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Hooked on culture: Forensic Fluids Laboratories

FFLA rising star in drug testing, Forensic Fluids Laboratories has rapidly grown from a one-woman show in 2005 to more than 60 employees and $12 million in annual revenue.

Founded by Bridget Lorenz Lemberg, the Kalamazoo-based company is the only lab in the country devoted exclusively to saliva drug testing, which is both more convenient and more accurate than urine or hair testing.

Among the company’s strengths is its state-of-the-art technology. Forensic Fluids uses liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, which enables it to identify a far greater range of drugs at lower levels than gas chromatography, an older technology used by many drug testing firms. Liquid chromatography technology is also less environmentally hazardous and faster, enabling Forensic Fluids to deliver test results in 24 hours.

This speed and accuracy are especially important for the child protective service agencies and probation departments that Forensic Fluids serves. It also provides services to physicians, hospitals and clinics that want to know if patients are taking their medications at the right dosage. Its advanced capabilities have also enabled Forensic Fluids to win business from other labs around the country, and it conducts confirmations to determine precisely what drugs are present in positive screenings.

Along with its technological muscle, Forensic Fluids stands out for its unique corporate culture.

The majority of employees are in their mid- to late 20s, and for most of the lab staff, it’s their first post-college job. “Twentysomethings are motivated differently than 40- or 50-year-olds,” says Lorenz Lemberg. “It can also get pretty boring to work in a laboratory, so we’ve tried to develop an environment that keeps everyone engaged.”

One of the first culture-building initiatives Lorenz Lemberg introduced was trash parades. Every couple of weeks, employees wheel a red wagon throughout company offices to collect garbage and deliver to the dumpster. Different departments take turns leading the charge, and employees wear funny hats and blow kazoos to alert colleagues it’s time to come clean.

To further shake things up, the company holds window-decorating contests, where employees can win free pizzas by embellishing interior windows to celebrate different holidays. (Judges are recruited from other companies located within the building.) On the recreational front, the company has organized kickball and dodgeball teams, and for relaxation, employees can sign up for sessions with a massage therapist who visits each Wednesday.

Employees also participate in community events, such as Habitat for Humanity, and Lorenz Lemberg has brought in an English teacher to conduct business-writing workshops. “Millenials are used to texting, which can take a toll on formal communications skills,” she explains.

Customer service is another important part of company culture, and since 2010, Lorenz Lemberg has been sending employees to Zappos’ boot camps, which expose participants to the online retailer’s famous customer service techniques. This includes not just Forensic Fluids salespeople but also lab staff and accountants. “At one point, everyone is responsible for keeping the customer happy, whether or not you’re behind the scenes,” she says.

Although Forensic Fluid’s revenue growth has been impressive, Lorenz Lemberg is most proud of the jobs she is creating. “It’s really satisfying to feel like you’ve had a role in helping people grow,” she says, noting that a couple of employees have just bought their first house and others are having their first child. “Besides helping them earn a livelihood, I hope the company is helping them become better for their next jobs.”

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