FSC: Southern Hospitality

In August, I took the opportunity to make my way out to the East Coast a few days before Internext for a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. and to meet with some of our members in North Carolina. It was the first opportunity I had since I began working with the FSC to take a tour of Adam & Eve. I have to admit, the experience made quite an impression on me.

I walked through the doors of the very attractive brick building and noticed a sign that said, “Welcome FSC’s Diane Duke.” As I looked at the sign and grinned, the receptionist smiled at me and said, “You must be Diane, Bob Christian is expecting you.” She picked up the phone to let Bob know that I was at reception and then asked me to sign in and handed me my badge. Bob arrived within seconds, greeted me warmly and asked if I would like a tour. I replied that I would and we were off.

I was on a tight schedule as my previous meeting had run late and I had another meeting 40 minutes away. Bob whisked me past HR and accounting right to their order fulfillment division of the building. As I walked through the double doors of this division, it was like a scene out of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Okay, Adam & Eve employees are clearly not oompa loompas and they package adult novelties and DVDs not candy, but the room moved with a magical efficiency I had not witnessed before. Packages passed on a conveyor belt overhead to be dropped into the correct bulk mail bin below; inventory was lined up not by like items but by volume to maximize storage space; orders were listed in order of product location to ensure the least amount of wasted time and effort in filling the order; scanners were placed strategically to feed information to the computer allowing the customer service department to have real-time information about orders.

As we walked back through the double doors Bob told me that most orders ship within 24 hours and all orders ship within 48. “Oh, and our accuracy rate is 99.7 percent,” he said. “Really it is more than that but I don’t think anyone would believe me if I told them 99.9 percent.” After what I saw, I would believe him.

My head was still spinning when I noticed that the wall in the main hall was literally papered with charts and graphs demonstrating current data about the company, its products, orders and financials. Talk about transparency; everyone in the company had access to critical company information allowing them to understand how the company was doing and their contribution to the success of the company as a whole.

Later that week, I had the opportunity to talk to Adam & Eve Founder and President Phil Harvey about my experience and he recounted a time when it used to take as much as two weeks to get orders out, “Trying to make the whole process more efficient was very difficult,” he remembered, “I used to get so frustrated I’d want to scream, two weeks to turn an order around was simply unacceptable.” Their ingenuity paid off what was two weeks is now averaging less than two days!

I told Phil how impressed I was about the data on the walls and how remarkable it was that everyone in the company was given an opportunity to track the company’s success. He pointed out that the employees who have longevity in the company receive stock and owning a part of the company seems to perk their interest in the company data. He explained that another way to receive stock was to receive the employee excellence award. Apparently managers cannot win the award. The award is only given to staff below supervisory level positions.

Thank you Bob and Phil and the folks at Adam & Eve for your southern hospitality in making me feel welcome and for an inspirational afternoon I won’t soon forget.