Employees entering the hotel conference room are greeted with the mouthwatering smells of ham, bacon, pancakes, and omelets. It's time for Unique Window & Door's monthly breakfast meeting, where bonuses will be handed out — each of the Indianapolis company's 100-plus employees is eligible to receive a bonus — and company profit-sharing information will be updated.

How It Started The breakfast program began two years ago when owner Bob Dillon decided that his $6 million operation needed a spark of some kind. Things weren't going badly, but Dillon says he saw untapped potential and wanted to find a way to release it.

The company owner points out that when he first heard the idea of holding a monthly breakfast meeting for all employees —which he picked up at an educational conference — it “sounded hokey.” Unique, he says, already offered bonuses. But the idea behind the breakfast meeting was to call attention to the fact that the company offered them — many home improvement companies don't — and to use the occasion for some morale-building camaraderie and fun.

Today Dillon credits the breakfast program with helping to significantly raise Unique's sales and productivity levels. “We've grown 50% a year in the last two years,” he says. Sales in 2005, for instance, rose to $13.5 million.

Put It in Writing The bonuses come in the form of individual checks, separate from paychecks, and are paid out monthly. Those earning the highest bonuses also get plaques.

Unique makes it easy for employees to know how to earn a bonus, spelling out the details in writing along with job descriptions. For example, a window installer gets a bonus of $450 for installing $56,000 in windows per month. If he installs as much as $84,500 in windows, he gets $1,150. If he has zero callbacks on his work, that's an additional $150. If he is credited with $10,000 to $14,999 in referrals, he gets a $100 bonus. Similar scales are set up for siding installers.

Salespeople who are past the trainee stage pull down a bonus of 2% on $46,000 in monthly sales, but that can be decreased by 15% if they have a cancellation rate of more than 10%. Even administrative staffers earn a bonus of $300, although it is cut back if, for example, orders are incorrect because of mis-measuring.

His employees like the money, of course, Dillon says, but they also appreciate the information on profit sharing. “I get a lot of comments that it helps to know where profit sharing stands.” In an average month, he spends $80,000 on bonuses; a bad month might mean just $40,000. Typically, the cost of the meeting room and catering for each meeting runs between $700 and $900.