“Armstrong’s Secret Weapon: Creativity”

When advised to “loosen up,” a sales manager at Armstrong International dreamed up an imaginative Christmas card: He was photographed in a Santa Claus suit sitting on a pump trap — one of the company’s core products.The card generated more response from customers than had a previous promotional mailer, prompting the manager to continue the creativity.

No surprise to David Armstrong, the company’s COO. In fact, “creativity and fun” are key components of Armstrong’s corporate strategy. “Our products are boring,” admits Armstrong, fourth generation at the company, which generates more than $100 million in annual sales with its steam-related products. “So why not make doing business with us as entertaining as possible?”

Blasting the competition: “It’s a marketing weapon,” adds Armstrong. A little imagination goes a long way to taking price out of the competitive equation.

Visit his company’s campus in Three Rivers, Mich., and you’ll sign the guest registry with a crayon. The boardroom there resembles Tiger Stadium with a dugout for executives and stadium seating for guests.

Yet what might be perceived as silliness has plenty of substance.

Reinforcing the mission: Painted golf carts and people movers depict fast animals, alluding to Armstrong’s motto “Consider it done.”

Setting themselves apart from the beginning: The waiting room in Three Rivers has coffee and cookies set out for guests.

Including everybody: One break room has a tropical island theme, with a humidifier creating “mist” for extra ambience.

Happier workers produce a higher-quality product, he believes, and have better production records and improved relations with other workers.

Writer: TJ Becker