When the tourmobile pulled up to Motivators in Westbury, NY, we expected to be greeted by CEO Ken Laffer. He was there alright, but it was the presence of Johnny Cash that made us do a double take. Okay, it wasn’t really Johnny Cash. It was Motivators’ graphic designer supervisor, Anthony Zuaro, dressed in full Johnny Cash regalia and ready to sing “We print everyone (a parady of Cash’s song, I’ve been everywhere.”)
Turns out this is just an ordinary day at Motivators, where Laffer’s hands-off management style (“I like to run the business from 10,000 feet,” he tells us. “As long as we’re cash flow positive, I let the employees take the reins.”) empowers employees to do what they want to keep Motivators in high-growth mode. Today, for Zuaro, that means adding to the company’s extensive video library. Besides shooting simple videos that show end-users hot new products, that library includes tutorials on using Google Plus and a horror flick (shot in Zuaro’s basement) teaching clients that purchasing promo products shouldn’t be scary.
The videos often go viral and are a hit with customers, according to Laffer. “Selling is a relationship business,” he says. “Customers want to be comfortable with you when they buy, and the videos make them comfortable.”
Apparently, clients are pretty comfortable with Motivators—the company has grown by 50 percent a year (except for the recession in 2008, when revenues grew by only 25 percent), and is expecting another banner year in 2012. Besides empowering employees to do what it takes to win over clients, Laffer lets them have birthday parties (a chalkboard in the employee kitchen area highlights several birthdays this month), have pajama days, and pretty much do whatever else it takes to stay motivated. “It’s not just all business here,” he says. “You need to have a little fun in life.”