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Counselor is published 13 times a year and is
the "voice" of the promotional products industry.

 
2014 Counselor Road Tour

Breakfast with a Wookie in South Carolina

Good Deeds Rewarded Greenwood Company

WookieeSometimes you walk into a company and you just know the people there genuinely enjoy each other’s company. That was the case when the Road Tour crew rolled into Credential Express in Greenwood, SC, on Monday morning.

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As employees gathered over a large breakfast table and noshed on Chik-fil-A breakfast sandwiches washed down with sweet tea, the chatter focused on whose football team will be better next fall (Clemson versus the University of South Carolina) and who’s a better driver.

“We pretty much know everything about each other,” said Nicole, who’s worked in both the marketing and accounting departments at Credential Express. In a town like Greenwood, which has only 20,000 residents, she said, employees are constantly bumping into each other outside of work, and some even went to high school together. They often get together on the weekends too, taking exercise classes with one another or going to the CEO’s farm for a day of horseback riding and fishing. “It’s a good thing we like each other, or work would be much more of a struggle,” she said. “Instead, it’s a nice place to come every day.”

The firm, which supplies lanyards and other identification products to the industry, has 30 employees and hires for personality as much as it does for set skills, according to Chief Operating Officer Karl Ziegler, who was brought in in 1997 to launch the firm’s promotional arm. (The company started in 1981 as a technology supplier to the security industry; now, as a supplier of promotional products, it’s been growing about 30 percent a year for the past few years.) “We believe in interviewing for niceness as much as qualifications,” says Ziegler. “We can train people to do certain jobs.” As a result, employees join the company and rarely leave. As an example, one woman, a customer service rep, started working at Credential nearly 20 years ago when the firm she was working at burned down and has never left. Two other employees have had spouses join the firm. And few employees are in the original roles they were hired for. One woman originally started as an intern and now works for the sales department; another went from IT into customer service.

No matter what their roles, Credential Express believes in rewarding employees in visible ways. One popular method is passing on the company “Wookie,” a stuffed version of the popular Star Wars character that is given to a deserving employee when he or she does a good deed. On this morning, the Wookie is awarded to Ken, an IT manager who left his vacation in Myrtle Beach early when the company’s system went down. Ken worked through the night to get the company back online.

“That’s just the kind of thing that employees here do,” said marketing manager Travis Brewington, whose father is the owner of the company. “We look out for one another.”

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