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Games People Play

Filed under: Best Places to Work Road Trip 2011

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

So, what does one, well in our case, three, do while gallavanting all over the country in a rented car with a pushy GPS system to pass the time? Well, we played games. No, not things like road side bingo, or the alphabet game – you know, the one where you have to find a word that begins with every letter of the alphabet in order? Rather, we play games made up by our very own Quiz Master – Melinda.

Our first game was trivia in nature. There were three categories and Andy and I were asked questions in each: TV trivia, ASI trivia and celebrity trivia. This game was quickly cancelled. Not because the questions were too tough, but because our Quiz Master didn’t know the answers to the questions she was asking. When giving a hint to a Disney Channel program she said, “this person has her own Internet TV show.” Naturally the answer was iCarly. The problem, though, is that show is on Nickelodeon. When we challenged the answer she stood firm until Andy Googled it and found out that it was in fact on Nick, as were three other “Disney” shows she gave us.

Game number two in this slightly demented version of Cash Cab was Are You Smarter Than A 6th Grader. While there were no smarmy and smug 11-year olds to challenge us, we played nonetheless. Melinda crafted questions based on the homework she had helped her oldest daughter with this past school year. And ya know what, Andy is not smarter than a 6th grader. He answered one measly question about the Mayans building the pyramids in South America but that was about it. My winning question was to name the three ships that sailed to the new world. (The next day while talking about our game, Melinda mentioned that she thought it was great that I knew the names of the ships that accompanied the Mayflower. Huh, what?)

We also played a straight up celebrity trivia game, which I again won. Andy struggled with naming at least six Julia Roberts movies. He kept confusing her with Geena Davis. No she was not in Thelma and Louise. No she was not in League Of Their Own. Come on man. I knew just enough celebrity trivia – it’s from watching E! News with my wife – to cruise to victory.

Our final game consisted of dumb luck. Kinda like that card game where you draw one card and hold it to your forehead for everyone to see and then you gauge their reaction and make a wager. Growing up we called it “A**hole.” Any idiot could win, which is precisely what Andy did in the song game. We each picked a popular song that had been playing continuously for the last three days. I had that Party Rock number. Every time your song came on the radio, the others paid you a dollar. After round one I was in the lead. Sweet! But we switched songs on Friday and Andy went with an Adele (no clue!) ditty, even though he hates her more than he hates our Bossy Pants GPS. I had Chris Brown and our Quiz Master went with that Lady Gaga song that sounds like those other Lady Gaga songs. Anyway, Melinda and I owe Andy a few bucks. I’m happy for him, as he won the equivalent of a participation medal for T-ball.  

However, in the end I am winning the majority of the games we play. I’m a veritable Ken Jennings. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next leg of our journey.

PS. I wrote this on the plane to San Diego. I think we’re a little punch drunk from all the driving, as Andy and I twice during the flight went to the cockpit to ask the pilots if they wanted us to take over and fly next. Melinda needed a potty stop.


Day Four: Welcome Sight On A Hot Day

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

Let The Frozen Margaritas Flow

Eric GrossmanAs we near the Metropak offices in Richardson, TX, we pass a sign on the road that smacks us in the face as soon as we get out of the car: 105 degrees. Yes, it’s a hot Texas day, but the Metropak folks sure know how to beat the heat. They do it with frozen margaritas, of course. We’re greeted with three of them, made fresh just then in the company’s margarita machine, as we walk in the door. Also practically in the doorway are the company’s employees, sitting at a long table all eating the fajitas, beans, nachos, guacamole and queso that the company whipped up this morning. Beyond the staffers sit a pool table and foosball table that people can partake in during breaks and at random times during the day. And, these special touches are in addition to the workout room on site that employees can feel free to use. “We like to provide a relaxed atmosphere around here,” says Eric Grossman, the owner and president of the 45-person company, which manufactures and prints millions and millions of bags in its 65,000 square foot facility. “I’m a relaxed guy and I think people appreciate working in an environment that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

But Grossman and Edward Hanson, the executive vice president of the company who has known Grossman since they were in the third grade together, also work hard at recognizing the efforts of their employees. Grossman, who’s dressed in a bright Hawaiian shirt and often brings his yellow lab Cody to work and Edward, who quickly throws on a Roud Tour tee the moment we walk in the door, thank their employees on this day and honor the winner of the highly coveted employee of the quarter award – who receives $500, a prime parking space, and a trophy. “Thank you,” Hanson says to all his employees. “You all make this a great place to work. It’s fun and energetic and you make it that way.”

Indeed, Metropak wants to put all of its employees on a level playing field, going so far as beginning a renovation to the offices this year that will result in every person in the company working in cubicles – including Grossman and Hanson. “You miss things when you’re in an office,” Grossman says. “I want to be a part of the action like everybody else.” 

And that’s exactly the way Grossman and Hanson want it. “We treat our people well because they deserve it,” Grossman says. “They know as long as they do as their supposed to do, then we take care of them.”

Grossman Speaks with Counselor

But Grossman also makes a point to thank his employees throughout the year, throwing a legendary Christmas part at his house every December. Amid a big party, every employee leaves the event with a gift. Not just any small gift, these end-of-year prizes range from flat screen TVs and Blu-Ray players to household appliances of every shape and size. “It’s a really fun event,” says one employee, who’s just finishing her fajita-and-margarita lunch. “The Christmas party here shows how much Metropak treats us like a family.”

 

 


Road Tour Visits Unique Memphis Distributor

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

Memphis BBQ, Turkey Bowling, Oh My

SignetWalking into the Signet offices in Memphis, TN, it may seem like a traditional distributor company. The front of the office is lined with pictures and awards, which lead you into a showroom that features apparel, pens, mugs, desk accessories and an item from just about every product category in the ad specialty market. But don’t let those common touches fool you. This is definitely a different distributor operation – all the way down to its 50,000 square foot warehouse that contains pallets of inventory that the company uses to fulfill company store programs that it runs for its many Fortune 500 clients.

David and Elizabeth Tate, the husband-and-wife team that head the 49-person company, greet us at the door with true Memphis hospitality, even immediately putting on the Road Trip t-shirts we hand them. “We’re so glad you could come today,” says David, who began the company with Elizabeth’s mother and stepfather in 1976. “You just have to try some authentic Memphis BBQ. Doesn’t matter what other barbecue you’ve ever eaten before. This is better.”

He’s not wrong. The Tates, along with their son Stephen, who is a marketing specialist and head of video production for the company, lead us into a conference room where a spread of pulled pork, smoked sausages, barbecue nachos, and two different types of ribs (dry-rubbed and wet-rubbed) are laid out for us to try. The spread of barbecue is incredible and us Northerners dig in with Memphis gusto along with our hosts. While Stephen hands out wet-naps for us to use at the end of our meal, David and Elizabeth discuss what makes their company tick. “It’s very simple,” Elizabeth says. “We treat our employees the way we treat our customers.”

Andy CohenIndeed, an all-company monthly meeting gives the owners a chance to reinforce the company’s missions, discuss goals, provide data on how the business is doing (very well by the way, as it has recovered from the downturn and has begun to return to the growth it has been accustomed to over the past four decades), and celebrate individual employee successes. “We work hard on these meetings, preparing for a good week to 10 days beforehand,” David says. “We know it’s important to celebrate, recognize people and the good work they do, and inform our people on where we’ve been and where we’re going. We know that if you involve your people every step of the way, then you’ll be creating a great corporate culture.”

And for Signet that culture is also based in fun. The company – and its executives – sure know how to let loose. On this 100-degree Memphis day, they’ve broken out a favorite company event for us to take part in – frozen turkey bowling. Two lanes have been set up in the warehouse, complete with water-filled two-liter soda bottles acting as pins. We’re handed frozen turkey breasts and told to knock down as many pins as we could. While only one of us – hello, Melinda! – could actually compete with our Signet counterparts, the game provided a good glimpse into a corporate culture that’s based in serious work and serious fun. “We work hard, but it’s still work,” David Tate says. “You have to be able to have some fun, recognize your people, and get out of the way sometimes so they can do their thing. That’s what we do.”

 


 

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