by Luke Thomas.
If you walked into Strong Automotive Merchandising during April, there’s no telling what you’d see. It could be a squad of yogis in the front lobby, or the sound of a barista shouting names off latte cups, or you might have to fend off a Caiman Lizard on your way up the steps. Some could argue this sounds par for the course at SAM, but for us at the agency, it’s the best thank-you we could’ve gotten.
April is Employee Appreciation Month at Strong Automotive Merchandising. For four weeks, the agency has something special to look forward to every day. This year, Owner John Paul Strong doubled the budget, meaning there were more prizes, events and crazy surprises than ever before.
Account Team Assistant Heather Zuo joined SAM in March 2017, and this year is her first Employee Appreciation experience.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” Zuo said. “I had heard whispers of what they did in past years, but no specifics. I was expecting a caricature artist… but I forgot all about that once they announced the lineup for the month. It was more than I could ever imagine.”
Her most memorable event was – somewhat ironically – trivia.
“In all the trivia games, I learned that I really know nothing,” Zuo joked.
The souvenirs from the month’s festivities were nothing trivial. Employees received custom tees, free movie tickets, a company-themed umbrella and an extra vacation day.
Senior Graphic Designer Terry Wirt Jr. got cozy with a cobra when Ed’s Pet World came to visit. For the squeamish, this reptilian spectacle was better admired from afar. Even the bravehearted gave a start (or a sprint, if you’re Kiara) when an alligator-esque creature bounded toward the crowd.
This May, Wirt celebrates his seventh year with the company. Yet, hearing that this year’s Employee Appreciation budget was doubled still left him gleefully astonished.
“Who would have thought a company would celebrate having you around – for an entire month!” Wirt exclaimed.
To finish off the celebration, the agency held a talent show, followed by a chance to dunk its favorite execs.
The talent acts ran the gamut from instrumental solos to contemporary dance. For Digital Assistant Shannon Boswell, it only took a bit of convincing before she was on board with the show.
“At first, I wasn’t totally sure, but after being asked a few times, I thought: well, God gave me the talent, so who am I not to use it and dance!” Boswell said.
Boswell did a contemporary dance piece to Near Light by Ólafur Arnalds. The performance symbolized the impediments of fear and the freedom attained from no longer hiding in its shadow. She embodied this message in dealing with her own nerves before the show.
“I still get nervous before performances,” Boswell said. “There’s a big difference in dancing on a stage not being able to see your audience versus dancing in front of co-workers you see every day. But, once I got out there, all my nerves left. All I thought about then was delivering quality movement to the audience.”
Content Marketing Assistant Kiara Cooper knew the moment the show was announced that she had to play a part. Singing is her forte, but as for the song choice, she was lost for words.
“It didn’t come to me until I was getting ready for work one morning,” Cooper said. “I’m an avid shower singer, so I was performing my usual concert while debating which songs to sing. I let my faith guide me and sang some familiar tunes that came to mind in that moment. It resulted in a seamless mix of songs about God’s glory.”
Cooper gave a stunning acapella performance of worship songs by Mali Music and Todd Dulaney – a mix that she created herself. Like Boswell, Cooper aspired to send an uplifting message to her audience.
“I believe that we all have something that we’re good at,” Cooper said. “So, be intentional about figuring it out. Then, don’t be afraid to share it with the world.”
All in the span of a month, talent was shared, champions were crowned, and co-workers gathered together in the spirit of generous gratitude. Even once the creatures are caged and the dunking booth is drained, this April will be remembered as one of the most winsome here at Strong Automotive Merchandising.