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Day Three: Arkansas Supplier Shines For Employees

Filed under: Best Places to Work Road Trip 2011

From Counselor’s Andy Cohen, as he hits the road for the 2011 Best Places to Work Summer Road Tour

An Arkansas Gem At The End Of The Day

Hanging At Outdoor CapThe sun is going down in Bentonville, AR, when we head into supplier firm Outdoor Cap, which is just a stone’s throw away from Wal-Mart’s headquarters. Thankfully, Chris McConnell, executive vice president of sales and marketing, and Janet Franklin, marketing director, have kept the lights on for us for a quick tour. The nearly 250-employee company serves many markets—promotional products, team sports, retailers, and outdoor sports company’s like Bass Pro Shops—but its employees all seem to share two core values.

#1: “Everyone is empowered to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy,” says McConnell, as he briskly walks through the company’s customer service area, a maze of cubicles where, on a busy week, staffers answer an average of 5,000 calls per week, 97% within three rings. “I’m always telling them, ‘It’s very unlikely that you can do something to bankrupt the company.’” McConnell says. Reps are coached to listen to a customer, he says, and when they mention important events, like a child’s wedding, the rep sends a card or otherwise commemorate the event. “They can do that on their own,” he says. “They don’t need us to tell them what to do.

Andy's Giant Hat#2: While Outdoor Cap has to compete with Fortune 500 companies (many of the biggies are here, thanks to Wal-Mart) for employees, one selling point, according to Franklin, is its strong commitment to volunteerism. The company has a number of committees and groups that employees can join (all voluntary), including a Corporate Citizenship Committee, which decides on worthy volunteer and fundraising projects to get involved in. An example: When one of Outdoor Cap’s former graphic designers lost both of his legs in the Iraq War, the committee went into overdrive, raising more than $7,000 (all from employee donations) to give to the man’s family to help cover medical costs – plus, the company matched the donation to double the effort.

This spirit of caring is evident throughout the company. In a warehouse, a heart-shaped sign encourages employees to volunteer; in another part of the building, a poster showcases the company’s recent Habitat for Humanity efforts, in which more than 20 employees helped build a house in a nearby town.

And McConnell is happy to get in on the act. He recently donned a dress and cooked up hamburgers for employees after losing a bet with a fellow employee centered around the amount of Outdoor Cap staffers each could get to donate blood in a local drive. “Fun perks, money and benefits only go so far,” he says. “We try to let people here know we care. I think that’s why people stay.” 


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