Work perks

Stark County doesn’t have an employer quite like Google, where employees enjoy free lunch and dinner, as well as car washes and oil changes. Not to mention the $12,000-a-year in tuition reimbursement …

Stark County doesn’t have an employer quite like Google, where employees enjoy free lunch and dinner, as well as car washes and oil changes. Not to mention the $12,000-a-year in tuition reimbursement …

Then there’s Lendio. The company—chosen as one of Forbes’ Best Companies to Work for in Utah last year—offers unlimited personal time off, profit sharing, a gym membership, on-site spa services and more.

For our Get to Work issue, About looked at some of the top places to work in the county.

There are plenty of employers in our neck of the woods that offer sweet work perks. Some have gyms on campus, others have a cafeteria—and there are some that have both. It’s a far cry from Google, but The Karcher Group offers a slice of what it’s like to work at a hip tech company. And Kenan Advantage Group, which has grown up before our eyes, may have the best perks in the county.

Do yourself a favor: Make sure your boss sees a copy of this.

Work hard. Play hard. That is sort of the mantra at The Karcher Group, an online marketing, web design and hosting firm located a stone’s throw from the Stark County line near the Akron-Canton Airport. TKG,
founded by Geoff Karcher, relocated from the Glass Tower in Belden Village to its current location off Lauby Road nine years ago.

Kenan Advantage Group
Kenan Advantage Group
The drop-down ceiling was removed to open up the space. Karcher put a pool table in just outside the large conference room. Several times a day, a team working on a project will brainstorm an idea while shooting a game of stick. There is a foosball table and a garage door that is open during the summer (weather permitting) to an outdoor patio, which is complete with a grill. Karcher or his vice president of operations, Patrick Willoughby, will randomly pick a day and grill lunch for the employees.

“Our environment isn’t what most people think of an office,” Willoughby said. “It’s like a mini Google here. We have bright colors, a concrete floor and open cubicles.”

Those open cubicles invite collaboration, and brain fights. TKG has promotional stress balls that are shaped like the human brain and fit in the palm of one’s hand. During the course of a day, those soft brains can be launched back and forth across the office.

To keep the stress low and the energy high, there are scooters that workers can take for a spin around the office, a dartboard and a single-person trampoline. When the weather is nice, a basketball hoop can be wheeled outside, and there are cornhole boards for the cookouts.

TKG also has a “prom committee,” a group of department heads responsible for coming up with employee outings during the year. In June, the group closed early on a Thursday afternoon and headed to the North Canton Skate Center for Family Fun Day. The first Wednesday of every month is “happy hour” at a local establishment where the first round is on the company.

The idea is to get the employees off site, hanging out and enjoying the company of co-workers.

“If we play together well, we’ll work together well,” senior content strategist Darla Brown said. “I imagine if people just followed us on social media, they’d wonder if we ever work. We all work really hard, and it’s nice to know we’re appreciated. It’s a fun place to work with a good mix of people.”

There’s also an annual company camping trip.

Kenan Advantage Group
Kenan Advantage Group
“The notion of a work hard, play hard environment evolved from the very early stages of TKG in the late 1990s,” Karcher said. “We were a small group who became friends working together. Things like foosball, pool and camping became a part of our culture as a way to blow off steam.

In a small group like that, it’s easy to work together and play together.

“As time has gone by, both our company and our families have grown, so it takes a bit more effort to maintain that culture, but it’s well worth it. In my opinion, it’s a big part of what helps our team work for each other rather than working for a paycheck.”

TKG employs nearly 40 people. Most of them work out of the company’s headquarters near the airport. However, some are able to work from home. Karcher admits this approach isn’t for everyone, and he has had a small number of employees over the years take advantage of the atmosphere.

“Those that buy into what we are trying to accomplish enjoy the culture for sure,” Karcher said. “They also realize what affords us the time to play is taking care of the business and our clients.”

Just down the road from TKG is Kenan Advantage Group. It is the country’s largest tank truck transporter and logistics providers. The KAG, as it’s affectionately called by employees, has been in its
current location since 2008. The building is massive, with more than 63,000 square feet of office space.

The folks at Kenan make good use of it, too. Employees can use the company cafeteria to buy lunch, and work off the calories from that lunch in the exercise facility. Yoga classes—twice a week—are offered midday and after work. The gym has treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bikes. There is a ping-pong table that usually gets rolled out a few times a week during lunch.

The Karcher Group
The Karcher Group
Employees are encouraged to hold department and small-group meetings nearby at the fully stocked coffee bar. Senior management members usually hold question-and-answer sessions there twice a year.

“We’re very health-conscious,” said Patricia Harcourt, vice president for corporate communications. “Our lunches are low-salt, low-fat. Probably 75 to 80 percent of the employees here get lunch here.”

On the day About visited KAG, the lunch choices were flatbread pizza, potato wedges and a choice of a salad or cup of soup. Two days before, it was London broil with sherried mushrooms, baby baked potatoes, California-blend vegetables and a choice of soup or salad.

The J.M. Smucker Co., located in nearby Orrville, has an employee cafeteria that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Smucker’s goes a step further and even offers take-home dinners for employees.

The jelly maker also has a child development center for children of employees age 6 weeks through preschool. There is a gym with an indoor track (later this year), full-court basketball and locker rooms.

ARE, a manufacturer of after-market truck accessories, is in Massillon. One of its best perks is an employee clinic. It is staffed twice a week by a doctor. Employees are able to see the doctor during company hours, get prescriptions filled for some medications on site and get referrals for additional needs.

There are plenty of places that offer perks to employees. It depends on the size of the business, both in terms of revenue and employees. A local law firm, which did not wish to be named, takes its employees—attorneys, clerks and secretaries—on a one-day shopping spree to Nordstrom in Beachwood Place Mall. Employees are greeted by a personal shopping assistant and a gift card ranging from $600 to $1,200.