By Shannon Mayerl
Company culture is a hot topic right now. In my experience, there is a substantial difference between saying you have a great employee culture and having one in real life. Our company, like most, has many different departments. And, like most, we found that comradery was fine inside a department but between departments, it was lacking. When issues arose, an us against them mentality came out, which was contrary to what we had hoped for. We had our once a year holiday party and a summer picnic on occasion, but even at these events, individuals tended to cluster together with the co-workers inside their department.
I hear quite often that employees don’t leave their job, they leave their manager. Feeling like you are a part of the overall team is a critical component of employee job satisfaction. Being a leader, I know that self-discovery is the most effective way of teaching. Our leadership team decided to embrace building morale from an inside-out approach and asked our employees to build the morale themselves. Thus, our Sunshine Committee was created.
The Sunshine Committee is made up of 8 employees from all different departments. The committee meets once a month to strategize, plan and prepare employee engagement opportunities. Each seat on the committee is a 2-year commitment. After 2 years, the employee gives up their seat, so another employee can serve. Those in a leadership role are not allowed to serve on the committee, as this is an employee led initiative. After they serve for two years, they must be off the committee for at least 12 months before they are able to volunteer to re-join. We have staggered when committee seats turn over so there are always people on the committee who know what’s in the works. Two employees who are in their second year step up to serve as Chair and Co-Chair of the committee.
We realize that not every person is going to enjoy or want to participate in every activity. We all have different interests and passions, so the committee is encouraged to plan a wide variety of activities. The committee receives a budget from the company for events. We also hold a sample sale each year and the proceeds from the sale support the committee activities.
Some events are small, like walking around on a hot summer day with popsicles. Some events are bigger, such as our opening day potluck (to kick off the spring). We host a chili cookoff each fall and a baking competition in March with brackets (just like the college playoffs). Around homecoming time, we get into the spirit of competition with theme days and a penny drive, with employees separated into 4 teams, each led by a member of the leadership team with all the proceeds going to a committee selected charity. Lastly, each year our President hosts a holiday party for all employees and guests, to show appreciation for all that the employees do to make the company successful.
Some people think “What could be more boring than developing policies and writing the related procedures/instructions”? Yet developing and documenting procedures (how to do XYZ within your business) is a critical step to having a well-run, profitable, efficient company, especially as your company grows and becomes more than a one-man show. Why listen to me? I have a BA in Political Science, so how does this qualify me to give you advice? My area of focus within my degree field was Public Administration and Policy Development, so there’s that, but more importantly are the 18 years of practical experience I gained working my way up through my company from front-line customer service to the Presidency. Along the way, I ran point on developing nearly every policy and procedure we use at Top Promotions.
The first step to developing an effective policy and writing the procedure that goes with it is to capture a full understanding of the topic/issue at hand. Not only the immediate impact to people and workflow directly related but looking at 2, 3, 4 steps removed (and more) to know your ripple effect. A decision made in one area can have unintended negative results in another area of your business unless you take the time to really understand the full impact.
Draw on the experiences of your employees and continually ask if we do this, how will that be impacted? Perhaps employee A spending an extra 5 minutes at the start of the process will save Employee D 60 minutes at the end of the process. Pro tip: make sure you look at the sum of the parts (a.k.a. the whole picture) before making any decisions.
Once you know what policy is needed, you need to develop the procedure and convey this by writing instructions.
Break down the policy into small steps. What needs to happen first, second, third, etc? I suggest using flow charts to guide your thought process to ensure you don’t miss a critical component. You should also have someone else in the company review your flow charts to confirm they make sense.
Once the policy is broken down into steps, write out the procedures necessary to accomplish these steps:
· Instructions should not be wordy, they should be a step by step action plan.
· Be clear and concise.
· I strongly suggest an outline format; instructions should not be in paragraphs.
· Don’t make assumptions document every step.
· The first time (within a single set of instructions) you use an acronym, spell out what it stands for. TBD (to be determined) – this removes any confusion or misunderstanding.
· Do not use names, use position titles. This ensures if someone changes positions or leaves your company, the instructions are still accurate.
· Develop a centrally located file to store all policies, procedures, and instructions.
o Use folders and sub-folders for organizing these files.
Determining policies and writing procedures may not be fun, but the more consistent you are with documenting, the greater your potential profitability because you will avoid unnecessary and sometimes costly missteps.
Top Promotions was founded in 1983 by Don & Louan Reisdorf. It was a small screen print shop in Middleton, WI located on Century Ave. Shortly after this, their son Craig joined the company. Louan ran a small retail shop within the company, while Don and Craig handled sales and production.
In the late 80’s, Craig’s wife Julie joined the company and embroidery services were added. Julie ran the embroidery department balanced with raising their three young daughters – sometimes simultaneously.
The Reisdorf family had a strong relationship with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and through that relations ship established a Wisconsin license. The Rose Bowl win in 1994 was a huge turning point for Top Promotions, launching the company well beyond the $1M annual sales mark.
Top Promotions became known as a “Hot Market” printer, a company that could go to press and turn out product quickly after major events. The mid-90’s also brought the addition of selling non-wearable imprinted products such as pens, padfolio’s and mugs. With this addition, Top became a full-service in-house promotional marketing company.
In 1998, Don and Louan decided to retire and sold majority ownership in the company to Jerry Kilcoyne. Jerry and Craig became partners and the business moved to its current location at 8831 S Greenview Drive. The late 90’s and early 2000’s was a growth period for Top, expanding sales channels and diversifying. At this time, Jerry and Craig also owned the Wisconsin Active Sportswear retail stores, selling primarily Badger merchandise. During this time, Top Promotions formed a close relationship with Reebok/Adidas. We quickly became a major printer for Reebok’s NFL, NBA and NHL brands, further expanding the Hot Market capabilities, printing t-shirts for Super Bowl Champions, Stanley Cup Champions and NBA Championships.
In 2006, Jerry sold part of his ownership to Craig and the balance to Roger Kilcoyne (Jerry’s brother). From 2006 to 2012, Roger and Craig were partners in owning and operating Top Promotions. The company thrived under their leadership and ran lean, managing to avoid much of the economic challenges the country faced in 2008-2011.
In 2012, Top’s largest customer, Industries for the Blind, Inc.-Milwaukee (IB) approached Craig and Roger with an offer to purchase Top Promotions but to have Craig and Roger both stay on to lead the company. IB was looking to both expand their sales channels as well go vertical with a major supply chain. In March 2012, IB became owners of Top Promotions. Shortly after the change in ownership, Top Promotions adopted IB’s mission of providing employment opportunities to blind and visually impaired individuals and before the end of 2012, Top Promotions had it’s first blind employee. 2012 also saw the addition of a brand-new sales channel (retail) as well as the addition of digital printing to the assortment of decoration options provided by Top Promotions.
In 2016, Craig stepped down as President and was succeeded by Shannon Mayerl, a long-term employee of the company. Top Promotions continues to provide blind employment opportunities with nearly 10% of the staff now blind or visually impaired. The company has 72 employees and is going strong in providing imprinted product to a wide variety of industries and customers. The goals in the coming years include increasing blind employment to 15% of staff, growing sales and continuing to be a leader in the promotional marketing industry in the Madison area.