Round numbers create introspection opportunities. When your next birthday ends in a five or a zero, you’ll likely pause to ask yourself, “What have I accomplished?”, “Where am I headed?”, “What’s important?”, “What’s not?”. So too it is with companies.
As I look back on the 45 years since our company was born, the changes are stunning. Who remembers plane tickets printed on carbonless carbon paper, teletype machines, and suitcases that didn’t have wheels? The delivery systems for our solutions are as different as the stagecoach and email. But what matters more, I think, are the things that have not changed.
Do we still honor them?
The only way to navigate through terrorist attacks, pandemics, and six recessions, including the Great Recession of 2008/2009 and the COVID recession is to stay true to your Core Values.
They haven’t changed, nor has our commitment to them. And I believe they are the reason for the accomplishment I am most proud of . . . that our company is consistently named one of the Best Places to Work in New Jersey.
Have we been able to find them?
Core values attract people with the same value system. Our company is populated with people who understand that service is our brand. People who take pride in being part of a high performing culture. I have been convinced since my days back in corporate life that there are five things we all want in our professional lives.
We want to do interesting work.
We want to work for a company that has values.
We want to work for a company that does something of value.
We want to work with people we like and respect.
We want to know that management recognizes and appreciates our contribution.
Have ours evolved?
Companies with one solution are like a hammer always searching for a nail. When I left corporate life, we opened the doors as a full-service marketing agency producing a wide variety of communications and motivation solutions, and our corporate tag line was “programs as unique as your own fingerprint”. The tag line is gone, but the approach to client problem-solving isn’t.
Do we build them?
Many of our clients relationships span decades. We have great clients who see us as partners because they know we care about their success, personally and professionally. Clients who have become friends. And because we have those kinds of relationships, we have pulled off the difficult task of transitioning the business from one generation to the next.
Do we still have it?
At times, I can’t believe my good fortune to find this industry. Every day, we give people reasons to exceed themselves, to build loyal relationships with colleagues and customers, to underscore the message of “yes you can”, and for many of them, to build a bank of extraordinary travel experience memories.
I get a chance to work with exciting young people and savvy veterans. (75% on the people in our company weren’t even born when we opened the doors.) Some of our original team-mates have retired after decades-long careers here. And we are thrilled that many of our people have recommended friends and family members to come to work here.
I didn’t start this company to build a huge business or great personal wealth. I just wanted us to earn a reputation for creating the most imaginative, effective marketing motivation solutions in the country against companies ten, 20, 50 times our size. And on that measure, I believe we have also succeeded.
Forty-five is a nice round number, but it is really only a point on the time continuum. I look forward to measuring our success again as we hit the half-century mark.
Jim Dittman founded Next Level Performance in 1976. In his career, he has been named “Incentive Executive of the Year” by the Motivation Show, one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Travel Business” by Business Travel News, and the organization was named one of the “five most innovative incentive companies” in the U.S. by Successful Meetings magazine. Favorite travel destinations: Ireland, Australia, and Turks & Caicos.