Simply the best Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2008
 Sue Burnett just can’t win. As founder and president of The Burnett Companies Consolidated Inc., the holding company for Burnett Staffing Specialists, she can’t enter her business in the Best Places to Work competition because her company sponsors the award in Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

However, Burnett’s 104 employees were determined to recognize the company anyway and recently surprised her with a framed piece of art: photos of the employees at each corporate office with the caption, “Texas’ Best Place to Work, From Your Dedicated Staff.” They also gave her a book that included a letter from each employee, explaining why Burnett was a great workplace.

“My staff said, ‘Since we can’t be a nominee, we wanted to let you know that we think we’re a winner,’” Burnett says. “And that meant so much to us.”

In spite of the recession, Burnett’s staffing firm posted $77 million in 2007 revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Burnett on how to show your employees your appreciation.

Play ball. We have a plan called Base Hits and Home Runs. At the beginning of each quarter, each employee gets four base hits to give out to anybody in the company; it doesn’t have to be someone in their division.

This is a little card, and they can write on the card what they felt that this person did to deserve a base hit. It can be that they’re doing a great job or maybe an employee wants to thank them for something they did. Once an employee receives four base hits, they can turn those in for a $25 gift card for a department store, restaurant or gas station.

Then, the managers can give out a home run to an employee if the person has done something above and beyond their job. They may have done something they didn’t have to do or came in really early or stayed late. The employee can exchange the home run for a $25 gift card. Some employees save up their home runs to get a $100 gift certificate.

I’ve already written 85 base hits so far this year and about 25 home runs. I’m constantly writing them, but I can only do so much, and I didn’t want people to just get one a year. I wanted them to get them from their co-workers because there are a lot of times that people do things that their managers don’t know about. It’s a nice way for people to be able to pat each other on the back.

You have to motivate your employees by incentives, not by fear. If you manage by fear, then you’ve got people that aren’t happy. Long-term employees aren’t happy working in a fearful environment. Certainly the millennials, the younger generation, have a very low tolerance for anything that makes them unhappy. You certainly don’t want to have that kind of environment, or they’ll simply move on.

Recognize the extraordinary. We have an award each month called Whatever It Takes, and anyone can be nominated. These people have gone way above the call of duty and have done something really extraordinary, like working all weekend on a project.

We send out an e-mail with the names of all the nominees, and then one is selected. They receive a $50 gift certificate on top of their home run, so they get $75.

We try to recognize our staff members as much as possible. Recognition means more to a lot of people than money, and it’s certainly cheaper. There are many times that people would rather be recognized in an e-mail to the entire staff than to even receive $100. I have people that work hard all year long to be top consultant or top account executive of the year — not because they get $1,000 but because they were recognized.

There are two people in my company who have been recognized as the top producer in the state. I’m very motivational to these people, and we all go to the state convention together and cheer each other on. For both of these individuals, they’re already making good money with their commissions, but it’s the recognition and the award — it’s being No. 1 that really has driven them, and I’m right there beside them, supporting them all the way.

Follow the Golden Rule. If you treat your staff the way that they want to be treated — and the way that you would want to be treated — then I think that will come back to you. We’ve got a lot of very long-tenured employees and management. If your management doesn’t turn over on the top, that makes people feel more secure and stable.

The secret is that you may want to be treated one way, but others may want to be treated a different way. If you’re working with someone who’s not a morning person, maybe you would treat them differently than the way you would treat a person who is chatty and likes to talk in the morning. It’s getting to know your co-workers.

One of the things that we’ve done is give personality tests to our staff and have meetings to discuss the results. Each employee goes online, takes the test and then the test comes up with the employee’s score. Someone on our staff is certified to meet with people concerning the different personality types.

Some of our groups have very different personalities in them, like opposites, so it’s helped them to know how to communicate with different personality types.

HOW TO REACH: Burnett Staffing Specialists, (713) 977-4777 or