A Rising Tide

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A Rising Tide

CEO Cheryl Beranek lifts morale and revenues.

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By Elizabeth Child

Nothing motivates Cheryl Beranek like being told she can’t do something — just because she’s a woman. “You can’t let anybody dictate your future,” she declares.

As CEO and president of Clearfield, Inc., a Plymouth based specialist in fiber management and connectivity platforms for communications providers, Beranek has been proving her worth since she was passed over for a well-earned promotion early in her career.

Her boss had left the company, and Beranek was directing the marketing department — though without the title or salary. One day she overheard the CEO and the president talking in the hallway. “A woman will never be the head of marketing at my company,” one of the men said. Six weeks later, Beranek had secured “a better job at a better company” and launched a career that took her through progressively more responsible positions in marketing and operations.

Beranek was working as president of a division of APA Enterprises, Clearfield’s legacy company, when she was named CEO of the rebranded, refocused organization. In the five years since, she’s created the kind of company she wants to work for — one that values community and rewards performance.

Early in her tenure, Beranek asked Clearfield’s board of directors for an incentive they thought they’d never have to pay. Once the company had cleared the first $1 million, she requested that employees split the remaining profits 50–50 with shareholders. Beranek was able to distribute $600,000 to employees that year.

In 2013 Clearfield increased revenue by 42 percent over the previous year and 83 percent during the fourth quarter. Beranek invited all 170 employees and their spouses on an all-expenses-paid cruise from Miami to the Bahamas last December to celebrate the success. Those who couldn’t get away for the pre-Christmas trip received monetary rewards instead.

The hands-on CEO, who writes her own blog, aims to recreate the feeling of community she knew as a girl growing up near New Ulm, Minnesota. Beranek throws a “Gratefulness Party” for all employees and their families during Thanksgiving season.

The personal touch works: In 2013 Clearfield ranked No. 14 on Forbes’ annual list of America’s Best Small Companies with less than $1 billion in sales.