It was smooth sailing from the start.

After my alarm clock howled at 3 a.m. — only a few hours removed from preparing my house for a visit from the in-laws — I showered, dressed in my nicest suit and hit the road for the four-hour drive to Indianapolis.

The roads were empty and the sports-radio talk was interesting as it was only hours from the start of the NFL Draft (maybe my favorite non-game time in the sports world). I was able to make my 10 a.m. appointment (with plenty of time to spare) with P-M & Associates, pme’s 2015 Manufacturers Representative of the Year. For the full story on the great folks at P-M & Associates, read our cover story.

After five minutes with P-M’s executive team of COO Steve Hullett, President Rick Meyer and Vice President Michael Henderson, I understood why this company is a premier manufacturers rep in this industry.

First, they understand the people who are sitting across the table. As I previously mentioned, I was wearing a suit and tie. Those who know me are aware a suit is not my favorite attire. I feel constricted and uncomfortable. Hullett quickly sensed that and said it would be perfectly acceptable if I wanted to remove my tie. I met him halfway and unbuttoned the top button and lightly loosened my tie. It is a simple thing, but it made a world of a difference because I felt more at ease and our subsequent conversations flowed like old friends catching up.

P-M & Associates also does not mess around. My first question during our first two-hour interview session was, “What is the mantra that drives business here?” That over-arching question can lead to answers that wax poetic, but they were blunt.

Money. But, money that can be shared among its 14 full-time staff members. Hullett, Meyer and Henderson’s colleagues are the farthest from standard office drones who anxiously wait for the clock to strike 5 p.m. They’re excited to come into work and advance the company’s and their personal goals.

P-M & Associates knows it has to be ready for the future and it has made significant strides by hiring young professionals. Five of P-M & Associates’ employees have been in the industry five years or less, but Hullett, Meyer and Henderson have the utmost confidence in them. The camaraderie the team shows – young and veteran alike – is truly impressive and that is because they work in an environment that allows for growth and ideas from everyone, not just the bosses.

We have all heard plenty of stories from friends or family members about bad work environments. The funny thing is: developing an employee-friendly, collaborative atmosphere does not take a lot of effort or capital. It is simply about the message that comes from the top.

It is working in Indianapolis. I’ve seen it first-hand.