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Vol. 10, No. 2
www.stuffofheroes.com
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102  

This Rhino Leads Pro-Employee Charges

©2004, 2013 William A. Cohen, PhD

Ted Castle founded Rhino Foods in Burlington, Vermont. They make specialty foods, and gained some fame by coming up with the “cookie dough” in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream of the same name. Some call the company “A Workplace of the Future – Now.” [1] Castle was determined that the business wouldn’t run him and would leave time for outside activities. And he wanted the same for Rhino’s employees. To show he means what he says and that he really cares, he’s started a number of highly innovative programs. One called “Focus in Families” meets every Thursday to oversee programs for employees and community groups. Company time is made available for the meetings. Another is called the “Nurturing Program.” It lasts 15 weeks, and works with parents and kids to develop better parenting skills. Rhino puts up the cash to fund it. Then there is Rhino’s “Wants Program.” Employees choose a wants coordinator and meet with him or her once every three months to work on the goals they’ve chosen. The coordinator is especially trained to coach and help employees reach their goals. Amazingly, these goals are not necessarily work-related. We’re talking about anything from buying a house to learning to skydive and everything in between.

Mark Koenigsberg, the company’s director of sales and marketing, said that the company developed the programs to help promote a healthy life outside the workplace.[2] Marlene Dailey, director of human resources explained further, “We want people to be able to think for themselves, go after things on their own, and not become dependent on the company.”[3]

Several years ago when the need for his seasonal food products waned, President Castle came up with an innovative solution to show he cared and to avoid firing unneeded employees. Castle found two other non-competitive companies that also relied heavily on seasonal employees. He leased his unneeded employees to them. Rhino continued to pay all of their employee benefits. In essence, he created an employee exchange program that benefited everyone. There were no unemployment costs, morale stayed high, and trained and experienced workers . . . ready, willing, and able . . . returned. Frequently they returned with ideas with further benefited Rhino Foods. Little wonder that in a small specialized market, Rhino Foods doubled sales in five years and got frequent attention from outsiders as a forward looking company that really cares about its employees.

This company not only took care of its people. Ted Castle proved that a heroic leader does what other leaders just won’t do. He or she always finds a way.

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[1] No author listed, “Rhino Foods is a Workplace of the Future – Now,” www.workforceonline.com/ideas/hottopic/rhino.html

[2] Op. Cit,Browkaw, Murphy, & Seglin, “What It Takes.”

[3] Op. Cit. No author listed, “Rhino Foods is a Workplace of the Future – Now.”

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THIS MONTH’S THOUGHT FOR LEADERS
For people are only too glad to obey the man they believe takes wiser thoughts for their interests than they themselves do. – Xenophon