Stop 7: Outdoor Cap
Bentonville, AR

The sun is going down in Bentonville, AR, when we head into supplier firm Outdoor Cap (asi/75420), 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, following our 325-mile drive from Memphis. The nearly 250-employee company serves many markets – promotional products, team sports, retailers and outdoor sports companies like Bass Pro Shops – but its employees all seem to share two core values.

Number one: “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 commemorates the event. “They can do that on their own,” he says. “They don’t need us to tell them what to do.”

Number two: 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-shape 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 on 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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