Of Brownies and “Survivor”

The way to an audience’s heart is through its stomach. That may be why David Kravetz, cofounder of Phoenix-based Fairytale Brownies, emerged victorious from the popular session “50 Ideas in 50 Minutes: Fulfillment Survivor Style,” in which the attendees “voted off” panelists until only the one they felt had provided the most useful advice remained.

In addition to Kravetz, the panelists were Kathie Lynch, vice president of fulfillment operations for cataloger/retailer J. Jill; Michael Wohlwend, senior director of sales for solutions provider Manhattan Associates; Dennis Nicoski, regional manager sales, Midwest sales region, for the U.S. Postal Service; and Norman Katz of consultancy Katzscan. Catherine Cooper, president of consultancy World Connections, moderated.

His flinging of brownies into the crowd, of course, wasn’t the only reason Kravetz “won” the session. He also dispensed plenty of good ideas. For example:

  • Fairytale Brownies empowers each customer service rep to spend up to $100 to rectify a customer service issue. “Whatever it takes to keep a customer,” Kravetz said.
  • He advised instituting a wellness program, such as yoga, to help keep employees in tip-top shape.
  • To keep accuracy high, never let the picker also be the packer.
  • To ensure that seasonal hires return, institute a seasonal bonus. Fairytale Brownies pays seasonal workers $100 for each year they return, paid at the end of the season.

J. Jill’s Lynch, the runner-up, noted that “in light of all the brownie throwing, it’s important to have a safety program in your warehouse.” She also advised attendees to come up with interesting ways to reward associates. For example, during a slower period J. Jill arranged transportation from New Hampshire for some of its workers to attend the Ozzfest concert in Massachusetts: “It worked out really well.”

Katz, the second panelist voted off by attendees, advised managers to “reward your employees for good behavior, especially the less compensated employees. It’ll help increase throughput and reduce fraud.” The Postal Service’s Nicoski, the first panelist voted off, deadpanned: “I’d throw stamps [at attendees], but it’s actually a federal offense.”

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