Founder: Howard Vipperman Sr.
Headquarters: La Habra, Calif.
Number of employees: More than 100.
Key family members active in the company: Howard Vipperman (son of founder), CEO; Kathy LeClair (daughter of founder), chief financial officer; Tom LeClair (Kathy's husband), vice president of sales; Deena Campana (granddaughter of founder), vice president; Cindy LeClair (Tom and Kathy's daughter), vice president of marketing; Melissa Perez (Tom and Kathy's daughter), accounting manager; Albert Perez (Melissa's husband), aerospace manager; Brent Westbrook (son-in-law to current CEO Howard Vipperman), sales manager.
What it does: Vip Rubber provides high-quality extruded, molded and calendered products. The firm said it abides to the highest quality standards and “will not stop until our customers have a successful part.” Vip understands its customers need solutions specific to their industry.
Vip's core competencies include rubber extrusion, plastic extrusion, molded rubber and rubber sheet. It also has a fabrication department that can splice parts, apply adhesive, slit and cut to length, and perform many other actions. It also is a Boeing-approved facility and can produce products that meet several Boeing specifications.
What are the strengths of a family owned business? It is wonderful to be able to work with family and see everyone so often. Many people are not close with their families; we are so very blessed. This flows over to our employees who also are like family.
What are the challenges of a family owned business? How were they resolved? One of the biggest disadvantages is that we also spend a lot of time together outside of work and tend to want to talk about Vip at family parties and events. We love the company and have a high interest in it, so we do have to be careful to stay balanced.
Howard has led this company so well, there has been little room for these types of issues. We all understand our roles in the company and respect each other's space. Everyone is wildly talented in their own area, and we are all humble enough to want to learn from each other rather than to step on toes. Respect is the underlying current at Vip.
Deena has been working on the succession plan, and the third generation does meet to discuss that. We have some very big shoes to fill, and are carefully watching the second generation in order to learn. With 55 years of success behind them, clearly they have done a fantastic job.
In terms of challenges, the biggest problem we face is simply the fluctuations in the economy. Learning to predict these movements, and adjusting accordingly is always a challenge.
How does the younger generation influence business decisions? The younger generation is grabbing hold of the technology world via the internet and really utilizing our website and SEO principles. We absolutely still see the value of a personal sales visit, and the relationship building that comes with face-to-face communication, but we also understand the gravity of the internet as well.
In addition, the third generation has had new and fresh ideas that have helped the company grow. The combination of second-generation wisdom and third-generation creativity has proven to be quite powerful.
How have the older generations turned over responsibility to the next generation? The older generation has entrusted many parts of the business to the younger generation. There are more of the younger generation (in numbers), so we are able to learn as we go. The leaders in our company are readily available and very generous in terms of patience and sharing wisdom. They are very much invested and supportive of the younger generation's success.
Something you might not know about the company: Vip was founded in 1961 by Howard Vipperman Sr., known to most as “Big Vip.” After completing his duty in the military, Big Vip began his career in the rubber and plastic industry as a gasket cutter. After years of dedication he worked his way up through the company, gaining valuable experience and knowledge in all areas of the industry. Then during a break from manufacturing, Big Vip purchased and operated a bar in Sepulveda, Ca., called the Woodsman.
He was ultimately able to sell the bar and make enough profit to begin his business, which is how Vip Rubber and Plastic came into existence.
A company called Powers Rubber had gone out of business, so Big Vip took what money he had and rehabilitated it under new ownership and with the new name.
With only two employees, he leased the building and equipment and relied on his charisma, charm, friendships and strong business sense to generate business. Kathy (Vipperman) LeClair, Big Vip's daughter and current CFO of the company, remembers her father fondly.
“In 1961, my brother and sisters and I would all drive down with dad on Saturdays so Mom could clean the offices, and we would all help. We painted and did other housekeeping as well. Mom would wash and wax the floors on her hands and knees. We worked in the factory as well, doing different jobs like trimming, sorting and counting parts. We all had a lot of love for this company.”
In 1964 Big Vip's wife Bernardyne Vipperman joined her husband at the company. Although Big Vip was a little unsure about this arrangement, it soon became a fantastic partnership, and the business became more and more successful. Big Vip kept his focus on treating customers like friends and giving the best possible product at the best possible price. In 1966, Vip added plastic to its list of manufacturing capabilities.
Big Vip died in 1979. His son, Howard Wayne Vipperman, stepped in to lead and now heads a team of more than 100 sales, service, technical and manufacturing staff as CEO.
How do you maintain a work/life balance with home life dominated by people who are also at work? As a family, we have a lot of other shared interests. There are several grandchildren, so we have plenty of soccer and softball games to focus on, as well as theater and school activities. We are all USC and Angels fans as well.
We do a really good job of maintaining a professional attitude at work and leaving personal things out of it. We respect boundaries and privacy in all areas and give each other room to live out our own lives as we wish. There is a sense of family with real threads of independence woven through it.
How are family members brought into the business? Family members typically work their way through the company. Most begin with summer jobs during high school or college, or come in after several years of their own work experience.