR product lines have also dramatically changed. “Our one floor box solution has proliferated into dozens of choices, plus now we offer robust lines of wall, ceiling and table boxes which have been outrageously popular,” she added. “Most recently we added our Smart-Way Floor Raceway System that has taken off like a rocket.”
The rise of AV/IT has also brought new opportunities. For FSR, the challenge was identifying the players in the IT world. “We were already well known to the AV consultants and engineers, but at those same familiar facilities there were now a new set of contacts, those designing the IT infrastructure, that needed to be introduced to our company. While many of our products serve both industries, we are flexible enough to make the adjustments that the IT professionals require. But it didn’t end there. We also had to get in front of a new set of architects, interior designers, and end users to familiarize them with our capabilities and showcase our solutions.”
Facing Pandemic Challenges Head-on
The past couple of years has been a challenge for the entire world, and the pandemic has affected so many. “However, throughout the entire pandemic FSR has kept working, manufacturing products, and loading them into inventory,” Sandri said. “Although sales slowed, we knew our products would still be in demand when things turned around, and they are!” During a time when nearly every industry throughout the world is experiencing supply chain issues, FSR might be among the few who are saying, “We have inventory!” Sandri explained, “One of the things I’m most proud of is that we manufacture in the USA. And because of that we are quick to respond, can handle requests for custom or customized products, and can give our customers the service they deserve.”
While trying to project into the future is always difficult, Sandri offered, “But I can say that FSR will continue to serve our wonderful industry and we will continue to manufacture in the United States of America!"
A Staff That Reflects FSR’s Philosophy
FSR’s hiring philosophy has not changed in its 40 years in business. Sandri explained, “We live by it today: hire the best person for the job. Period. The only qualifications we’ve ever considered were, and still are skill, knowledge and ability to achieve results. Today the FSR staff reflects the great country we live in, a melting pot of people from different walks of life; a diverse team comprised of different nationalities, skin color, religions and genders.”
FSR is a woman-owned business and as it happens, 18 percent of its Metal Fabrication Division is staffed by women, which is a departure from a traditionally male-dominated metal department. “Their positions are as diverse as they are,” Sandri said. “Some operate machinery, others assemble products, some are responsible for inventory control, and some are on our management team. In our main building women make up about 50 percent of the employee population. Some work the day shift, others the second shift. What they all have in common is an impeccable work ethic and commitment to quality.
At FSR we strive to maintain a healthy work environment for all our employees where they can thrive without fear of bigotry, misogyny, or any sort of intimidation. We are especially proud of these women and appreciate the enormous contributions they bring to the company, the industry and ultimately our customers,” Sandri concluded.
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