Working their way up

Stalwart Telescope employees promoted to key front office jobs

 

Rick Butler and Robin Dodge have worked a lifetime at Telescope Casual Furniture. Between them, they have 67 years of accrued time, having worked their way up from the production floor to the front office through a series of ever-changing and increasingly demanding jobs.

Dodge and Butler were promoted to new positions late in 2008, CEO Cathy Juckett said recently.

Dodge was named vice president of strategic implementation and also named to the 106-year-old company’s board of directors.

“It just kind of happened all in one day. I almost fainted – they just sprung it on me,” Dodge said.

Dodge started with the company in 1979 working on the production floor in the sewing room.

She said her father-in-law, Leonard Dodge, retired from the company after working some 60 years, “I always thought that if I could get a job at Telescope that would be awesome,” she said.

After getting started in production and sewing, Dodge said she held various jobs throughout the factory, taking on additional responsibilities over time.

“There isn’t too much that I didn’t do in the plant,” she said. While working in customer service, she said she enjoyed getting to know all of the dealers. It was a place the knowledge from the production floor came in handy. In a company that prefers to promote from within, each of her positions has informed the other to some extent, she said.

Working as fabric coordinator, Dodge said, she enjoyed selecting the fabrics that would become the chairs in the company lines and saw an expansion of the swatch book up to its current 180-fabric level. The book, which is more than 4inches thick, was a portion of that in the past. The book takes the guesswork out of coordinating colors for customers who are concerned about customization among large numbers of pieces.

Most recently Dodge said she has been a part of the design team.

Dodge said she’s a big fan of technology and gets the most out of her iPhone, but also uses a good old-fashioned wall calendar to keep others on the same page.

The calendar is attached to the outside of her office door where anyone who needs to can swing by and figure out if they are a part of a meeting and when the meeting will be taking place.

The new job is all about coordinating the efforts of others to make sure big picture comes together correctly and on time, she said.

“It’s problem solving and coordination,” Dodge said, noting that she meets with everyone, from foremen on the production floor to research and development people and the design teams, to ensure everyone is on time and has what they need to meet their goals.

Dodge said she definitely could not have advanced without the support of her family –husband Dwayne and her three children Tonya, Terilee and Darren.

Butler, Telescope’s vice president of product development, is in his 37th year with the company and adjusting to his newest title.

Butler said he works with the designers, engineers and many others in the job,

“I’m responsible for taking designs and making them a reality,” he said.

Much of Butler’s job is figuring out how materials will be used to build Telescope products and even figuring out or inventing the process to make new products happen.

Butler said his group will sometimes build multiple versions of a potential new product to ensure it is of the correct scale, is sturdy enough and even looks right,

“A product has to have the proper perceived value to the consumer,” he said.

“We’ll kick the tires and make sure it’s a good product,” he said. After all of that, Butler said, he has to make sure the product can get to the customers and arrive intact or ready to be assembled, as in the case of most tables.

Because of Telescope’s position in the marketplace, Butler said, customers have high expectations for the products he helps bring about, both in terms of variety and durability.

 “It’s very important in the marketplace to offer furniture that will stand the test of time – that’s certainly a major selling point of Telescope Furniture,” Butler said.

Butler said he grew up in the area on a dairy farm in Raceville until he started working at General Electric Co. in its drafting program.

Butler said he left GE to return to the farm as it was winding down and was looking for another job when an opportunity at Telescope came along.

Starting as many others have, Butler was doing piecework on the production floor assembling folding beach chairs, “That was the cornerstone of our business back then,” he said.

The company was cranking out about 500,000 director’s chairs and more than 1 million beach chairs each year.

“We had production lines that were putting out 1,000 chairs per shift,” he said.

“That was an OK way to get started, but I was looking for more of a challenge,” Butler said.

The challenge came in moving into the tool room and from there he just kept taking on new challenges within the company. Something Butler said he has always appreciated about the company is the atmosphere where input from employees is considered as well as promotion from within. “We’re just a couple of a lot of people who have done the same thing,” he said referring to Dodge.

From there Butler said he “migrated” into supervision. “That’s what my career has been, just one long migration,” he quipped.

Butler also credits his family, wife Pam and three sons Adam, Seth and Nathan, with supporting him over the years.

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