Why NuStar's CEO Let an Employee Use the Corporate Jet — For His Dogs!
"Our employees are our number-one asset,” says CEO Brad Barron of why his company offers up the company jet to employees in need. “Without your employees you can’t accomplish anything. So it's just part of our culture."
When Chris Butler decided to accept his company’s offer to be general manager of a facility at a remote, undeveloped Caribbean island in the summer of 2013, he had a dilemma on his hands.
His wife, Erin, and kids Tatum and Coede were all for the move, but they wanted to make sure their dogs, Gretta, then 4, and Jo Boxer, could come too.
“Jo Boxer was about 14 years old,” Butler, now 51, tells PEOPLE. “We’d had her since she was a puppy. She was my father’s and mother’s dog until they passed away, then she became our dog. She wouldn’t have made it had we tried to ship here there, but they wouldn’t ship either dog because they don’t ship dogs in the summer months.”
So Butler looked into all options and decided on driving to Florida from San Antonio, where they lived, and chartering a plane to get the dogs to St. Eustatius, their new home.
“We all loved the dogs, but my kids really loved the dogs and didn’t want to leave them,” he says.
The higher ups at NuStar, where he worked, heard about his dilemma and offered up the company jet.
“I was floored,” he says. “Companies don’t do that kind of thing. Of course my wife and kids were ecstatic.”
NuStar CEO Brad Barron says the reason for the offer was simple.
“Our employees are our number-one asset,” Barron tells PEOPLE. “Without your employees you can’t accomplish anything. So it’s just part of our culture.”
It wasn’t an unusual move either, he says.
“There have been several other instances,” he says. “We had an employee whose son had cancer and he had to go to Indianapolis for special treatments and the doctors said it wasn’t safe for him to fly commercial so we sent the jet.”
This display of corporate heart is one of the reasons NuStar was number 10 on PEOPLE’s first annual list of the Top 50 Companies That Care. PEOPLE partnered with Great Place to Work to compile the rankings, which are based on surveys of 368,298 employees at nearly 1,000 companies across the country.
As for the Butlers, the family — and the dogs — had an uneventful trip and were able to use the jet again to fly back to San Antonio two years later when Butler accepted an offer to be NuStar’s executive director of health, safety and environmental. (Jo Boxer died on the island, but they brought home Pal, now 6, a boxer mix they adopted on the island.)
Butler says to this day he is still blown away by how his employer helping his family.
“My family was also very touched by the fact that they cared enough, not only about my family, but about the pets because they know the impact that a move can have on a family and they wanted to make sure there was as little disruption as possible.
“It made me personally proud to work for NuStar,” he says.