It’s simple and it’s revolutionary. [Barclay’s] so-called “secret sauce” is pretty straight-forward:
treat people well, give them a vested interest, pay them properly, support
their kids, and make a community out of the business.
Jennifer Chatman, Professor UC Berkeley Haas Business School, Simpson Manufacturing Board of Directors 2004 to the present.
The subtitle of Strong Ties has an almost quaint or archaic ring to it: “Barclay Simpson and The Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy”. “The Common Good”, as if there were any way to agree on such an anodyne concept in this time of polarized and ideological politics. Yet it was exactly the “common good” that Barclay intrepidly sought in building Simpson Strong-Ties (SST) from nothing, starting in the early 1950’s. For him, the idea seemed obvious: it literally meant making “a community out of the business.” And, not only did he think that this “was the right thing to do”, he thought it “was good for the bottom line”. What was decidedly “uncommon” about Barclay was that he thought that there was no inherent conflict between making money and building a community of interest and care.

In concrete terms, for Barclay, pursuing the common good in business involved establishing a profit-sharing program for everyone in the company, from hourly labor on up, so that people’s fortunes rose and fell together; never paying himself more than around $ 250,000 a year in salary, though profit-sharing and stock ultimately made him wealthy; promoting from within, based on merit, so that even people who started out at SST without a high school degree might end a 30-40 year career as members of upper management (and as millionaires); offering generous employee health care and pension benefits, before these were even mandated by the unions; fostering diversity and female leadership at the very highest levels of the company.
Quite literally, Barclay made a kind of philanthropy out of the business, and in doing so guided Simpson-named businesses from an annual net profit of around $ 100,000 in 1946 to $ 1.573 Billion in Net Sales in 2021.

Having made it, he then began to give money away, including to some of the most important non-profit arts and education institutions in the East Bay. The core of his life’s work was to break down the apparent divide between business and philanthropy—to bring them together in the pursuit of the common good.