Why a People-Centric Culture Pays Off

Why State Window Corporation owes it success to its exceptional employees—especially during a pandemic

State Window Corporation has five core values: passion, dependability, loyalty, honesty and transparency. They were not chosen after extensive consultation with focus groups or created by a marketing department throwing buzzwords around a whiteboard. They came, says company founder Christopher Liberta, from a much simpler place: himself.

“It’s who I am,” says Liberta, who began at State in 2007 with a handful of employees and a singular vision to reimagine how high-rise windows are engineered, fabricated and installed. He whittled attributes of himself down to the five key values that helped shape the business he was building. “They’re simple values, but they were things my parents were strong believers in and instilled in me at an early age.” 

Nearly fifteen years later, those values remain at the heart of State’s company culture, despite now having over 500 employees, 250 subcontractors and more than 200 condo and office towers under their belt, with projects across Canada and the U.S. “We still thrive on our core values,” says Nikki Carvalho, State’s chief financial officer. “Christopher started this business as an entrepreneur, and he’s kept that mom-and-pop feeling, despite the intense growth.” It still feels like family, she says, with a “work hard, play hard” atmosphere that celebrates employees at every opportunity. “We just like to lift each other up constantly,” she says. She credits this reputation for a fun, vibrant company culture to the fact that their recruitment process is often people coming to them, sometimes from a company that had been a client on one of their jobs or a competitor in the window space. “We’ve built a bit of a following in the industry,” says Carvalho. 

And if you’re wondering what, say, passion might look like in this business? As an example, Liberta points to the work of window installers, an integral element of their business. “If you’re not passionate about what you do and you’re cutting corners or looking for the easy way out, that causes a lot of issues,” he says, pointing to the essential functions of windows, which is to keep air and water out of buildings. “Our installers have to love what they do because we don’t stop in the winter. When you’re up 40 storeys and it’s minus 30 outside, that takes a lot of passion.” The company takes the importance of its core values so seriously that they’ll often hire for fit rather than a specific set of technical skills. “Those can be taught,” says Liberta. “But you can’t teach values to somebody.” 

As for so many other businesses, the pandemic has brought challenges to State, not least the fact that they operate a 200,000+-square-foot manufacturing facility that requires employees to work close together. When the pandemic hit, they voluntarily closed operations for two weeks—still paying their employees—so they could make sure they were making it as safe as possible. They also doubled the benefits allowance for paramedical services, which included psychologists and therapists, and have a four-person team dedicated to employees’ wellbeing. When things were more open over the summer, they hosted yoga on the grass outside the office building, and they recently hosted a voluntary vaccination clinic where 450 employees received their first shot. “We put our employees at the forefront,” says Carvalho. “It’s people before profit, always.” 

It’s a strategy that seems to be paying off: Over the pandemic, thanks to a boom in the real estate market, winning business from new clients and territorial expansion, State has run its biggest hiring program in the company’s history, bringing on over 150 staff across their corporate and manufacturing teams, with plans to launch two more divisions shortly, which will mean more hiring. “We’re very fortunate,” says Liberta, who can’t wait for all those new hires to experience State at its in-person best. “There are going to be quite a few big parties.”