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VOL. 128 | NO. 78 | Monday, April 22, 2013

 

Davene Specializes in Helping Companies Reward Employees

By JONATHAN DEVIN

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Corporations have a new reason to say “thank you” to dedicated employees – for sticking with them through the Great Recession.

One company – Davene Inc. – hopes to help businesses recognize high-achieving employees in ways they might not have been able to in the last few years.

“We’re working with one large company that’s recognizing employees with 20-plus years of service now,” said Brett Etz, sales representative and consultant for Davene. “That’s career-level service. They want to do something really nice for the ones who stuck in with them through thick and thin.”

The team of Davene Inc. includes Brett Etz, from left, David Dierkes and Dan Dierkes. The company started out developing recognition awards programs and has since expanded to include promotional products and concepts.  

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Davene is both a supplier of business promotional items for giveaways at trade shows and sales visits, and also a supplier of trophies, awards, and other items meant to recognize employees’ achievements.

The company began in 1976 as a partnership between David Dierkes and Dan Dierkes and their father, Eugene, now deceased. The company incorporated in 1981. David now serves as executive vice president and Dan as president.

The brothers are the majority stockholders, and their four sisters have minor stock holdings.

Eugene Dierkes originally worked in the corporate awards division of Jostens.

“It originally started as a supplier to dad’s business, doing engraving in a garage office that he had,” said Dan Dierkes.

As with many companies emerging from the recession, the Dierkeses decided to rebrand their company and refocus their business strategy for a post-recession economy.

“We’ve been under the radar in our history in Memphis,” said David Dierkes. “About two and a half years ago we had a lot of changes. We had some people retire. Our business was shifting and we were renting a much larger facility. We sat down and said what do we want to do at this point?”

When their lease on a 16,000-square-foot facility in Hickory Hill came due, they decided to move to an 11,000-square-foot facility off Winchester at Lamar, which they purchased.

Etz was hired in October to fill out their sales staff. Their website was updated and they began rethinking the meaning of awards in terms of online recognition programs.

Now Davene enrolls businesses in a program by Baudville in which each employee has an individual recognition account online. They can earn points based on whatever parameters their company chooses, such as meeting sales goals, having good attendance, or reaching years of service milestones.

Employees can log in and keep track of their earned points, which are redeemable for merchandise gift cards. Some, said David Dierkes, may choose to redeem lower amount of points for songs or books from iTunes. Others might choose to save the points for higher-dollar items. The cards are free of tax liabilities.

The incentive to perform then becomes something employees think about daily rather than waiting for an end-of-the-year awards banquet.

Usually larger companies take advantage of the online programs more than smaller companies.

“If you’re going to do a full-blown point system, you’ve got to have 300 to 500 employees to make that work, but if you want to recognize your 20-year and above employees with a laser-etched crystal piece with a hologram inside, we can do 10 or 15 of them,” David Dierkes said. “Part of it is that you don’t know what the company’s going to grow into.”

While most of the heavy manufacturing of awards takes place elsewhere, Davene does custom engraving, laser cutting and etching, assembly and fulfillment in-house.

Larger, longtime clients include FedEx, Hilton Hotels and Intercontinental Hotels.

Etz expects sales to grow in the coming years as companies begin to invest more in retaining their employees, who have more options than they did a year ago.

“As time goes by employee retention is becoming a very big issue because of the cost to hire, train and maintain an employee,” Etz sad.

“(During the recession) people cut a lot of extras out on the promotional side real quick,” said David Dierkes. “On the awards side, though, they may not have their big convention, but they still want us to ship the awards to them. You don’t want to take all of that away from (employees). The secret is it doesn’t have to be something very expensive. People just want to know you appreciate them above the cost of their paychecks.”

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