July 13, 2011
Filed under: Best Places to Work Road Trip 2011
From Counselor’s three editors as they hit the road for the 2011 Best Places to Work Summer Road Tour …
It’s time to head further down the Beltway, and we take off for the three hour trek to Richmond to meet the staff at New Clients Promotional Marketing, which is located in a sprawling one-story space outside of downtown. We’re greeted at the door by Jeff Hall, and his wife Teki Hall, the owners of Real Clients, sporting Hawaiian leis and beers snuggled into New Clients logoed koozies.
As we head into the building, 25 employees (the other 10 work remotely in various locations on the east coast) are engaged in a full-fledged Hawaiian luau. After we get our own leis, Joe, Andy and I are ushered into a party room (the company’s VP of special products, Betsy Flynn, is the official head of the “fun events committee”), which is adorned with palm trees, cutouts of hula girls, and, inexplicably, a Betty White mask. Wine and beer are flowing, and employees are noshing on barbecue.In various rooms, games are set up, and several sales reps are playing Cornhole in the hallway.
Before we know it, we’re roped into various games ourselves. A woman places an elephant trunk of sorts on Andy’s head, and he’s forced to knock over water bottles; Joe is given 60 seconds to keep three balloons in the air (unfortunately, he fails twice), and I have to jump up and down to release a box of ping pong balls that are attached by a belt to my waist. If this scene sounds bizarre, it seems perfectly normal to this group of hooting and hollering employees. Next, everyone heads into another room to view a slideshow of pictures from past company events, including an annual family picnic at the Hall’s home.
While the employees seem to naturally operate as a true team, Jeff, who owned a medical supply company before buying Real Clients in 2000, (Teki joined him in the business a year later), said he “saw inefficiencies at the company as soon as I walked in the door.”
The company still used typewriters, and had only one computer in the building. Since then, the Halls have moved the company’s headquarters to a bigger location, beefed up staff and made significant improvements in the company’s technology infrastructure. The investments have helped New Clients net big deals with the Philadelphia Eagles and numerous pharmaceutical firms.
But even while making these changes, the Halls also worked hard to shift the company’s culture. “We want employees to look forward to coming to work,” Jeff says. The first thing he did as the company’s new owner was eliminate the mandatory Friday 5 p.m. meetings the previous owner had implemented. Then, he explained to his new employees that they had autonomy to make their own decisions. “We don’t like to micromanage anybody,” he says. A few years later, Betsy came to the company, and the fun events committee was born.
While it’s time for us to hit the road, we’re left with hugs, and a parting gift from Betsy: a Hula girl with double stick tape on her feet, which will serve as the perfect dashboard adornment for the rest of our 3,000-mile trek. More tomorrow from … Tennessee and Arkansas.