To understand Barclay (Barc) Simpson—founder and prime mover of the Simpson Manufacturing Company– one must first understand his core product. Stripped down to its essence, the Simpson Strong-Tie (also known as a connector) is a piece of bent metal joinery that ties one structural element of a building to another. Among other things, these relatively small, but highly engineered metal pieces make large load-bearing walls unnecessary, allowing architects to open up floor plans and general contractors to reduce building costs, while exponentially increasing the resilience of buildings under the heightened pressures of earthquakes and hurricanes.
From a construction engineering standpoint, the most important change in the connector business came when a simple, generic metal piece was redesigned to be one element in an integrated structural system of metal and non-metal products that both tied together individual framing materials and created what came to be known as “a continuous load path” aimed at lashing together the entire building through the systematic distribution of loads.
This part not only helped Barclay build a fabulously valuable company from nothing, but it also became a symbol of his very particular style of ethical leadership. Above all else Barclay’s genius had to do with making linkages between people—between managers and employees, between businesses and the communities which harbored them, between profit and the support of non-profit organizations that sustain the basic cultural economies of human life–art, education, literacy, and the active assistance of young people from under-resourced communities.
Barclay’s belief in the imperative to tie things together, to distribute loads, to make connections was the underlying metaphor of his life.
Read more about Barclay in my new book Strong Ties: Barclay Simpson and the Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy, coming out May 17, 2022. Click here to pre-order.