UXBRIDGE — When Robin L. LeClaire, 60, first started working at Lampin Corp. 32 years ago, she had never pictured herself working in a machine shop with "all the oil and grease," she said.
Recently named president of the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) company and recognized by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce in March, Ms. LeClaire is the company's first woman president and is finally getting to meet the customers she has worked with for decades. She said she plans to leave the company in better shape than when she took the post.
A Worcester resident most of her life, she now lives in Sutton with her husband of 30 years. The couple has one child, Anna-Rae LeClaire, 26, who works as a nurse at Hartford Hospital.
At 28, Ms. LeClaire was the first full-time employee at Lampin, which makes precision parts and components, and has since learned every aspect of the company from the ground up.
How did you first get hired at Lampin?
I was working nights my senior year at (former Lampin owner) Scott Rossiter's father's company, Advanced Bearing (& Supply Co.) in Worcester. We worked together. At one time, I had nine girls underneath me doing inventory control, and I was going to Quinsig (Quinsigamond Community College) part-time at night. When that company was bought out by another company, Scott and I worked there.
At that time, I was the distribution center manager. Scott left and bought Lampin in 1982 and called me up one day a year later and asked me to come work for him. He told me of all the people he worked with, I was the one he would call. I think it was my work ethic. I work very hard. In my younger days, I would work day and night to get a project done, whatever I had to do. Work really came first. I was Scott's first full-time office employee. He told me, "Just don't wear a suit." I walked in and said, "Oh, my God. What have I done?" It was a machine shop. The oil and grease — ugh. I did all the stuff in the office, helped in shipping and receiving, and he actually put me on the floor for a week. Then I knew what they did. I really didn't know much about manufacturing. We just grew. Scott sold part of the company to the employee-owners in 2001 and sold the rest of the company to employees in 2006.
Why did he decide to establish the ESOP?
One of the main reasons for ESOPs is for someone who owns a business and no one in their family wants to take over the business, and we have good people working here. Also, there is a really good tax advantage to making the company 100 percent employee owned. ESOP companies don't pay a federal tax because all of the owners, at the time we retire and take our share of the business, then we pay taxes on that. It is a form of a retirement plan. Scott didn't have a retirement plan. We only had a small group of people, and he thought it was a good idea. We had a 401(k) and profit-sharing, but he really wanted to offer retirement.
When were you named president?
Scott was the chairman of the board of directors, and this past December he retired. He still owns the property. We rent from him, and he's always there if anybody needs him.
The board had to decide if they would hire another president or hire within, and that's when they hired me as president. It was a shock. At first, I hesitated. Then, I thought, I trained the last two presidents, maybe it was time to step up. I know the people. I want people to have a company they want to work every day at. It is a great company. We're busy and making money. Being an ESOP makes Lampin a different company.
ESOPs are like publicly traded companies, but your shares are worthless to everyone else but you. You have to have the company valued every year by a valuation company. In a good year when you make good profit and don't have debt, stocks will rise. In a bad year, stocks could go down. It is like any publicly traded company where stocks go up and down.
Where do you see the company going?
When I retire within the next five years, we have a great management team, and any one of them could step up. The machining industry is booming, and we're hiring, but it is hard to get help. One of the machinists has been here two or three years longer than me, and most people have been here longer than 20 years. When we hire, we always try to hire for life. It doesn't always happen, but we have an excellent benefit package. Just the ESOP alone makes people come in here and want to stay. And we're in Uxbridge, a wonderful town, not in a city, and most of the people are local people.
This year is the year of training. We're cross-training machinists, so when someone is out, we don't miss a delivery because we have no one to run a machine. We believe in training. It was a machine shop, but now it is a manufacturing company for all different industries. The whole idea is to diversify so if one industry fails, you don't fail with that industry.
Are you glad you took the position Oct. 1?
I'm very happy. I'm actually going out and meeting all the customers that I've had the last 30 years and introducing myself. We do tours here, but I was always behind the scenes. To go out there now and bond our relationship, it's good. I really want to leave this company better than when I came into it. We have a great management team here. We all work well together and I know I can make a difference here.
Compiled by Paula J. Owen, correspondent.
As seen in Worcester telegram.com