By: Harold Michael Harvey
I’ve often heard about the “RYLA huddle,” but had never witnessed one until yesterday when I drove out to Kennesaw, Georgia to the two tiered campus of RYLA Teleservices, Inc.
RYLA, a privately held Georgia corporation, essentially operates a call center for businesses, governmental agencies and faith based institutions. It is located at the foothills of Kennesaw Mountain where General Sherman encountered his last major resistance before marching down Peachtree Street in Atlanta.
The “RYLA Huddle” is a gathering of company employees in a huddle around the company’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Wilson. Mr. Wilson uses the huddle as a masterful football quarterback does. He doesn’t just bark out the next play. He looks into the eyes of each employee and gives them an update of the company’s plans and goals for marching into the 21 st century with a secure future for the company and their families.
Eight years ago Mr. Wilson started RYLA Teleservices with a hope, a prayer and $1,000 cash. He leveraged all three into a $700,000 venture capital investment from SJF Ventures. He has never looked back and knows that the key to his success is providing good customer service to the customers of his customers. For 15 years Mr. Wilson managed call centers for Dun & Bradstreet Corporation. His experience taught him that he had to find a way to retain good employees in order to provide outstanding customer service in the very competitive outsourced customer market.
According to the trade group American Teleservices Association, the national turnover rate in the industry is 43%. Mr. Wilson has consistently maintained a turnover rate under 30%. In 2007 Mr. Wilson told the Wall Street Journal: “The industry has a bad stereotype of sweatshops and high turnover. We’re proving you can overcome that if you take a creative approach.”
Before yesterday’s “RYLA huddle” the staff was treated to pre-game entertainment presented by the drum section of the Clark Atlanta University marching band. At precisely noon time, the band’s drum major blew his whistle and the drummers began to march to the rhythm of their beat throughout the campus. In step to the rhythm of the band were a group of majorettes (company employees) who held placards proclaiming the joys of working at RYLA. When the band reached the crowd assembled over on campus number two, they “parted the sea” so to speak, revealing a 2010 Kia Soul Exclaim automobile. As it turned out the day’s “RYLA Huddle” had all to do with the hottest automobile on the market today.
Thinking outside the box, Mr. Wilson huddled his staff yesterday and told them some lucky employee at year’s end will drive home in the new Kia Soul Exclaim This news was greeted with applause and expectancy. The contest rules are easy to follow: Show up to work on time, flash a broad smile often, and do the job you are expected to do.
Mr. Wilson told his staff he was out to prove “you can be at work and feel like you are at home.” As I drove away from the campus I could feel the synergy taking hold as company employees sized up their chances of winning America’s hottest new car.
© April 14, 2009