Pumpkin decorating. It's a fall season rite of passage at Indoff, and it's clear that everybody takes the contest very seriously. The company's corporate office in St. Louis, which employs about 55 people and supports around 400 salespeople across the country, is abuzz this Thursday afternoon, as the staffers are split up into eight groups. Each group received their pumpkin at 10 this morning, and was tasked with decorating it in as scary a way as possible and submitting their creations by noon.
"We only give them two hours, because, well, people have been known to take some liberties in the past with these kinds of contests – taking the items home, working on them over the weekend," said Jim Malkus, president and CEO of Indoff. "We wanted a level playing field for this one, so we gave everybody the same amount of time."
And, boy did they come up with some crazily decorative pumpkins. There was a Scream one, another that was a nod to the Stephen King movie It, yet another that had spider legs made out of real hair, one that had a rat coming out of its mouth, and a purely frightening entry named Bob (after one staffer who was out of the office that day) that had knives coming out of its head, ears half cut off, and thrown-up bloody pumpkin seeds emanating from its mouth – yes, it was as creative and scary as it sounds. Ultimately, the purpose of an event like this is clear: To bring the employees together, give them something to rib each other about (yes, there was plenty of trash talking among the teams), and to have some fun during the workday. "We do things like this several times a year – cookouts, various contests, and events," Malkus said. "We like to have some fun around here. It's a professional environment, but we're all very supportive of each other. We have a real familial feel – we've had some not-nice people that we unfortunately hired throughout the years, and they tend to weed themselves out pretty quickly."
It's an environment that the Indoff staffers really appreciate. Yolanda Thompson, who is on her second stint with the company after leaving and then coming back, says it's the people who work there who make it so unique. "The people here are just great," Thompson says. "We're all fun, and we're like a big family that supports each other in everything we do. We make fun of each other a lot, and it's all in good fun. If you're going to come to work every day and spend this much time at work, it's really cool to be able to do it at a place where the people are your friends and where you can be comfortable."
This laid-back and comfortable environment, though, becomes downright competitive on pumpkin decorating day. And, the Road Tour crew is put in the unenviable position of judging the contest and picking a winner. While all of the groups came through with creative entries, it was the credit department's "Bob" that took the top prize today. "We all have a lot of fun with these types of days," Malkus said. "They go a long way toward creating the type of fun and supportive teamwork environment that we want here." Mission accomplished.