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SwimWays Corp.: Best small company

Updated: July 21, 2011 - 10:31 am

Posted: July 15, 2011

Despite the relaxed and fun nature of their work environment, the leadership at SwimWays Corp. has placed a serious emphasis on trust within the company.

"I am very inclusive in terms of the success or failure of the business," said David Arias, president of the family-owned company. "I've done that by setting common goals that we are working toward - and our bonuses [are based] on those common goals."

Every month managers get together and review the company's financials, reporting back to their teams. The open accounting system at the company is supported so that employees "have an understanding and can contribute" to the company's financial success, Arias said.

The Virginia Beach-based company, is run by Manny Arias, the CEO, and his two sons, Jeff, the senior vice president, and David Arias. Valeria Arias, David's wife, also works as the company's director of information systems.

SwimWays manufactures swimming pool toys, a line of products that helps teach children to swim, portable outdoor furniture and other recreational products for outdoors.

The business was originally a small division of Mattel Inc., located in Virginia Beach, and was acquired in 1994, becoming SwimWays Corp.

The company has a manufacturing facility, as well as an office work space for employees.

"I've worked at large companies and small companies, and this, to me, is a great mixture of both," said Kim Coats, human resource manager at SwimWays. "We are laid-back and casually dressed every day. We can wear jeans, flip-flops and T-shirts, but we are still creative and innovative, and are the leaders of what we do.

"It's not just fun and games, because everyone is serious about what we do," she said.

Being open with employees about the company's status helps prevent backbiting, gives employees a clear goal and keeps the company tight-knit, Arias said.

"It's not a shroud of secrecy like it is in other companies," Arias said of their financial status.

Other things that help boost company morale include birthday recognition, various contests and sporting events like volleyball and basketball games, and the yearly company picnic - which this past year, gave employees the choice to go parasailing or dolphin watching.

"A lot of our employees have been here for a very, very long time," Arias said.

The company also has a program in place that helps new employees feel welcome and acclimated with their new surroundings.

N.E.A.T. Week, which stands for "new employee assimilation and training," includes a process where existing employees and new ones interview one another, finding out about their background and job duties.

"As we get bigger, it may become more difficult to do this, but for the time being, it's a small company and it doesn't make sense for everyone not to know everybody," Arias said.

"By the end of the week, they know almost everyone at the company, and know a little bit about them personally too." nib

- Danielle Walker