DECATUR – Katie Eytchison never expected to find a second family in her workplace, but that’s exactly what she discovered when she began working at Peerless Cleaning and Restoration Services last year.
“I’ve never worked anywhere like this,” said Eytchison, a customer service representative. “Everyone is invested in everybody else and it feels like a family to me.”
Whether its pulling together to help accommodate a co-worker’s need for time off, supporting each other during long days or enjoying Christmas parties and cookouts together, the Peerless staff is there for each other.
They credit Brad Wike, the company's CEO and president, with inspiring a positive workplace culture.
“My favorite thing about this job is that we have a CEO and a management team that really cares about its employees more than I’ve ever known or dealt with before,” Eytchison explained. “I think Brad is sincerely invested in all of us … his office is right across from me and he says hi to me every morning and asks me how I’m doing.
“He’s the CEO of a company and if I need to talk to him, I can walk into his office and he encourages that,” she said. “For someone like me who’s in an entry-level position, to have that time with the CEO, that’s really unusual but great.”
Peerless General Manager Debbie Whitney echoed Eytchison’s sentiments.
“I wouldn’t willingly go work for anybody else at this stage in my life,” said Whitney, who’s worked for Peerless the past 12 years. “I had an experience a couple of years ago and he was like, ‘Hey, no worries. Take care of what you need to take care of,’ and we try to make sure that is extended to all of our employees. And he sets that example, he really does.”
Founded in 1945, the Decatur business started out small, employing only four people and specializing in household care and dry cleaning services under the ownership of Harold and Jean Bird. Thirty-three years later, Scott and Linda Wike purchased Peerless and today, 12 years after their son, Brad, bought the company, Peerless continues to grow and evolve. It now employs more than 40 people in its Decatur and Springfield offices and specializes in dry cleaning, carpet and upholstery cleaning, air duct cleaning, fire and water restoration and mold remediation.
From cleaning up trauma scenes and handling raw sewer backups and flooding to dry cleaning clothes in a stifling dry cleaning plant and helping restore homes and their contents after fires, Peerless employees work hard and have high expectations to live up to.
“Many of the things we do for people occur when things are chaotic or not good, and we want to make sure that you know and you believe that once the job is done, that everything is better or at least back to its as-was condition. I would like to think that people feel like if they’re ever hired us, that there was value there,” Wike said.
Built on the values of world-class service, loyalty, courage, integrity and winning, as well as a company mission of enhancing the lives of Peerless employees and customers, Wike said the company’s original core values and mission are still integral to Peerless today.
“My mom and dad provided world-class service – they treated people like they wanted to be treated, lived the Golden Rule and gave back to the community,” he said “They lived all that … and about eight years ago, during a strategic planning meeting, we identified my parents’ core values (and saw that those were still present in the company) but also thought the core values of loyalty and winning are who we are now.
“We provide emergency service and work 24 hours a day 365 days of the year,” Wike continued, “and that impacts our employees’ lives. So if we want someone to come onboard, we want them to have a winning attitude because the work is not always fun, but it’s what we do and our customers are counting on us.”
While Peerless’ reputation is largely built upon excellent service and hard work, Wike and his employees still embrace fun and laughter whenever they can.
“We like to have fun and work hard,” Whitney said. “We try to have employee appreciation things a couple times a year, at least. We had a hog roast (in mid-August) and so we closed at 1 p.m. and we headed to our warehouse and played human ‘Hungry, Hungry Hippos’ and some games.
“We raised money for United Way by letting our employees throw pies at our faces and (Wike) stood there and took his pies to the face and then took a hose after everybody when he was done,” she continued, laughing. “So we like to have fun, but we also work hard, and I think that shows.”
With picnics, cookouts, Christmas parties, Halloween events and quarterly meetings during which employees learn about the company’s financials and are recognized for their outstanding work, Eytchison said Peerless employees always feel valued.
“Brad and the management team is really good about giving kudos when people do things they think are really exemplary of the core values of the company, so everyone knows you’re doing a good job and that’s really nice,” she said.
Whitney and Wike said they couldn’t be more proud of their employees.
“The employees are absolutely the backbone of the company and what we do,” Whitney said. “They represent us at every point and they’re very important. I think that’s why this is a collaborative effort. We know they represent us and we care about them, and in the service industry, I think you have to.”
“I feel like we have a lot of loyal people here and people who share the same vision that I have,” agreed Wike. “They do whatever it takes for our clients and the customers, and that makes me really proud because not a day goes by that I’m in the community or doing something socially that somebody doesn’t come up to me and say, ‘You have the best people,’ or ‘How do you find those people? How do you keep those people?’ and those things make you really proud at the end of the day.”