Monday, August 13, 2001

Daily Grind

Troops at the front rewarded

        Every company that has a sales force probably has an incentive or two for their account executives. It is one of the better ways to keep the phones lit up, ensure that revenues continue to chug into company coffers and guarantee that clients have somebody to whine to who will listen.

        The company that employs account executives but has a compensation package that does not include an incentive is bailing a swamped rowboat with tablespoons not buckets.

        Senior officials at Cintas Corp. realized this year that national sales executives in their 11 regions in North America could not do it all and, in fact, were probably not doing it all when it came to meeting sales goals.

        The front-line workers were doing their share but not getting credit. Front-line workers at Cintas are called service sales representatives, whom most view as delivery men.

        They bring the company's crisp, clean uniforms to customers week in and week out and were considered unsung heroes by leaders in the home office.

        To reward those employees, the Mason-based company created a program where people who reached their sales goals were registered for a drawing every time those goals were met. The more sales, the more chances to win.

Eyes on prize

        In June, Cintas drew a name from the bin for each region, and those service sales representatives and their spouses won a trip to Cincinnati and a $1,500 prize.

        Friday, Cintas executives capped the drivers' visit to Cincinnati and recognized the pivotal role that drivers have at the company with a ceremony and by giving away a PT Cruiser.

        Frank Genslak of Detroit won the car.

        It was a popular program, too. “Just out of our Great Lakes region, 149 people qualified, and that means everybody got involved,” Mr. Genslak said.

        Brad Saltz, director of SS&G Financial Services, a certified public accountancy firm with offices in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Cincinnati, said employee reward programs have very little downside for a company.

        “I think these kinds of efforts are very beneficial, and more companies should do them,” Mr. Saltz said. “It doesn't even have to be a large dollar amount.

        “If employees feel that a company is paying attention to them and recognizes their value, even in small ways, say pizza on Fridays, it can be very important. Programs that aren't structured, that are spur-of-the-moment, have even more value.”

Salute workers

        Finding a way to salute front-line workers — cashiers, operators and customer service representatives — should be the goal of every large and small business, Mr. Saltz said.

        But companies usually are overwhelmed with issues and worries: challenges to building sales, controlling costs, litigation and legislation. Front-line employees can be forgotten.

        The money for the Cintas program, which cost about $50,000, came from increased sales from the contest so it was a win-win for employees and company, said Richard Doggett, director of catalog at Cintas.

        “I think we'll be doing this every year,” he said. “The glory goes to the sales reps, but day-to-day, you have to look at the face of the company, and for the customer, the face of Cintas is the face of a service sales representative.”
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