Bonus money comes in hard cash12/24/08


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Employees of Hampton Direct vote on how to divide their holiday bonus — given to them in bundles of cash on Friday. See story below.

Bonus money comes in hard cash12/24/08

Employees figure out how to divide $20,000

Dec. 24, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

What to do with $20,000?

That was the tough question employees of Hampton Direct Inc. had to answer last Friday during an unconventional holiday bonus giveaway. And true to the spirit of the company’s employees, it took only a few short minutes to figure out an equal and creative way to distribute the money.


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Hampton Direct’s human resources manager, Mary Wylde of Stowe, explains the guidelines for how the company’s employees must divide up their holiday bonus.

Steve Heroux, the company’s president, handed out stacks of $10 bills as many employees laughed at what was about to take place. Others didn’t know how to react at first.

“I was totally shocked,” said Sherrie Lucia after all was said and done. “I thought he was joking.”

Employee Al Diem also thought the joke was on him and his coworkers.

“I thought it was Monopoly money,” Diem said.

This is the first time Hampton Direct has had such an unusual way of delivering holiday bonuses, Heroux said. A similar tactic was used at a company he worked for in Connecticut in the early 1990s.

“It used to get everybody excited,” Heroux said. “I knew that it would work here.”

Hampton Direct, an international distribution company that employs 33 people, ships hundreds of household products sold on the QVC network and on direct response television infomercials. The company also sells to specialty stores, with the Vermont Country Store in Weston being its only in-state customer.

Holiday bonus

After learning they had one hour to decide who would receive what amount of bonus money, the employees squeezed into a conference room to hammer out the details. Envelopes with employees’ names on them were taped to the window of the room as snow fell outside. All management had left the room to avoid swaying decisions. That left 25 non-managerial employees to make the crucial decisions.

The ground rules were simple: everyone had to participate, everyone had to agree on the final choice and everyone had to get some amount of money in their envelopes. Also, the company’s accountants had to know each employee’s final amount at the end of the process for tax purposes.

Within minutes, employee Jolene Ciosek had figured out each person would get $606 dollars if split evenly. Since the denominations were $10 bills, it was quickly decided to give each employee $600.

“We’re all part of the same team,” Ciosek said. “We all contribute.”

Diem wondered if everyone thought it was a good idea to split the money equally, since some employees only recently started working at Hampton Direct. Diem, for instance, had started at the company only two weeks prior. But no one seemed perturbed by the original decision and only seemed more enforced by the team camaraderie.

“The people that have been here less than six months can pay our taxes!” Ciosek joked.

Another easy and quick decision was what to do with the leftover cash. Employees opted to give the remaining $200 to the Williston Community Food Shelf as a charitable contribution.

The fun part came as employees grabbed the stacks of $10 bills, counting out the fresh money.

For employee Lisa Sherman, the bonus came at a great time. Sherman joined the company in October after losing a marketing job earlier in the year. She said she feels very much at home at her new job.

“I’m really blessed,” Sherman said. “It’s a wonderful group here.”

Employee Janet Pendris also praised the company and its president, Heroux, especially in his choice of the interesting bonus system.

“He’s made it more fun,” Pendris said.

Heroux said he wasn’t surprised by the end result and was especially proud of the fact some of the money was donated to the food shelf.

“We’re a good team here, and that’s how a team would react,” Heroux said.

Heroux said there was less money in the bonus pool this year because of the slow economy, but he believed Hampton Direct would be successful in the new year.

The company has grown so fast in recent years that it’s outgrowing its space on Pioneer Drive. Heroux said he plans to move Hampton Direct to the former KBA building on Hurricane Lane sometime in the spring.


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