By Leo Dillinger
Photography by Ian Sterling
What makes a great place to work? A decent-sized paycheck? An affordable benefits package? Paid time off? For the 36 employees at RichardsApex, it goes even further than that. It’s a sense of belonging.
Brothers David and Drew Richards have worked tirelessly to run their family’s company while maintaining the tradition of making their employees feel like an integral part of the team.
“We’ve tried not to change what has been great about working here, which is the family environment,” David said. “Our family has always put a lot of value in treating our employees like they are truly family. So, Drew and I spend a lot of time trying to keep that family feel alive.”
RichardsApex is a fourth generation family business that manufactures lubricants for metalworking applications around the world. The company comes as the result of a 1997 merger between two long-standing, family-owned companies: G. Whitfield Richards Co. (1902) and Apex Alkali Products Co., which was founded in Manayunk in 1933. Despite the changing landscape of the manufacturing industry over the last century, this small business has continued to make a significant impact with a large international presence.
“Looking back on the last 25 years, we’ve accomplished a lot,” David said. “We’ve created a livelihood for a lot of people in a respectable way. We take a lot pride in knowing there are people here that worked for our father and people that have worked for multiple generations—and they continue to work with us.”
The workforce at RichardsApex comes from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life. Some live as far away as New Jersey, Reading, and Bucks County, and others live right here in the hills of Manayunk and on the Main Line. Some work in the plant, some work in the lab, some work in the office. Some are new employees while others have been there for decades. There’s even one family at the company that has more employees on the payroll than the Richards do. But at the end of the day, they’re all looking out for the company’s best interest.
Both David and Drew believe in the importance of a symbiotic relationship between employer and employee. Sometimes the simple things, like having an open door policy and checking in on staff from time to time, go a long way. They want their employees to take responsibility in their roles and make a career for themselves as valued stakeholders within the company. Unfortunately, the new labor trends among many recent graduates can make it hard to find good help these days.
“I would say the biggest challenge has been the change in the workforce in general,” David said. “People don’t look to make a career where they get hired right out of college. Today’s kids come out of college where someone throws $5,000 at them and they jump ship onto the next thing. You look at resumes and see they take a new job every two years. That’s a big red flag to me, but it’s more of the norm in today’s world.”
David and Drew like to reiterate the idea that employment at their family’s business isn’t just about getting a paycheck or treating it like a “get rich quick” scheme. They want their employees to prove their worth in order to help them grow with the company. Some employees have started out as part-time bench chemists looking to make some money while attending college and have gone on to retire from the company as senior executives. Though it’s been difficult to find people who want to work hard, David admits he and his brother have been quite fortunate in finding quality people.
“Previous generations of my family were successful at surrounding themselves with excellent people,” David said. “Since Drew and I have taken over the business at this point, we’ve spent a lot of time building the team around ourselves.”
Carol Roby, Administration Manager at RichardsApex, has worked at the company for the last 23 years. She has witnessed firsthand how this company treats employees like family. She emphasized that the overwhelming sense of caring and compassion among employees is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.
“There’s a genuine concern here. It’s real. It’s not just a superfluous ‘Oh how was your day?’” Carol said. “They’re all very interested in what’s going on in your life and concerned for everybody’s well being.”
Manayunk hasn’t been the easiest place to run a manufacturing company these days, but the team at RichardsApex knows how to get it done. David and Drew recognize the success of their family’s company would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of all their employees.
Learn more here.
Visit the Manayunk Development Corporation Contact page for full contact information.
Office: 4312 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127