Skaltek opens U.S. headquarters in Forsyth
Coil packaging company takes unique business perspective
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — For Ralph Skalleberg, entrepreneurship runs in his blood. And because of that, he runs his business, Skaltek America, a bit differently than others. But don’t call him the boss.
“We have no room for managers, but if you want to be a servant we have room,” Skalleberg said. “Who has the right to be boss over someone else? We are responsible to make a better world. I had the chance to build this and wanted to build something fantastic.”
And build something fantastic, he did. The company, founded in 1981, makes packaging machines for electric cable and has customers in 60 countries. It is a family-run business and Skalleberg is second generation. Additionally, the company is involved in the fiber optics industry, telecommunications and power grids.
Skaltek bought the 38 acres it sits on 18 years ago for their recently opened American headquarters at 5601 Shiloh Road, but it was waiting for the right time to build. Then in April 2014, Skalleberg began designing the building, broke ground in January 2016 and moved in 11 months later.
Before occupying this space, the company was headquartered in Norcross. But since Skalleberg, who is a former semi-professional water skier, moved to Lake Lanier in the 1990s, he knew he wanted to build farther north.
“Forsyth County is an interesting county,” Skalleberg said. “I was in Gwinnett County when it ‘took off.’ I remember it well. Gwinnett County didn’t preserve a lot of greenspace. People were greedy and did whatever they could. I feel for the most part Forsyth County has learned from Gwinnett County and is protecting the land.”
Playing off that mindset, the building itself has a lot of the company’s philosophies built into it, he said, including no walls in the office area.
“By tradition, people are forced to think in a hierarchic organization,” Skalleberg said. “The boss is at the top, and if something goes wrong, you typically push up [the chain of command] until you get somewhere. Then those guys are trying to push down. So you have a recycling of lack of responsibility. We take the pyramid and turn it upside down. You are supposed to see the individual as much as possible with full access. To get full access, you get rid of the walls.”
The space has plenty of natural light, and is clean with crisp colors and open spaces. While sitting in the office area, large windows show the manufacturing side of the company.
“In corporate America, people are treated like rats,” Skalleberg said. “We wanted people to have total access and for people to see exactly what’s going on in the manufacturing space. Those guys’ days and life quality go up because this company actually invests in them.”
The site backs up to wildlife, sometimes giving employees a look into nature with deer and a heron often seen out the windows.
“All answers are in nature, so we are close to nature,” Skalleberg said. “When you’re connected to nature you learn to behave. Atlanta is a master of destroying land. To be a good steward of the land is a key thing.”
But inside the walls, the space provides room for testing products, research development and assembly. While Skaltek doesn’t actually make wire, just the machines that make the wire, they give their customers plenty of space to test out ideas.
“I trust good examples, but not leaders,” Skalleberg said. “We look at new governments coming in and the people are called public servants. I don’t know how serving they are, it’s more self-serving. It’s dishonestly that I don’t care for. As we run this business, we have a chance to show a better way. It’s my desire, and it pays off.”