More than T-shirts
New Top Promotions president dedicated to continuing a family legacy.
From the pages of In Business magazine.
After 17 years with Top Promotions in Madison, this month marks Shannon Mayerl’s sixth month as president. In perhaps a strange but exciting turn of events, Mayerl, 40, is now the boss of her former boss, Craig Reisdorf, who decided last year to move back into a role he really loves — sales. Reisdorf’s parents started the company.
“Craig is letting me be president,” Mayerl states, “but it’s got to be a challenge for him. He knew he could trust me and we still consult all the time on the next 10 years. His family is still very prevalent here. I don’t want to let them down. It’s their legacy and we want that to continue.”
Top Promotions is a screen-printing and embroidery company that can affix a logo to pretty much anything. “This is a $21 billion industry,” Mayerl states. “There are 600,000 products in our industry and we have access to any of them.”
In 2012, the company was purchased by one of its customers, Industries for the Blind, a Milwaukee nonprofit focused on employing the blind and visually impaired. Top Promotions is now a wholly-owned subsidiary, and 10% of its staff is blind or visually impaired. Mayerl would like to increase that to 15% within 10 years. We spoke with her recently about the company and challenges in her new role.
IB: Being a visually oriented graphics company, how did Top Promotions adjust to blind or visually impaired staff members?
Mayerl: Our jobs certainly weren’t developed initially with a disability in mind. You can’t just write a note and hand it to someone, for example, so we’ve had to rethink our operational processes and figured it out by trial and error.
IB: Did you need to purchase any special equipment?
Mayerl: We have a program we use called JAWS, or Jobs Access With Speech. It reads to a person anything on a computer screen and faster than a speaking voice. A hearing person would have trouble understanding it because it is so fast, but our blind employees rocket right through it. They can read documents much faster than us.
IB: What types of jobs do they perform?
Mayerl: Receptionist, order entry, web store customer service, account management with the corporate sales team, and packaging. The most important thing for everyone is that the jobs here get done and get done correctly. We have performance expectations and don’t cut corners in that regard. These employees are looking for work, not handouts.
IB: Which items are particularly hot or in demand at the moment?
Mayerl: Performance items like shirts that wick moisture away or those with heating or cooling properties. There’s a big push with Under Armour right now thanks to its relationship with the university.
IB: What surprises have you encountered since becoming president?
Mayerl: I was surprised at how much stress there is. I immediately felt the weight of 75 people depending on me, and now the buck stops here. It’s been an adjustment, but this is also something I’ve wanted for a very long time.
IB: What about staffing?
Mayerl: We have a lot of longevity here, but in general finding employees is very difficult. We’ve taken a hard look at our pay rates and benefits. Millennials stay at jobs an average of 2.2 years, so as soon as they’re trained they’re moving on. The most expensive thing is hiring and training a new employee.
IB: So how do you retain them?
Mayerl: With these employees, there is no more 8-to-5 environment. They want to work whenever and we need to be flexible. We’re looking at offering a split shift with one group working four 10-hour days and another group working three 12-hour days, and we’ve played with running two press times to better accommodate people with children. So far, reaction has been positive.
IB: What about you?
Mayerl: I’ve had to change, too. I don’t need to know where people are anymore, so long as a project is done on time. It’s a different way to manage, but a lot of employees focus on wage and flexibility. It’s no longer business
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