A Business Built Around Rewards

//A Business Built Around Rewards

BY SUSAN SHALHOUB
SPECIAL TO THE WORCESTER BUSINESS JOURNAL

(Family Business Awards Honoree | Category: 25-74 full-time employees)

Brian Galonek, president of All Star Incentive Marketing, readily admits that even his wife doesn’t always know how to describe his company. It isn’t like he’s a firefighter or schoolteacher — where everyone knows what your work involves.

Premium products? Employee incentives? They may not be familiar terms to many, but it’s what the Galoneks — Ed Sr., Ann, and their children, Gary, Brian and Ed Jr. — do best: inspiring others to do their best.

Simply put: incentive marketing helps businesses recognize employees for good performance, following safe workplace practices, or rewarding loyal customers.
For example, incentives — or premiums — are in effect when you buy a plastic coffee jug at Dunkin Donuts (one of All Star’s first customers) and use it to get future refills at a discount. “It’s how to motivate behavior,” said Brian Galonek.

Incentive marketing has been around for about 100 years. But the concept’s been around much longer.

Today, it’s a $46-billion industry, according to The Incentive Federation, and if you add couponing, it’s likely eight times that.

All Star’s offerings include corporate point programs, in which employees can earn points and choose from catalogs of brand-name products, and you can track accrued points online. Incentives like travel awards are valued more and remembered longer than cash rewards, Brian said.

EARLY DAYS

In the 1970s, Ed Sr. worked for plastics manufacturer Amoco Chemical, and pursued new premium business with “non-traditional retailers” said Brian, gas stations that wanted to give away promotional plastic items, for example. Ed then went on to start All Star with Ann’s help, working out of a renovated trolley station in Sturbridge.

All Star then began doing its own fulfillment duties — storing and shipping items to customers directly. It represented the Atari product line. As a kid, Brian remembers bundling Atari games with Duracell batteries for a promotional offer to help his parents’ business, which sometimes involved “long hours and tough (financial) times,” for them, he said. “Doing (fulfillment) ourselves offered another level of profit margin.”

Today, All Star’s home is a 60,000-square-foot facility in the Fiskdale section of Sturbridge with more than 50 employees. Ed is CEO; Ann is treasurer; Brian, president; Gary serves as national gaming sales manager and Ed Jr. is All Star’s business development manager. Michael Balcom, the longest-serving non-family employee, has headed the corporate identity division for 25 years.

Brian had no intention of joining the family firm after college; when he did, he wasn’t sure if it would be permanent. Gary, and later, Brian, graduated from UMass Amherst and worked at Hartford-based NCR for a time. Ed Jr., the youngest, graduated from the University of Rhode Island and joined the team and his brothers right away.

The naming of Brian as company president was a casual affair in their dad’s driveway in the mid-1980s. “My dad said, ‘I was talking to your mom about it and I think one of you should be president,'” Brian recalled. “Gary said, ‘I think Brian ought to do it,’ and that was it. Then I think my dad said ‘OK, your mom’s cooking dinner tonight,’ or something like that,” Brian laughed. “We were still a small company. It really wasn’t a big deal.”

Working with family has clear benefits, Brian said.

“You always know that family members have your back,” he said. “We’ve always stuck together as a group.”

Between them, the brothers have seven children ages 10 to 23. All have helped out at the company at some point, Brian said.

TECHNOLOGY EVOLUTION

Brian’s first goal as president: go to the web. The company’s prize catalogs began going online by the late ’90s. Its first online customer — a week before the site went live, with Brian sending screen shots — was Charles Schwab, buying golf clubs and jackets for high sellers in a $300,000 deal, Brian said. It was a client that likely wouldn’t have found All Star if it didn’t have a web presence.

Over the years, marketing consulting has been an expanding part of the company’s offerings, teaching clients how to use the tools provided. “We bundle in a lot of things,” such as designing ad campaigns, Brian said.

What’s next for All Star? Sales growth, said Brian, “more of the same with a bigger footprint.”

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