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Proforma Albrecht & Co. (asi/116308)
Fred and Suzette Albrecht, husband-and-wife owners of Proforma Albrecht & Co. (asi/116308), host several holiday-themed events each year where their employees can relax from the daily grind and have fun with their coworkers. They turn the Milford, OH-based office into a haunted house in October, set up a secret cupid gift exchange for Valentine’s Day, and even rent a suite for the Cincinnati Reds’ opening day.
But last Christmas, Suzette outdid herself. The company exceeded $30 million in sales for the year, and Suzette wanted to congratulate her workers for the milestone in Oprah-like fashion. She asked all of the employees to write up a Christmas wish list and without them knowing, she planned to get the number-one item on everyone’s list within the next two days.
“Someone wanted a donation to charity, another person wanted a COACH purse,” Suzette says. “I even went to a music store to get someone a ukulele.”
Disguised as the company’s annual Chinese auction, everyone gathered as Santa Claus handed out wrapped presents from his giant sack. Suzette then told everyone to open the presents at the same time.
“People were crying and squealing,” Suzette says. “They stood in line to hug us and thank us. That feeling I get from helping people is why I got into this business.”
The Albrechts’ appreciation for their employees is why Proforma Albrecht & Co. has been a perennial top-10 contender on Counselor’s Best Places to Work list, ranking first place in 2012. Fred attributes his company’s success to the Best Places process – he reads the comments that voters make and focuses on areas that need improvement.
“If middle management doesn’t get as high praise as Suzette and I do, then I want to know how we can fix that,” Fred says. “People are our most important asset. We treat them with the same respect as the day we recruited them.”
Fred and Suzette formed their company and joined the Proforma (asi/300094) network in 2000. In 2014, they became the first Proforma member to surpass $25 million, with total sales of $26.9 million. They now have a total of 85 sales representatives in 27 states and almost 40 employees at their headquarters.
“Our company IQ grows every time we add a new person,” Fred says. “We usually add people internally before I recruit a new salesperson. I like to build our customer service base and support first, and then grow sales into that.”
The Albrechts breed a sense of loyalty within their sales representatives: Lisa Gilreath has worked with them for 23 years. “I’d follow them anywhere,” Gilreath says. “They provide training and resources for your professional career and personal support for life outside the office.”
Gilreath says that when she had extended illness several years ago, Fred actually made sales calls for her. Whenever an issue arises, he’ll respond to emails and phone calls right away, even at 1 a.m.
“They’re very committed to giving their sales reps all the support we need to be out making the sale and establishing client relationships, leaving us not having to worry about administrative things in the office,” says Peggy Johns, who retired in June after 30 years in the industry.
“My only regret is that I only started working for them six years ago,” Johns says.
For the sales team, Fred sends weekly emails on industry trends and networking strategies. For internal staff, Suzette hosts “lunch and learns,” where a supplier brings in lunch and talks about their new product line to employees, who are paid time and a half to attend the sessions during their normal lunch break. From comfortable sofas inside the conference room to company picnics for families, the Albrechts have their employees’ best interests at heart.
“Invest in employees – that’s what makes it happen,” Suzette says. “You can do a lot of fun things, but if they don’t think you’re doing it from the right place, it seems like you don’t truly care about them.”
“When you own a business, it becomes part of you,” Fred adds. “This is like our child.”