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Summer Celebration Honors Major Growth
After five days on the road and nine company visits, the Road Tour crew admittedly was, well, weary. But it received just the pick-me-up it needed when its black Ford Explorer pulled into the parking lot at distributor firm Corporate Imaging Concepts (CIC) in Northbrook, IL. On the company’s front lawn was a tent full of more than 30 employees all digging into a complete lunch provided by local favorite The Chicken Guys – salads, sandwiches, and quesadillas (yes, all made with chicken), plus popsicles for dessert.
That, though, was far from it. CIC was in for a full-on celebration. “We’re here today not only to celebrate making the Best Places to Work list, but also because our sales were up 43% for the first half of the year,” Brian Abrams, who founded the company in 1996, told his employees. “We’re on target to fulfill about 100,000 online orders this year, so you should all be really proud of your accomplishments. Thank you! It's really a job well done.”
And to honor that extreme performance through the first six months of the year, CIC rolled out a summer party on this day for its employees. Two massage therapists were inside providing chair massages to employees all day long, and outside they set up lawn games including badminton and cornhole. These weren’t just day-at-the-beach games, though. Full bracket tournaments with randomly-selected two-person teams were set up, and the winners would receive Bose products set up on a table by a local Bose rep. “We like to have fun here, but yeah, we’re also a competitive group,” says Abrams, whose company has about 65 total employees and seven offices.“
Abrams began the company after a career in law and as a CPA, which his wife Patty describes as “soul-crushing. He really needed to do something he loved, and this was it.” He had sold t-shirts in college and re-started that business in 1996, growing it into the major operation it is today. It focuses on company-store and program business for major brands, and CIC currently has about 200 online stores live right now, along with “about eight more that are going to be up and running in the next couple of weeks,” Abrams says.
With the growth, Abrams has been able to maintain the type of company culture that he’s always strived for: an office of respect and dignity that works hard to reward and retain its employees. He says the staff’s retention rate is extremely high, with salespeople averaging a tenure of more than 10 years, and his first employee is still on the payroll today. “It’s not about making money – we know we’ll do that if we treat people right and give them the leeway to succeed,” Abrams says. “We give people full autonomy to run their own businesses, and I think they like that.”
Count Adam Harris, one of CIC’s salespeople, among the employees who definitely appreciate the culture. “I like the personalities of people here – we’re a good mix and we all work hard to ensure we get the job done well,” says Harris, who has worked at CIC for 15 years. “It’s just a joy to be here every day. Our demeanor and passion for what we do is great.”
On this summer day, that passion is shown not only for the business but also for the badminton and cornhole tournaments. “I’m not always the most fun person, but I know to hire people who are,” Abrams says. “They really enjoy events like this.”