St. Petersburg-based manufacturer offers each employee a bonus of $ 1,000 • St Pete Catalyst
From janitors to mechanical engineers, Christmas is shaping up to be a little happier for the 113 employees of St. Petersburg-based SS White Technologies and Shukla Medical, after CEO Rahul Shukla recently surprised all of them with bonuses of. $ 1,000.
On December 16, Shukla asked Sheryl Nadler, head of human resources and marketing, to send a company-wide email to employees notifying them of a mandatory meeting after their shift. The email didn’t provide any details, and in these uncertain economic times after a pandemic, Shukla admitted he knew his employees were nervous.
Shukla, who said his sense of humor is as big as his heart, began his speech by thanking his employees for their loyalty amid a period of high turnover. Shukla said people left for no good reason during the pandemic. He explained that he usually employs 125 people and now has only 113, but businesses continue to operate well. After a speech that could have preceded bad news, Shukla explained to his employees the reason for the meeting.
âThen I said everyone was going to get a check for $ 1,000,â Shukla echoed enthusiastically. “And I said, ‘When? Right after this meeting because the checks are done! ‘â
Shukla said the employees were surprised and delighted with the gesture.
âI have been with SS White for four years,â Brandy Roche, an assembly operator, said in a statement. âSir. Shukla was good to us, but it was right over, and everyone was completely shocked.
Shukla’s journey to becoming CEO of SS White helps explain the level of appreciation he brings to all of his employees, regardless of job title. Shukla, 74, emigrated from India to the United States in 1971. He enrolled at Rutgers University and obtained his master’s degree. He started to pursue his doctorate. but said he had no more money.
âSo completely – I was completely broke,â Shukla said.
Despite his graduate degree, Shukla accepted a job with SS White as a factory worker and said the company was very kind to him. Shukla said SS White, founded in 1844, is one of the oldest manufacturing companies in the country. He rose through the ranks to a designer, then became director of industrial engineering and finally director of research and development. Barely 15 years after starting with SS White in 1973, Shukla bought the company.
âI have never forgotten my roots,â said Shukla. “I’ve run the business for the past 32 years – not just with my mind, but really with my heart.”
Shukla said that in 1988, the then 144-year-old company was on the verge of breathlessness and on the verge of shutting down. The business was for sale and the asking price was $ 6 million. Shukla returned home and told his wife that they should buy the SS White.
“She said, ‘we have $ 6,000,'” Shukla relayed. “I said to my wife, ‘we’re almost there … number six is ââright.’ “
Shukla said he went from bank to bank in New Jersey, and they all laughed at him. Finally, he found a loan to lend him $ 6 million. He bought the business and said he made several changes immediately, and the business has been going well since.
âEven in these tough economic times, we’ve always been profitable,â Shukla said. âSo I always want to make sure that we take care of our employees. “
Shukla said the company received a PPP loan from the government during the pandemic and wanted to make sure the money got to its employees. He instituted a temporary increase of $ 1 an hour for employees who continued to work during the difficult times. He said it might not be a lot of money, but let the employees know that they are appreciated.
Even though sales fell 50% at the height of the pandemic, Shukla said he made sure everyone received their regular increases as well. Then he decided to do something very special for the holidays.
âGiving such a gift is unprecedented,â Nadler said in a statement. âBut my boss has always believed in sharing our successes with our employees. “
Shukla said she told his wife that returning the $ 113,000 to her workers was the right thing to do, and she agreed.
âThat was my main reason,â Shukla said. “To make sure I don’t feel bad about taking this government loan and not doing anything for the employees.”
âThere were people with tears in their eyes, and a lot of people said, ‘I can’t believe you did that. “”
Shukla is also a fictional novelist in his spare time. He said he was well known as an author in India and would fly from New Jersey to Florida and rent a house in Belleair Beach whenever he needed to finish a book. Shukla said Florida made him happy and often told his wife about his desire to move.
In 2018, Shukla moved his companies and 40 machine trucks to St. Petersburg in less than a month. SS White manufactures aircraft components and Shukla Medical manufactures orthopedic surgical tools. Both operate from a 90,000 square foot facility on Sheen Drive. Shukla was 71 when he moved his family and businesses to St. Pete, and only 25 employees moved with the business.
âWe had to hire all the new people,â Shukla said. “But (it was) one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
Shukla said that with his age and success, many large companies were asking him to buy out his businesses. He said he repeatedly reminded his employees that he would never sell and that they will always have a home at SS White.
âThis is my promise to our employees – they will retire from this company,â said Shukla. âTo get loyalty, you must first build loyalty.
âAnd so, my loyalty is to our employees. “