“Kauffman held steadfast to two principles to guide the philosophy and culture of Marion Labs: (1) Share the rewards with those who produce and (2) Treat others as you wish to be treated.” – Megan Cooper and The Kauffman Foundation, BlochNews. 2016
When one thinks of lab cultures, one may think of petri dishes. However, the working atmosphere of a lab can be even more important. In addition to learning from the history of Marion Labs, we can also learn from the culture it and Ewing Kauffman left behind, specifically the Marion Spirit and the two parts of the Marion Way.
The Marion Spirit is one part of the culture for which people remember Marion Labs. The Marion Spirit was the motivation of its employees. According to Leadership The Marion Way, one example of the Marion Spirit occurred during “a winter storm when the mayor of Kansas City was advising that only critical employees should report to work in the morning.” The Marion employees all showed up to work. They knew themselves to be essential to the organization. They also felt empowered to improve products and processes due to the Spirit Suggestion Program, which rewarded employees for suggesting improvements.
According to a 2015 Startland News article about learning from KC entrepreneurs, “Kauffman’s leadership philosophy became known as ‘the Marion Way’.” One component of this philosophy were treating others as one wants to be treated—the “golden rule.” This is essential for a respectful culture in any organization. For example, the article states, “One of the things that set Kauffman apart as an employer was the respect that he had for members of his team – every Marion Labs employee’s title was ‘associate,’ regardless of rank or tenure.”
The second part of the Marion Way is about giving back to the people who made success possible and sharing the rewards. In addition to a profit-sharing plan, which was not common at the time, Kauffman gave back by sharing credit. Barb Geiger, a former Marion Labs employee, states in a 2016 Thinking Bigger Business Media article that Kauffman sent hand-written notes to his employees. She states, “This was the head of the company that took the time to do that.”
The Marion Spirit and the two components of the Marion Way make up the legacy of Marion Labs and the culture it left behind. Orbis Biosciences® has incorporated both of these values into The Way We Work—a guide to working at Orbis and upholding the values of our culture. One day Orbis may be known not only for its Precision Particle FabricationTM and patient-focused products, but also for the Orbis spirit and the Orbis way.