Build-A-Bear Workshop Ranked No. 48

Fortune Magazine just released its list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, ahead of the February 7 issue which focuses on the list.  Not surprisingly, Build-A-Bear Workshop is on the list.  It also had huge growth on the list, moving from No. 80 in 2010 to No. 48 in 2011.  That is a huge jump!

Here is what Fortune said about BABW.  And be sure to check out the entire list.

Rank: 48 (Previous rank: 80)

What makes it so great?
Warm-and-fuzzy culture may overuse puns (“Reach Fur the Stars” and “CollaBEARate”), but it gives part-time store workers health, dental, and vision benefits, while HQ staff enjoy on-site yoga and Zumba workout classes.

World Bearquarters

1954 Innerbelt Business Center Drive
St. Louis, MO 63114

2009 revenue ($ millions): 394


Build-A-Bear Catch-Up

Alright, so I have been slacking in my blog posts – but there is a lot to write.  I am going on vacation immediately after my internship ends (!) on Friday though and unfortunately, do not have a ton of time.  As such, I will not be able to go into as much depth on some of these topics as I would have otherwise done.

On Monday, all of the interns gave a presentation on each of our experiences this summer at Build-A-Bear Workshop to the Chiefs and Managing Directors of the company as well as all of the intern supervisors.  We had five minutes to cover a lot of information: who I am, summary of projects, highlight a key project(s) (I selected the International Holiday Toolkit), key takeaways from the summer, and the affect of the internship on career plans.  My presentation went well I believe (I mean, it did include a vuvuzela on the table and a joke about Excel) and I have been pleased with the feedback I have gotten – including from the CEO and from the President!

Yesterday, I had the privilege to sit down for about half an hour with Maxine Clark, Chief Executive Bear and Chairman of Build-A-Bear Workshop.  She was very welcoming.  Meeting with her was not stressful, but rather seemed like a conversation with a very knowledgable friend.  She asked what questions I had about the company or her.  I asked about her thoughts on company growth,the role of international, the importance of philanthropy to her personally and to the company, how she manages time, company culture, when she knew she “made it”, what was the inspiration behind the company/what convinced her to give up her job as President of Payless Shoesource to start Build-A-Bear Workshop, among other questions.  She was very honest and shared some of her personal history with me.  It was a great conversation.  It is easy to see why she is so admired and how the company has grown so quickly.  She is definitely a role model.  Maxine ended our conversation by asking for a hug. 🙂

Today was the quarterly BearQuarters meeting.  I was involved in a few parts for which we practiced yesterday.  They began the meeting by recognizing new associates, including the interns.  We got several shout outs, which was nice.  Maxine introduced the first speaker, a lady from the United Way.  Her story was extremely potent.  Build-A-Bear has a company campaign to support the United Way and this was certainly a great way to get people energized for it.  The meeting included presentations by Tina Klocke, Chief Operations and Financial Bear (CFO), and John Haugh, President and Chief Marketing Bear, about the state of the business.  It certainly is encouraging.  There was also a presentation on corporate sales.

I was involved in two other pieces of the meeting: the international presentation and the fashion show.  Tim made a presentation at the meeting on news about the international franchisees including new business development, world cup sales, landmark store sales, and awards in Australia.  In honor of the success of Mexico, we had pinatas which we broke during the meeting.  It was a great surprise.

Before Maxine spoke to conclude the meeting (during which time she mentioned the importance and value of diversity!), there was a fashion show to show off the new product that will premiere during the quarter.  Most of the interns helped with this.  It was the first time I have been paid to be in a fashion show! Although, I guess the animals had the fashion…  Be sure to check out the Smallfrys when they premiere in September.  They are awesome and I really want them… all.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to see one of this meetings and participate in it.

I have been working on a lot of projects lately including preparing PowerPoints for the fall International Operations Summit, new business government filing for expansion, evaluation of world cup sales in anticipation of 2014, preparing the FY2011 International Department budget, and more.  I will post my final list of projects after the internship is over.

Today I was putting together one of the PowerPoints for the fall Summit and included the video from the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For”.  If you watch it, you will see several people I have ben working with closely this summer – including my new dog friend, Heath.

Tomorrow, Cory and I are going to lunch with the international team.  I’m looking forward to it, but it also makes me a bit sad to realize that the internship is ending.  I have several other meetings tomorrow though.  When I met with Maxine, she suggested meeting with a few other people before I leave so tomorrow I am meeting with Tina (CFO) and Eric Fencl (General Counsel).  I look forward to those meetings.

It was clear from today’s meeting that we have been appreciated and our work recognized throughout the company.  I will certainly miss working there.  Two more days.  Wow!

Tales of Two Dogs

Build-A-Bear Workshop is quite the place.  At the World BearQuarters, people can bring their dogs to work with them. It’s great being able to walk around the office and pet dogs.  They even come to meetings.  I’m sure this is part of the reason Build-A-Bear Workshop is on the 100 Best Companies To Work For list.  Here are two stories from this past week:

Tale #1: A Birthday Party

One day earlier this week I heard rumblings from nearby in HR about a birthday party.  Naturally, my interest was piqued.  I always enjoy celebrating a good birthday… and the cake isn’t so bad either :-).  I did want to intrude though so I went to take something over to another person’s desk and she was going to the party, as was someone else nearby.  I figured since one of them wasn’t  “officially” invited, but was still going, that I could go as well.  That was when I found out that the party was for Jose.

Jose is a dog.  A fun dog – and apparently a very lucky dog.  Jose had a party.  His dog friends and their owners were invited.  We went into Bear U (yes, that is what Build-A-Bear calls their large meeting room/auditorium) and had cake made with honey and peanut butter for the dogs.  Let me clarify – the dogs had cake.  I might have been jealous…

As the dogs played with each other and ate, I thought that these dogs have a pretty good life.  Especially Jose, he even got gifts.

Tale #2: The Missing Pup

Today I got to work and heard comments about some beagle going around the building.  Shortly thereafter, Laurie sent an email out to the BearQuarters with the subject line of “Did you lose a very cute beagle?” and the body of “If so, you can find your pup in Operations…s/he has been contained :-)”.  Soon after I found out that the beagle did not belong to anyone at Build-A-Bear.  Someone saw the dog outside the office door, thought he belonged to someone who worked there, and let him in!

This beagle was pretty lucky (like Jose).  Note to dogs: if you are lost, make your way to Build-A-Bear Workshop.  Of all of the places to end up, this was it.  Several people went up and down nearby streets to see if anyone had lost the dogs.  Others called area vets and shelters to see if anyone reported him.  No one had.  In the meantime, notices about the lost dog were posted on Fido Finder and Craig’s List.  One person responded to the posts, but for the wrong gender dog.

As all of this was going on, the lost beagle was given plenty of attention (he was pretty well behaved).  The beagle, whose name we do not know, was given food, treats, and toys to play with.  He even got to play with other dogs.  Eventually though, he seemed to realize he was in the wrong place and got sad.  Nevertheless, this beagle was not taken to the pound.  Rather, one of the BearQuarters employees took him home for the weekend and will continue to try to find the owner.  Perhaps he has a chip?

This beagle ended up at the right place.  One intelligent pup.

Meeting the BearQuarters – Part 1

Today the interns had a three hour session during which different directors, managers, supervisors, etc. from around the BearQuarters (headquarters) shared what they do in their departments and in their roles.  It was interesting to see how it all fits together and how so few people do so much.

Below are a few notes that I took, some more serious than others ( 🙂 ):

  • International likes fun vocabulary words.  Today’s word: “pachanga” – Spanish for”a rowdy celebration”.
  • Build-A-Bear posts jobs/looks for applicants on Monster, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Build-A-Bear has extremely low turnover and hires an even smaller percentage of applicants.  Besides the fact that the company is awesome, I’m sure that this has to do with the fact that it is one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.
  • Communication is never perfect – but what can we do better next time?
  • Who is our Guest?  Everything starts with our Guests – a.k.a. customer service is key!
  • Build-A-Bear has some pretty exciting licensing agreements – including fruit snacks!  There is also a new “craftshop” series of products coming to Michael’s in September.

We will continue the conversation with Meet the BQ Part 2 next week.