Wright Vending Shines Through its Team

It's all about family — us being a team." Dan Friske, AM's Route Driver of the Year, said that about his employer, Wright Vending. His sentiments are echoed by other employees, from the operations manager to the human resources manager. The low turnover rate and positive growth can be attributed to the friendly environment President Randy Wright and Vice President Kelli Wright create.

Randy Wright started Wright Vending in 1991, after his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers. It started with four employees in one location. In 15 years, Wright Vending has grown to three branches with a team of 58.

Wright credits much of the growth of Wright Vending to the employees. He manages with a more people focused style, rather than corporate hierarchy.

"I've never been an employee," said Wright, which he considers an advantage. Wright looks at the character of each individual. "I know how you treat people," he said. And that's how he runs his business, from employees to customers.

A PEOPLE ORIENTATION

Without customers, there's no business, agreed Wright, but that doesn't mean he subscribes to the "customers are always right" school of thought. Wright prefers to say, "The customer should always be serviced first."

If service is being provided, and a complaint comes in, Wright favors his employees. "One customer might be worth $10,000 in sales," said Wright. "But no one account brings in more than a good route driver." That single customer might have a personality conflict with the driver, but Wright has respect for the job his drivers do. If the driver is doing a winning job, Wright feels the conflict doesn't mean the driver is wrong. He puts trust in his employees and talks to them on a regular basis.

"I see Randy almost everyday," said Friske. "If I've got a problem, his door is always open. I like that about him."

Dorman also appreciates the work environment. He added, "The way Randy treats his employees — that's the key." To Dorman, it's how Wright runs the business — paying a decent wage, being there daily, welcoming communication — it all contributes to the "family style" business that makes Wright Vending a good place to work. It has so far produced low turnover rates.

Caroline Polster, human resources manager, reports the year-to-date turnover to be 8 percent, although that includes three part-time summer helpers who will be back next year. Eliminating those, the rate drops to 1.7 percent (one full time person). As the company has grown, it has added drivers, said Caroline. "We celebrated 15 years this summer."

She credits the ownership and office morale. "You know things are going to be done ethically," she said. The people of Wright Vending enjoy working with each other, she said. "It's a great atmosphere."

COUNTING ON EXPERIENCE

Most of Wright Vending employees are not new to the work force. They have chosen vending as a career, and that helps Wright succeed. "It's taking a little pride and ownership in what you're doing," said Wright.

Experience is one of the strengths Friske and many of Wright's employees have. "They don't do what we say blindly," he said. Using their experience, they evaluate the situation. They might come up with a better solution, and that's the real value.

Many employees have been working in vending for decades. John Dorman, operations manager, started as a route driver and worked his way up to assistant regional manager at another company before he joined Wright Vending in 2001. "Many of us here have been here for 20-plus years," he said. "It seems like after you get into it (vending), you just don't leave."

Patty Glauner, sales and customer service manager, worked with Dorman at a different vending company for 11 years before she joined Wright in 2003.

Also in the office is Steve Stace, a childhood friend of Dan Friske. He worked for Dane County Vending, coming to work for Wright when Wright bought that company. He's been in vending for 23 years. He worked his way up the ranks from driver to service manager.

ROUTE DRIVER SUPPORT

Even with seasoned employees, there's still room for new hires. New route drivers at Wright Vending start riding with veterans for a minimum of three weeks, said Dorman. "We do a lot of safety training," he added. Included in the 21 total routes the company handles are the strictly OCS route and a new water route. The 5-gallon water business was started about a year and a half ago (May 2005). "We added it to be a one-stop-shop — OCS, vending, and water," said Dorman. "It has worked well." Besides the 5-gallon bottles, Wright also offers point-of-use filtration systems, one of which is used in the office.

Wright Vending also has jumpers; relief staff that fill in for any position needed. "They are jacks of all trades," said Dorman.

HANDS-ON MANAGEMENT

Dorman does his best to maintain a relationship with the drivers. He comes in at 6 a.m. to see them as they're coming in or going out. "I don't have to," he said, "but I feel it's important." Dorman added, "They know I'm there, and if there's something I can do, I will. There were many drivers I could have nominated for the Route Driver of the Year Award," said Dorman, "Friske was just the best one."

Currently, Dorman oversees the route driver supervisors and office staff. But having come from a route supervisor position, he misses going on ride alongs. "I loved going with the drivers. I knew where every account was," said Dorman.

INFLUENCED BY PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

Professional sports contributes to the team atmosphere at Wright Vending and gives the company some personality. The presence can be felt from the football helmet to the logo to the famous coach Vince Lombardi's business strategy poster in the employee break room.

Polster admits that Wright often uses game terminology in meetings and talks. "Sports has really had an influence on his life, and it's carried into the workplace," she said. Wright often refers to lessons his past coaches have taught him, quoting them, said Polster.

Quite a few people follow professional sports in the office, so it's a topic of commonality as well.

A COMPANY BIGGER THAN A CAREER

In the early days of Wright Vending, Wright wanted to make every sales call himself. He was hesitant about lending his name (as an athletic celebrity) to a promise he himself didn't make and/or might not be able to keep. Now it's different.

"It has changed by the growth of our company and customers," said Wright. "It's gotten too big for me to be the only one." Instead, it is Wright's philosophy to hire the right people, who have the same business and people philosophies as he holds. When the employee comes to a difficult situation, he or she will be using the same approach as Wright would, even though he or she might make a different decision. The philosophy of the person is what Wright trusts.

Now Wright's role is part of the sales team. When it started, the name Randy Wright was bigger than the company. "That's changed in 10 years. Our company has gotten bigger than my name, who I am," said Wright.

Wright Vending's evolution puts into perspective its greatest asset, the employees. "Now I have the people who can do it, from the managers to the least senior employee," said Wright. "We're just proud that many employees would be candidates … could be recognized for good work at our company."

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