The lobby of Proforma Albrecht & Co., headquartered in Milford, OH, is just plain scary. There are spider webs everywhere. Rats are perched on every surface. A pair of skeletons are sitting on the couch, reading Counselor magazine. And just around the corner sits a guy who has a torture chamber and hanging, bloody clown heads in his office.
Lots of offices put decorations up on Halloween, but Albrecht—well, they go a little bit overboard, in a good way. Everywhere you walk, you'll find, say, a black crow or a ghoul, staring you in the face. It's all part of the culture at Albrecht, where Suzette Albrecht, who founded the company with husband Fred in 1999, prides herself on creating an environment where employees are comfortable and happy.
"I hear people talk about motivating employees by giving them free products they've gotten from suppliers, and I was amazed by that," Suzy says. "That's not motivating. For me, motivation is creating a real nice work space for people."
And that's exactly what Albrecht has done. When the company, which has 30 employees at its headquarters and about 100 sales reps spread throughout the country, moved to its headquarters six years ago, Suzy said she "was very picky" about everything from employee chairs (they had to be ergonomic) to the conference room. Instead of a traditional boardroom with a table and chairs in the middle, it's decked out with cozy sofas, brightly colored bar stools that bounce (they have springs on the bottom), and a showcase of interesting products the company has provided to its clients. In this room, Albrecht often holds "lunch and learns," where a supplier brings in lunch and talks about their new product line. Employees are paid to attend their sessions, since they're giving up their normal lunch break to do so.
Speaking of lunch, a separate lunch room is stocked with drinks and Albrecht-subsidized snacks (each item costs only a quarter), along with an extensive library of the latest video releases which employees can check out for free. Every Friday, Suzy goes to Target to buy whatever new movie has just come out. "We really want people to feel like they're respected, like they're taken care of here," Suzy says.
Christina Ashby, who's in order processing, says touches like this—and the fact that she gets whatever treat she likes on her birthday (she prefers lemon cupcakes), makes all the difference. "When you have a busy week, these kinds of things just make you feel good."
While Suzy has employees' comfort in mind, Fred makes it a point to be accessible at all times, especially to salespeople who are working in home offices throughout the country. If a rep based in Los Angeles calls him at midnight, well, he answers the phone. He spends so much time talking to reps that he knows practically everything about their personal lives—from whose kid pitched a no-hitter to whose daughter is getting married. The Albrechts have been known to fly to employees' weddings, and Fred won't hesitate to make a trip to help a rep out on an important presentation.
All of these personal touches are clearly paying off for Albrecht. The company has grown every year and was on Inc magazine's fastest-growing list for five years in a row. That's all well and good, but there's another important topic on the table today: As we end our visit, employees are discussing what they'll be at this year's company Halloween party. In the past, employees have dressed up as headless horseman, a hamster from the Kia commercial, a fire cracker and Mary Poppins. "I don't know what I'm gonna be this year, but it has to be creative, and over the top," said Kim Perry, a senior account executive. "That's just how we roll here."