"She is mean is what she is, so get ready."
That's how Numo VP Jim Martin introduces us to Stella, a muscular woman clad in black and white tie-died leggings and a pink spandex tank top. Turns out the Road Trip rolled upon Numo, a supplier based in Kaufman, TX, just as employees were about to take one of their three-times-weekly exercise classes.
We're game (well, at least Andy and I are; Joe mutters something about having to man the camera), so we follow the crew over to a space in the company's 200,000-square-foot factory that has been fashioned into a workout room, complete with a volleyball net and basketball course outside of an exercise studio.
First, we start with the kettlebells, holding one in our right hand as we huff and puff through a set of push-ups. After more push-ups with the kettlebell in the other hand, we do some core training. Andy and I look at each other, our faces a bit red, both thinking the same thing: Okay, this isn't so bad.
But then Stella shouts "Cardio!" and all hell breaks loose. We're put into teams and have to do suicides, jump hurdles, sprint up and down one side of the warehouse, and navigate as quickly as possible through the floor ladder. When I thought I had completed the circuit, Stella points at me and yells, "Again!" I lumber through a second round, and as I feel my heart racing to levels that seem suspiciously out of the safe level, I pause to cheer on Andy, who's doing his best to beat out an employee who's bringing up the rear of the sprint run.
When he concludes, I attempt to pat him on the back, but he has collapsed on the floor, huffing and puffing. The rest of the employees, obviously veterans to this type of torture, are laughing, and gearing up for a competitive game of volleyball.
Needless to say, this isn't the type of activity we were expecting to engage in when we arrived at Kaufman, a sleepy little town outside of Dallas that has only 7,000 residents. So how did all of this madness start? "We're not a rah-rah kind of place here, but we want to take care of our people for the long haul," says Martin, whose in-laws bought the 50-year-old Numo, which manufactures koozies and drinkware, among other items, in 2007.
It's not easy to attract employees to come to Kaufman to work, so Numo provides them with 100% fully paid healthcare, among other perks. But to fight the double-digit annual increases in healthcare premiums, Martin and the company had to do something. "The age of our people keeps going up, and so does the cost of their healthcare," he said. So what did the company do? It got employees healthy.
Besides bringing in Stella three times per week, (about 50 of the facility's 100 employees typically participate in a class), the employees play volleyball or basketball during scheduled break times. And twice a week, Numo brings in a nurse who holds a free clinic to diagnose medical issues (like strep throat), and monitor employees' blood pressure, Body Mass Index, weight, and blood sugar levels—all for free. "We had people who were pre-diabetic or had other health issues they didn't know about before they started going to the clinic," Martin says. "This has been great, because we can help them before they really get sick."
These wellness measures have helped Numo achieve its original goal, Martin says, of helping the employees save on the cost of health insurance claims. But it's had another very important side effect. "You hear people laughing and screaming when they play volleyball, and you know they're really having a lot of fun."
But you also know that they're going to come back on the floor and feel better, and more energetic. That can only be good. Indeed, Numo's got a productive group. The company had a great fiscal year (it ended at the end of September), with sales ending up significantly up over the previous year. At the same time, employee retention is soaring. "This thing has really taken off," Martin says of the employee wellness programs. And, indeed, he appears to be right. As the employees go bounding back to their jobs on the factory floor and in the customer service department, Andy, Joe and I limp toward the door, ready for a nap.