Mr. [and Mrs.] Hendrickson's Neighborhoods

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Apologies to the late Fred Rogers, the gentle personality who made his mark in children's television, but Felix and Lisa Hendrickson, the husband-and-wife team who own Hendrickson Custom Cabinetry, have something pretty special going for them, as well. The 40ish couple, who celebrated the fifth anniversary of their Bronx-based shop in January, developed a highly unusual organizational structure that is built on a neighborhood concept.

"We don't have departments here," explains Lisa. "Rather, we have neighborhoods. We're convinced that people are far more willing to work together with neighbors than they would be to seek help from or give help to people from other departments."

All told, there are 13 neighborhoods, some large and some small. The production neighborhood, for example, incorporates three smaller neighborhoods — fabrication, finishing and installation. Similarly, the office neighborhood includes finance, marketing and human resources. Other large neighborhoods are leadership, drafting/engineering, estimating/sales, and project management, which also contains purchasing.

"In principle," says Lisa, "people in all neighborhoods are expected to interconnect with each other, and, in practice, they do. When we hire, we don't just look for skill sets, we try to identify people who will fit into the corporate culture we have established."

"Many employers try to accomplish this by hiring people of the same ethnic or educational background," adds Felix. "We do it by seeking people who understand and reflect the corporate values we try to live by. These are: 1) Excellence; 2) Innovation; 3) Integrity; 4) Service; 5) Community; and 6) Urgency. We look for these qualities during the interview process, and then, to be on the safe side, we have a trial period of 90 days before an individual is officially on board."

Hendrickson Custom Cabinetry

Felix and Lisa Hendrickson
Location: The Bronx, NY
January, 2003
Shop size: 6,500 "usable" sq. ft.
Number of employees: 27
Specialty: Premier custom cabinetry, furniture and millwork for some of "the most discerning and demanding customers" in the tri-state New York metropolitan area.
Equipment: SCM Sanya wide belt sander; two Altendorf sliding table saws; Ott Kantomat edgebander; Kremlin finishing equipment; Hastings air makeup unit; Conquest 13-spindle mini-drill line boring machine; Blum mini-press hinge boring machine; and Microvellum software.
Felix Hendrickson on customer service: "Profit is the applause your client gives you for a job well done."
The resulting staff is, in his words, "a mini-United Nations," with several nationalities and ethnic backgrounds represented. And, helping hold it together is an atmosphere of trust and respect that is fueled by the owners' encouragement. There are monthly "lunch-and-learn" programs in the shop, and safety training also is offered every month.

Rapid growth
The Hendricksons have 27 employees at HCC, up from 21 just a few months ago. In 2003, when the business was launched, there were just four. Focusing on residential high-end custom cabinetry and architectural millwork for "high net-worth individuals, celebrity homes and buildings of architectural note," the company has no retail presence, working exclusively through architects, interior designers and general contractors.

The biggest market is nearby Manhattan, the city's toniest borough, where, says Felix, "We deal with some of the most discerning and demanding customers that can be found anywhere. Our typical large job two years ago was about $100,000, and now it is around $300,000."

Hendrickson isn't bragging, just reporting a fact. But if he chose to, he would have plenty to brag about. A native of Ridgewood, N.J., and no stranger to metropolitan New York, he went off to college in Wooster, Ohio, but never finished. Instead, he dropped out to pursue a career as a drummer with rock and blues bands.