Terryberry Goes For The Gold

December 31, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Some say a pat on the back is worth its weight in gold. But what if that pat on the back is gold?

The Terryberry Co. has been working for more than 80 years to help businesses demonstrate to employees how valuable they are — and do it with something that glitters.

In 1918, when H.R. Terryberry founded the company, his main focus was specialty awards and class rings, which back then were both very popular. Over time, however, class rings went the way of the varsity letter jacket and as the price of gold climbed, it became difficult for the small regional firm to compete with its national counterparts. Eventually, the class ring manufacturing operation was sold to Jostens.

“If we go to a smaller city where they have maybe one high school and 50 kids buy a class ring once a year, that is good. But it’s not much business,” said Mike Byam, fourth-generation managing partner of Terryberry. “However, in the same area there are 25 to 50 companies that are potential clients.”

Thus, after spending 50 years of mastering the craft of class rings, Terryberry decided to move back into specialty awards and make that the core business.

The company began by nationally marketing items such as lapel pins and rings to nursing homes as recognition for employees’ good work, which soon caught the business world’s attention, where the idea spread to manufacturing facilities, banks and hospitals.

By 1982, all types of organizations were seeking to recognize their employees in a meaningful and important way, and once again Terryberry was out in front of the trend, Byam said.

Over the next few years, Terryberry grew to employ 35 salespeople throughout North America and Canada and has continued to evolve into a sophisticated recognition award company offering far more than lapel pins and rings.

Now the company focuses on more interaction between sales representatives and clients, and strategic planning has become part of the mix. Byam said Terryberry reps sit down with company officials to determine what they are trying to accomplish from a recognition standpoint, and then tailor a program that meets the client company’s needs.

In some cases, Terryberry even manages a reward database that tracks employee performance and reward status.

Clients decide what type of award is suitable, including anything from a ring, lapel pin or tie tack to a small bar of gold.

Lest anyone think Terryberry is behind the times, however, there also is access to one of the company’s newer offerings, AwardPoints.com, a program that recognizes an employee’s hard work with a gift of their choosing.

The program offers employers the opportunity to work with AwardPoints.com by awarding employees points for certain behavior such as perfect attendance for a month or hours of overtime worked. Each time the employee achieves a new level, they are awarded a certain number of points and notified of their status.

Points are accumulated and the employee is then directed to go to a Web site to choose a gift to his or her liking, based on the number of attained points.

What makes each gift unique is that it is engraved or labeled with the company logo. For example, if the employee chooses a bracelet, it may have a charm with the company logo on it. If he or she chooses a clock, the logo will be placed on the timepiece.

“Companies like to give something that employees may not always spend their money on,” said Byam. “This is why AwardPoints.com is so popular. The company can give the employee a useful gift that will show its appreciation and will be enjoyed by the employee. We also like to offer a large variety to reflect the lifestyles of employees and the change in corporate America.”

For items offered at AwardPoints.com, Terryberry works with outside vendors such as Howard Miller, Citizen and other companies with a reputation for high quality products.

A similar program that recently debuted is AwardChoice.com, a Web-based recognition e-program. The program is similar to AwardPoints.com, but everything is done on the Web, from awarding points to receiving points to choosing a recognition award. The program is available to customers 24 hours a day and is custom designed for each company.

“I like to think that the birth of recognition was the retirement gold watch, and from there it went to giving someone a gold watch for 25 years of service, or some companies even give a ‘welcome aboard’ gift,” said Byam. “One of our sales reps likened this stage to the Nintendo generation of workers. In games of Nintendo you are rewarded every few seconds with bells and whistles; employees are the same way.”

Byam added that many companies are not seeing employees stay for 25 years anymore and are realizing that recognition can come in smaller, more frequent doses. In most cases, such programs encourage good employee behavior or company loyalty.

AwardPoints.com and AwardChoice.com, Byam said, are two ways of rewarding employees, which, while still accompanied by formal recognition, also offer the modern touch.

The newest addition is what Byam and his team call The Big Blue Box, which consists of just that, a blue box that serves as a formal presentation kit for each employee. The box contains a certificate congratulating the employee, as well as their reward, be it a ring, pin, watch or a pamphlet explaining AwardPoints.com.

Byam said he hopes it is new programs like these that will bring Terryberry success for the next 85 years.           

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