When I moved my family to Tallahassee in 1987, I knew one person – my brother. I had just bought our company and I was eager to build and expand our customer base. I had previously worked for a large awards company in Tampa for 11 years, spending the last six, opening and developing one of their branch locations in Brandon. I knew that networking was key to building a customer base, and the Chamber was the perfect platform to do so.
I joined the Chamber in July of 1987 and started getting involved immediately. Throughout the years I have participated in several committees, served on the board for two terms, and sponsored and exhibited at many events. One of my favorite programs was Leadership Tallahassee, of which I am a proud Class XXI graduate. By getting involved in the Chamber, I got to know other business owners and community leaders on a deeper level, which helped me build relationships and grow my business.
Thirty-six years later, Awards4U has grown from a staff of two to 37, and our revenue has grown 40 times since we started. We are passionate about our work and it shows in the quality of our products and services. We have the most amazing team we have ever worked with, and our average tenure is over 6 years.
We have found that involving team members in the recruitment process is a great way to ensure a good fit. We take applicants around our facilities to let them meet who they’d be working with and show them what they’d be doing. We introduce them to everyone so that if we hire them, they will feel a little more comfortable from the beginning. Many of our staff members have invited their friends and family members to apply with us, and we’ve hired a lot of them with great success. It speaks volumes about a company if you’re willing to invite someone close to you to work there.
We believe in and practice what we sell – recognition. As an awards manufacturer, we actually don’t give out a lot of awards, because that’s only one element of the practice of recognition. You can learn how to do more, too, if you come to my Beyond the Basics presentation! That’s a Chamber program that I think you’ll get a lot out of.
Looking back, I can honestly say that joining the Chamber was the single best strategic move we have made since buying our company. The Chamber is rich in resources and offers programming to suit all sizes of businesses. The key is to get involved by doing more than writing a membership check. Go to events, host events, sponsor events, and engage with other members. You’ll always meet someone new and will always have ample opportunities to tell your story and build relationships.
The future of Awards4U is very bright. Our sales continue to climb, and our reach continues to expand. My personal goal has always been to build a company that would take care of its people. I have a favorite quote from Zig Ziglar which reflects that philosophy – “You don’t build a company, you build people, and then people build the business.” That has certainly been true with us, and we have no plans to change it. We will continue to invest in our staff and our community, and we are excited to see where the future takes us.