IN THE PRESS
By Kari Lomanno
| Tape Measure. Video Distributor Puts Its Employees
Before Anything Else
Inside Business - Hampton Roads
Monday June 9, 2003
David Durovy, president of Tape Resources, discovered that
some of his customer service representatives were having trouble
with abusive clients, he took care of the problem in a way
that reflected the company's core values.
He fired the customers.
"When you see one of the best girls in the industry crying
after she gets off the phone you say, 'This isn't right,'"
Durovy said. "That was kind of a bold step, but it set
a precedent and it gave our people here the confidence that
we really cared about how they were being treated."
The reps now have a referral list at their desks, and if they
feel uncomfortable dealing with a customer they politely give
the name and number of a competitor. It may cost the company
a sale in the short run, but over the long haul the customer-firing
policy has proved to be one more way the Virginia Beach audio
and video distribution company sets itself apart from the competition.
Although it seems like a contradiction, putting employees before
customers actually improves customer service, said Durovy, whose
official title is "chief customer delightment officer."
Workers who are happy with their jobs are more willing to deliver
excellent service, which in turn makes for good business.
"The customers are secondary," said CEO Seph Barnard.
"The employees have got to be number one because if they're
happy, it will just flow."
Skeptics need only look at the company's track record to see
evidence of the success of this philosophy. Last year, Tape
Resources did just under $12 million in sales, up nearly 100
percent since 1998, when the company earned a spot on the Inc.
500 list of fastest-growing private companies in America. The
company appeared on the list again in 1999.
Housed in a tiny office/warehouse on Baker Road, Tape Resources
delivers over 2 million pieces of professional blank videotape
and disks a year, shipping more than a ton of tape every day.
Tape Resources has about 16,000 customers, from Fortune 500
firms to individuals with a camera. Some notable customers include
the U.S. Senate, the Library of Congress, the White House, Sony,
Eastman Kodak, Cox Communications, National Public Radio, PETA
and Old Dominion University.
With such a prominent national presence and 500 to 700 new customers
every month, one would think it would take more than just 17
employees to deliver excellent customer service.
Not when those employees are treated like family. The company
break room features shelves and a refrigerator that are perpetually
stocked with food and drinks. Each worker gets one "Duvet
Day" each quarter, which allows them to take a free half-day
off. When the company does well, workers get an extra month's
pay each year. And bonuses are not just reserved for the sales
staff - every employee, from warehouse workers to the accountant,
gets a check when the company's sales increase. Last year, workers
got five bonus checks, one of them worth 20 percent of their
The company did so well last year that it paid to send all of
its employees and their families to Orlando for Thanksgiving.
"I don't know if you can go anywhere where the company
takes you and your family [on vacation]," said Jennifer
Wright, a customer service representative at Tape Resources.
"We went to Sea World and got to swim with the dolphins
at Discovery Cove."
Tape Resources goes above and beyond company benefits and bonuses.
Sometimes it even helps with major family purchases. Wright
and her husband were recently in the market for a house, and
Durovy said his company was thinking about buying the house
for them and selling it back to them at a better interest rate.
In the end, the company gave Wright a special bonus to help
with a down payment.
"I've seen people in tears on many occasions when they
just say, 'This is an incredible company,'" Durovy said.
Barnard started Tape Resources in 1991 while he was working
on his MBA at William and Mary. He was a partner in another
video production company at the time, Features International,
and he saw that the industry was going to change dramatically
as computers allowed more people to produce films on their own.
Tape Resources was created as "a hedge against the future,"
he said, but a year after it began Barnard decided he had had
enough of the business world, sold his share of the company
and left the country.
Six months later, Barnard got word that Features International
planned to close Tape Resources, which was "bleeding money."
Barnard had an attack of conscience and bought Tape Resources
back for $500 and the cost of its debt.
"I didn't want to see somebody else killing off my baby,
so we bought it back from them," he said.
Durovy, who had joined Tape Resources soon after it was launched,
stayed on as sales manager while Barnard was gone. When Barnard
returned, he gave Durovy 20 percent of the stock and the two
men, along with Barnard's wife Dawn-Marie, worked to bring Tape
Resources back to life.
They were successful. Over the next three years, sales quintupled
to $2.8 million in 1996. By 1998, sales were up to $6.3 million.
And things have continued to look up ever since. Even celebrities
such as Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Hornsby, Chick Corea and Al
Roker are customers.
"Everybody's a Spielberg these days, even Al," Barnard
Once a customer discovers Tape Resources, he becomes a customer
for life. Rob Fleenor, director of audiovisual services at Norfolk
Academy, has done business with Tape Resources for many years
and said he won't buy from anyone else. He said he likes Tape
Resources because he always gets the products he's looking for
with no hassle.
"Why go anyplace else?" he said. The reps at Tape
Resources are screened for their friendliness before hire.
Rather than taking resumes from applicants, the company asks
potential employees to call and leave a message about why
they think they're the right person for the job. Only those
who sound like they've just won the lottery will be called
for an interview.
"That's what the customers are going to see, not a resume,"
Barnard said. Tape Resources is known for its guaranteed delivery
philosophy, even when the company is not at fault. Once, a
customer received the wrong order due to a miscommunication
about the product, and Barnard and Durovy spent the next four
hours trying to figure out how to get the package to the customer
on a Saturday. "The shipping cost us more than the whole
sale," Barnard said, "but you know he's not going
to ever buy anywhere else again."Every shipment from
Tape Resources comes with a complimentary bag of M&Ms,
just one more detail customers have come to love. "I
think most people just accept mediocre treatment because that's
all there is," Barnard said. "I don't think we're
that great, but the bar is sure low. We do what we expect
everybody should be doing."
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| The Toughest Part of Managing Isn't Figuring
Out What to Do. It's Knowing What to Ask!
An excerpt from HARD QUESTIONS, 1998 INC. 500 Magazine
that we're not a start-up, how do I promote teamwork?
When Seph Barnard decided to energize his sales staff last
year, he created a familiar enough incentive: adding a commission
to be calculated on top of the sales staff's salaries. But
the step nearly destroyed esprit de corps at Barnard's company,
Tape Resources Inc. (#426), which sells blank video tapes
and audio tapes to businesses such as television stations
and production companies. "Cracks started to appear
in morale," recalls Barnard. "There was resentment
over it. Tensions appeared in the office that we'd never had
A surprised Barnard junked the system, which had sparked
resentment throughout the business. Still, that experience
spurred him to rethink his compensation strategy and ultimately
to institute a new incentive system that has rewarded teamwork,
not to mention pushed sales up to $4.7 million in 1997, about
70% above 1996 sales. Although Tape Resources sells a commodity..
most popular tapes, from manufacturers such as Sony, EMTEC,
and Panasonic, carry price tags ranging from $10 to $25...,
the company has never competed on price, relying instead on
service such as a guaranteed in-stock program and speedy delivery.
Half of its dozen employees are sales-people, who work the
phones from the company's office in Virginia Beach, VA, filling
orders from repeat customers as well as from new ones corralled
from direct mail campaigns and trade magazine advertising.
The commission system that started in July 1997 caused problems
on a number of levels. Salespeople who once cooperated with
one another became reluctant to spend time away from the phones,
helping out on other tasks. They didn't like it when a colleague
serviced a customer they had helped earlier, thereby taking
the commission. "People got territorial over it,"
observes Barnard. Meanwhile, employees in shipping and other
areas, who were not included in the commission plan, simply
felt left out.
The spark that caused Barnard to reconsider his compensation
system was a three month period at the end of 1997 when the
entire sales team worked together to win a sales contest sponsored
by EMTEC. The award: a trip to Cancun. Having seen the entire
sales staff rally around a common goal, Barnard resolved to
spread the incentives for teamwork to the company's six other
Barnard wanted an incentive program that worked in concert
with the company's existing compensation formula, in which
employees receive an extra month's pay at year's end if the
company meets its financial targets. To be consistent, he
added a monthly bonus, offering 10% extra pay if monthly sales
are 20% above the previous year's level, 15% extra if sales
are 30% higher, and 20% extra if sales are 40% higher.. Sales
rose at least 20% in four out of the first six months of this
year meaning that employees got a 10% bonus.
With all employees participating in the bonus, the divisions
among people and departments evaporated.. "We're all
in this together," says David Durovy, the vice-president
of sales, who points out that people in the shipping department
who stay late to fulfill last minute orders deliver the kind
of customer service that distinguishes the company from its
competitors.. "In the shipping department, the orders
they get out benefit them as well as the salespeople.."
Barnard now circulates a daily report on sales to every employee,
enabling each one to see how he or she is doing relative to
the same period a year earlier. "On a slow day,"
he reports, '"people will say, "We haven't gotten
an order from these customers in a while... Why don't we call
An extra months pay plus monthly bonuses can be expensive,
and super-star salespeople may fare better under a commission
system... But Barnard believes that his company's system accomplishes
its intended purpose: helping create teamwork and pushing
sales and service to higher levels.. "It has provided
me with tremendous peace of mind that the whole machine is
working well," he adds.
Copyright 1998 INC. 500
Back to the Top
Fun and National Recognition
based tape and data media firm makes Inc.'s list of top 500
small companies. Melissa Gundel, Staff Writer- Virginian
Tape Resources, Inc. owner Seph Barnard believes in rewarding
employees for their hard work. Those rewards come in many
forms: bonuses, tuition reimbursement, child care benefits
and a well stocked refrigerator with workers' favorite snacks.
Now Barnard's Virginia Beach company has been rewarded by
being named to Inc. magazine's top 500 list at No. 426. The
magazine's annual ranking recognizes the nation's fastest
growing private companies.
Tape Resources, a national distributor of professional blank
video tape, audio tape and data media, was the only Hampton
Roads company to make the grade. The company, located on Baker
Road, sells Sony, Fuji, Maxell, Panasonic & EMTEC brand
professional tape to TV stations, video production facilities
and the government."It's a rather boring business,
but it is gratifying," said Barnard, 42, who is originally
from South Africa.
Tape Resources started out as a subsidiary of Features International,
a television production company that Barnard and then partner
Stan Jeter founded in 1986. The business was growing fast
and Barnard wanted to spin off another business. "I
started Tape Resources as a kind of subsidiary to hedge our
bets for the future because of the great advances in technology,"
But by 1992, Barnard was getting burned out and he sold his
stock. He married his current business partner, Dawn-Marie.
But as hastily as he made his decision to leave, he wanted
back in. Toward the end of the year, Features decided to close
down Tape Resources. "It was just bleeding money at
that point and was in the startup phase," Barnard
said. "When I heard they were going to close it down,
it was like the baby I had birthed and I couldn't bear to
see it happening. So I bought it back from Features."
With his entrepreneurial spirit eating away at him, he tried
to get things back on track with Tape Resources. "It
was really slow going in the early days," he said.
"I committed spending all of my time at the office
and got a little aggressive on direct mail marketing."
To help, he brought former commercial real estate guru David
Durovy, now vice president of sales, on board. Durovy owns
20 percent of stock in the business, while Barnard and his
wife own the other 80 percent.
Though there was a lot of rejection in the early days, Barnard
strived to be different. He wanted his business to stand out.
While seeking his executive master's degree in business administration
at the College of William and Mary, Barnard was inspired by
a Domino's Pizza spokesperson. "He talked about customer
delightment, not customer satisfaction," Barnard
said. "No one goes and has a meal and says at the
end of the meal, "I'm satisfied." If you have a
great meal, you are delighted. That made the lights go on
for me." Instead of great customer service for the
business, which does the majority of its business over the
phone, Barnard decided on what he calls "outrageous
Customer delightment is the company's benchmark.
"When we teach people to answer the phone here, they
are critiqued on it" said Durovy. "When they
answer the phone, I say to them: 'Imagine the lottery or your
boyfriend or husband is calling and you haven't seen them
in six months, how would you feel?'" If that doesn't
work, mirrors are set up in front of desks to get that smile
across the employees' faces.
"We provide tape, but we also provide a loving, caring,
sweet person who knows about the people we deal with,"
said Melanie Nelson, a sales representative. "We know
what cars they (the customers} drive, where them children
are going to college. They've really become part of our family."
The genuine friendliness has paid off. Though 80 percent of
their business is small business, their larger accounts consist
of Coastal Training Technologies, Metro Video and CBN. National
accounts include Compaq, Gateway and Cox Cable. "I'm
not surprised they are being nationally recognized,"
said Scott Wheeler, president of Metro Video Productions.
"They are a very exceptional customer service organization
and have helped us out many times with quick turn-around and
real personal service." Sales have also fast forwarded
each year. Sales in 1993 were $562,000 and sales for fiscal
year 1997-98 was $5.7 million - criteria that helped them
get their ranking. To make Inc.'s list, the companies must
have been independent and privately held through 1997, had
at least $200,000 in base year sales and showed a sales increase
from 1996 to 1997. Companies must have generated sales revenue
for at least six months in fiscal year l993.
"We just sneaked in. We really tried to keep a sustainable
growth," said Barnard. "We weren't trying
to grow fast. One of our guiding principles is we don't strive
to be the biggest, but the most profitable." Barnard
attributes the success to repeat customers and his team. "I'm
proud of the team. No one person could have achieved this
without the other," he said. "I have my strengths,
yet it was a team effort and there was no way I could take
the credit for it." But he believes in keeping his
staff of 13 well compensated. "Co-workers are the
No. 1 priority," he said. "If our team is
cohesive and together, that would automatically flow into
the customer service."
Back to the Top
| Virginia Beach Firm Lands on Inc. 500
INSIDE BUSINESS - November 1998
Resources Inc., based in Virginia Beach, has been named one
of the fastest-growing companies in the country by Inc. magazine,
which recently released its annual ranking of the fastest
growing 500. Tape Resources, which was number 426, is a national
distributor of professional blank video tape, audio tape and
data media. It sells Sony, Fuji, Maxell, Panasonic and EMTEC
brand professional tape to TV stations, video production facilities,
corporations and the government.
The company, which was founded in 1991, is the only Hampton
Roads company included in Inc.'s listing. Its saIes for the
fiscal year 1997-'98 were $5.7 million. In 1993, sales totaled
One reason for the company's rapid growth, says its president
Seph Barnard, is that "we put principles before profits."
The staff of 13 tries not only to satisfy customers but to
delight them with what Barnard calls "outrageous"
Employee satisfaction is also a goal. Said Barnard "We're
not in business to have fun but that doesn't mean we can't
have fun in business."
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