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Strong Ties: Barclay Simpson and the Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy

Strong Ties: Barclay Simpson and the Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy

by Katharine Ogden Michaels, Judith K. Adamson (With)
Strong Ties: Barclay Simpson and the Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy

Strong Ties: Barclay Simpson and the Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy

by Katharine Ogden Michaels, Judith K. Adamson (With)


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An in-depth look at the life of Oakland, California native, Barclay Simpson, Strong Ties focuses on the set of convictions and leadership qualities that allowed Simpson to build a successful business from nothing and to become one of the major philanthropists in the San Francisco Bay Area. A Navy pilot during World War II, he didn’t graduate from college until over 20 years after he dropped out of UC Berkeley in 1946 to help save his father’s Emeryville-based window screens business from bankruptcy. Largely self-taught, he went on in 1956 to found Simpson Manufacturing Co, Inc., which he grew from a small, artisan business that fabricated metal connectors into a world-wide, publicly-traded company, known throughout the construction industry as a manufacturer of over 4000 distinct, highly engineered products for tying one structural element to another in residential and commercial projects.

In building the company, he developed a set of company principles—revolutionary for their times—that placed employees at the center of his business. Central to these principles was a compensation system that included broad-based, quarterly profit-sharing along with employee development and education programs that promoted hiring from within the ranks of the company, thereby allowing employees to build life-long careers in which many were able to go from hourly production line labor to management.

As US companies increasingly grapple with the role of capitalism in giving back to their employees and the communities in which they are based, Barclay Simpson’s philosophy makes for a particularly unusual and relevant American business story. Equally pertinent in these volatile times is the story of how he successfully transferred his core business principles to his philanthropic work, providing major financial and in-kind support to such East Bay non-profit organizations as UC Berkeley, Girls Inc of Alameda County, the California College of the Arts, the Oakland Museum, the California Shakespeare Theater and many others, with a special focus on the arts and the education of low income kids.

A story of Barclay Simpson’s leadership style as both a business man and a philanthropist, Strong Ties chronicles the astounding continuity between his views on making money, and giving it away.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781644282175
Publisher: Rare Bird Books
Publication date: 05/17/2022
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Katharine Ogden Michaels is the lead writer of The Gambler, a 1997 dramatic film written in collaboration with famed Director Karoly Makk, that won awards at the Brussels, Emden, and Festroia-Troia International Film Festivals. From 2012 to the present she has regularly published essays in the Literary Quarterly, The Threepenny Review, and has recently written an introduction to a new Italian translation of the Joseph Conrad novel The Mirror of the Sea, to be published by Rizzoli in June 2021. She is the co-author of Rembrandt, a Catalogue for a 1989 show of original prints by the artist at the Barclay Simpson Art Gallery in Lafayette, CA. Literary Executor and Editor for the work of award-winning writer Leonard Michaels, she published selected fiction and non-fiction collections of his work in 2007 and 2009. Katharine Michaels is currently working on a fictional memoir called The Fourth Wife. She splits her time between Berkeley, CA and Umbria, Italy.

Judith K. Adamson is the author of Backyard Beekeepers of the Bay Area. From 1995 on, as owner of a personal history business, Recollections, she was a ghostwriter for several published personal histories. Currently in semi-retirement, she is editor and book designer for books published by The Lake George Historical Association. She resides in California’s Delta.

Table of Contents

Prologue: In the Gallery 13

Part I Genes and Good Luck

Chapter 1 Up on the Roof: Snapshot of Pearl Harbor from the Bay 25

Chapter 2 Origins: Scottish, Yankee, and Oakland Roots 27

Chapter 3 From Here to Eternity: Berkeley to Alaska to Tokyo 1939-1945 38

Chapter 4 Home Again 42

Chapter 5 The Family Business 45

Chapter 6 A Knock on the Door 50

Chapter 7 Bill 54

Part II Essence of a Business

Chapter 8 Product: The Leap into Connectors 59

Chapter 9 Place: From East Oakland to San Leandro 64

Chapter 10 People: Giants and Genius 67

Chapter 11 Principles: A Secular Catechism 79

Chapter 12 Practice: The Making of the Simpson Brand 93

Part III From Artisan Business to Technical Powerhouse

Chapter 13 Two-Headed Command; Continuity and Change 111

Chapter 14 Entrepreneurship and the Reiterative Process 125

Chapter 15 Expansion 129

Chapter 16 Transmitting the Creed 134

Part IV Sharon and the Double Family

Chapter 17 Courtship 141

Chapter 18 The Double Family 149

Chapter 19 After the Wedding: The Crowded Condo, Winnie in DC, and Rolling in the Snow 157

Chapter 20 Special Projects, Pruning, and Housing a Marriage 162

Part V Other Passions

Chapter 21 Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) 169

Chapter 22 Art Collecting and the Gallery 181

Part VI Put Something Back: Conviction in Action

Chapter 23 Motives and Methods of Philanthropy 203

Chapter 24 The PSB Fund 209

Chapter 25 The Art of Giving to the Arts 212

Chapter 26 University of California at Berkeley: Pole Star 223

Chapter 27 Girls Inc. of Alameda County, California (Girls Inc.): Transformational Giving 242

Part VII Success and Succession: New Cooks in the Sauce

Chapter 28 Tone at the Top 267

Chapter 29 The Simpson Manufacturing Company, Inc. Board of Directors 269

Chapter 30 Salesman in Chief Again 272

Chapter 31 End of an Era, Beginning of an Era 277

Chapter 32 Tweaking the Sauce and the Big Hand-Off 282

Part VIII Retirement

Chapter 33 The Wager 291

Chapter 34 Letters to and from a "Servant Leader" 292

Chapter 35 Sightings: Brilliant Plumage 297

Chapter 36 Acknowledgments from the Community: The Berkeley Medal 299

Chapter 37 2014: Passages 302

Chapter 38 Legacy: Measuring Value 304

Epilogue: Back in the Gallery 313

Interviewees: Bios 315

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