Strong Ties: Barclay Simpson: Business, Philanthropy, Leadership, and the Bay Area by Katharine Ogden Michaels with Judith K. Adamson [Revised Edition]

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An in-depth look at the life of Oakland, California native, Barclay Simpson, Strong Ties focuses on the set of convictions and leadership qualities that allowed Simpson to build a successful business from nothing and to become one of the major philanthropists in the San Francisco Bay Area. A Navy pilot during World War II, he didn’t graduate from college until over 20 years after he dropped out of UC Berkeley in 1946 to help save his father’s Emeryville-based window screens business from bankruptcy. Largely self-taught, he went on in 1956 to found Simpson Manufacturing Co, Inc., which he grew from a small, artisan business that fabricated metal connectors into a world-wide, publicly-traded company, known throughout the construction industry as a manufacturer of over 4000 distinct, highly engineered products for tying one structural element to another in residential and commercial projects.

In building the company, he developed a set of company principles―revolutionary for their times―that placed employees at the center of his business. Central to these principles was a compensation system that included broad-based, quarterly profit-sharing along with employee development and education programs that promoted hiring from within the ranks of the company, thereby allowing employees to build life-long careers in which many were able to go from hourly production line labor to management.

As US companies increasingly grapple with the role of capitalism in giving back to their employees and the communities in which they are based, Barclay Simpson’s philosophy makes for a particularly unusual and relevant American business story. Equally pertinent in these volatile times is the story of how he successfully transferred his core business principles to his philanthropic work, providing major financial and in-kind support to such East Bay non-profit organizations as UC Berkeley, Girls Inc of Alameda County, the California College of the Arts, the Oakland Museum, the California Shakespeare Theater and many others, with a special focus on the arts and the education of low income kids.

A story of Barclay Simpson’s leadership style as both a business man and a philanthropist, Strong Ties chronicles the astounding continuity between his views on making money, and giving it away.