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News Analysis: Want Positive PR? Take Your Employees on a Cruise

Most people hadn’t heard of Bertch Cabinets, a Waterloo, IA-based kitchen cabinet maker, until it was featured recently on CCN for taking all 800 of its employees on a Carnival Cruise in January. CNN picked up the news from the Waterloo Courier newspaper, which reported that the company decided to once again take all employees on a cruise as a reward for helping achieve its annual goals.

As reported in the Courier, the company has periodically rewarded its employees with a cruise over the years, the last time being in 2005. “We finally got into the black again last year after we made it through the recession,” noted Gary Bertch, the company’s co-founder. Subtitles

He reportedly challenged employees a year ago to meet certain goals and offered the cruise as an incentive. “We were anticipating we’d have better sales again this year,” he told the Courier. “We just tried to get all of our people pumped up a little more to achieve the various goals, both customer-oriented goals and financial goals.”

The company was founded in Gilbertville, IA in 1977. It once employed more than 1,000 people, falling to about 600 in 2011 because of the recession, but is now back up to over 800 employees. Facing a slow recovery in its industry, the company diversified into commercial work, including hotels and motels, but still does the majority of its work for residential homes.

Bertch told the Courier his company began offering mass winter vacation incentives beginning in 1989. The first cruise left from Acapulco; the biggest trip was a Hawaiian cruise, he said. “We’re happy we were able to achieve our goals. And they’re never easy. The financial goal was the big one,” one of the last to be met. “We hit the other goals. Not by much. But we hit them. We’re looking forward to the following year.”

Many companies traditionally do not publicize lavish incentive programs such as company-wide cruises for fear of negative publicity. With Americans increasingly sensitive about the way employees get treated by business, maybe more companies will re-think the benefits to publicizing the special ways they reward their employees for performance.

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