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Jackpot Bonuses and Other Secrets Behind Broad River Retail’s Million Dollar Writer Program

In 2014, Broad River Retail had just a single salesperson who sold more than one million dollars in product during the calendar year.

The next year that number went up to four, then seven and by 2017 they had 17 people surpass seven figures. That’s when the company realized something special was happening and officially started the Million Dollar Writer Program, part of the company’s Memory Maker Experience.

In 2020, Broad River celebrated 51 Million Dollar Writers, and while they set a goal of 60 for 2021, they’re already close to beating their record—with a whopping 97 employees on pace to write one million dollars in sales this year.

So what’s their secret?

We caught up with Broad River CEO Charlie Malouf and Heather Greenwood, the associate director of the Memory Maker Experience, to get an inside look at the principles that guide the program and how they support their salespeople.

Greenwood’s role encompasses everything that has to do with giving back to Broad River’s employees and taking care of the company’s culture. 

“The Memory Maker Experience is about celebrating the people in our company,” Greenwood explains. “We call ourselves a people company, and certainly anyone can say that or put it on a bumper sticker, but we pride ourselves on how we do it—what actions do we take every day to love our people and give them a reason to come back every day, year over year. That’s part of the reason we are growing.”

Greenwood has a background in commission sales as a salesperson and general manager at Nordstrom, which made her an ideal fit for the role. And when she was put in charge of creating and managing the Million Dollar Writers Program, she gladly stepped up to the challenge.

“When thinking about the program, it all went back to, ‘how do we help our people be their best?’” Greenwood explains. “If you’re making a million-dollars in sales and getting commission, that’s a great income. So I talked to and listened to our people and we started to figure some things out. Every year,  we focus on how to create better programs and encourage and motivate our people to help them get to this next level and they love it.”

And commission sales is no easy role, so Greenwood says she starts working with employees on day one, training them, teaching them, and making sure early on that they are comfortable with the guest experience. 

“We really make sure we’re nurturing them through learning and development,” she adds. “As people come to us saying they want to write a million dollars, we tell them we’re going to be there beside them the whole way, good or bad. We’ll cheer them on and help them get the coaching and development they need to hit that goal.” 

Malouf says he loves what Greenwood has done with the Memory Maker Experience, and he explains the three guiding principles of the Million Dollar Writer Program:

  1. Jackpot Bonuses. Malouf saw Tony Robbins at an Ashley Domination event and said that he talked about something that really hit home. He said what you want for your hungriest salespeople or best producers is to throw massive goals out there with massive rewards and see if they’ll go chase it. Robbins also added that you shouldn’t be afraid for them to be too lucrative because for others it creates a halo effect and they want to pursue it.

    “When we first built this program, we said we weren’t going to worry about overpaying if we hit these levels,” Malouf says. “The concept of really exciting jackpot bonuses that get people truly excited to have a successful year is a great idea.”
  2. Consistency Compounds. One of the most important aspects of the program is tracking salespeople’s progress. And not only does Broad River track it, but there are also scorecards and weekly progress reports sent out highlighting those who are on track.

    “There’s power in small wins, and there’s power in momentum,” Malouf says. “So if we can let them know where they’re tracking along the way, it will help. At first, there was no visibility to awareness. A lot of what happened was people would just luck into it. But when we started keeping and tracking it and communicating it, people were no longer waiting til the third or fourth quarter to start trying to meet the goal.
  1. Annual Gala. Like an Academy Awards of Home Furnishings, Broad River holds a big shebang every year to celebrate their million-dollar writers. The team members give speeches—some of them prepared weeks before and memorized—and Malouf says they truly appreciate being honored for their hard work.

    “We’ve heard some of the most phenomenal, emotional, and touching acceptance speeches that bring you to tears,” Malouf says. “They talk about how much it means to them and how hard they fought, they thank everyone who helped along the way. That’s the coolest thing.” 

Greenwood explains that the success in 2020 is due to the perseverance of the company and its employees. 

“We’re gritty and we believe in working hard,” she says. “One of our core values is personal excellence. They believe in what they do and take it seriously. They’re passionate every day. When I think about that and 2020—it was a tough year for all of us. But luckily we’ve been fortunate and we’re coming out of it well because of our people.”

And for those inspired by Broad River’s story, Malouf has some advice for retailers interested in starting their own million-dollar writer program.

First, everyone will ask “what’s in it for me?” so there has to be a compelling offer (like a year-long lease on a luxury car, a prize Broad River gives its top writer. 

But beyond that, Malouf says it all starts with beliefs. “If you believe having a million-dollar writer is a good thing for your business, and will help you recruit and retain employees, then you would obviously want more of them,” he explains.

“We’ve always had this belief that we want to pay our best people the best,” Malouf continues. “When you have a compelling incentive program that will let people unlock human potential, they will surprise you by what they will try to achieve.”

He also says—as long as you can afford it— put offers out to your employees that make you a little uncomfortable. “If you’re not uncomfortable with the bonus payments, they’re not high enough,” he adds. “Broad River didn’t grow their program overnight. It started with a bit of discomfort, and then we added on as we found things that worked.”

Finally, Malouf says you must have someone who’s directly responsible for the program, like Greenwood. “It can’t be a shared responsibility, give it to one person and let them run with it,” he says. “But make sure they’re passionate about the role.” 

Broad River is a great example of what truly supporting, encouraging, and believing in your team can do for your business. They’ll continue pushing forward to meet their goal this year, and we’re excited to see them meet (and maybe even exceed) it. 

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