Muskego-based Royal Recognition Inc.
is marking four decades in business this year with a nearly $5 million, 20,000-square-foot expansion of its headquarters office and production facility.
It's the fourth expansion project at the S83 W19105 Saturn Drive property since Royal Recognition established its home base there in 1997, and it comes as the provider of employee recognition products continues to chart growth amid shifts in workplace dynamics and staffing needs.
Started in 1983 in the basement of founders Joe and Peggy Cull's first home, Royal Recognition has grown its client base to more than 1,500 companies in 32 countries, with 13 distribution centers across the globe. With Royal's workplace recognition programs, companies can reward and recognize employees for anniversaries and other performance milestones - from day one on the job to retirement.
Royal works with clients to customize their programs based on industry, budget, and expectations of their employee base, which is one factor that has evolved drastically in recent years, said Dan Cull
, national accounts manager and second-generation owner. He joined his parents on the ownership team last March as part of a long-term succession plan.
"With the whole job market the way it is and having five generations in the workforce right now, everyone likes to be recognized differently and people like to be recognized a lot more often now because of the turnover," said Cull.
Historically, it was standard practice for companies to start recognizing employees after five years of service. Now, as many companies struggle to maintain adequate staffing levels, employees are being rewarded much earlier and more frequently. In industries with historically high turnover rates, such as retail, it's become the norm to recognize workers on day one, then again at six months, one year and three years.
"(The recognition) part of the business has grown substantially due to the demand of getting people on board and getting them into that organization’s culture quickly so that they'll have a better chance at retaining them," said Cull.
Onboarding gifts could be as simple as a branded lanyard or pen, but when presented by a manager in front of co-workers, the gesture is all the more meaningful. As part of its program, Royal provides tips on how managers can present rewards in the most meaningful way; it's not all about the gift itself.
"Yes, you're getting something tangible for that special occasion, but the big value is coming from that one-to-one interaction, with being presented by your manager in front of your peers," said Cull.
Rewards increase in variety and value with the number of years served at the company. Top-level rewards range from skydiving to a trip within the continental U.S. Employees can browse and redeem their gift through Royal's customized web portal.
"It’s definitely evolved from the old recognition days of, 'Do you want a watch, a necklace or a pen?'" said Cull.
In 2021, Royal Recognition branched out into the corporate apparel business with the launch of its Amp Attire brand. Now with a customer base of 22 convenience store retailers nationwide, the company is producing roughly 50,000-60,000 pieces of embroidered apparel and 20,00-30,000 pieces of screen printed apparel per month.
Amp Attire has allowed the company to not only acquire new customers, but also to grow and strengthen relationships with existing customers by becoming something of a "one-stop-shop" for both recognition and outfitting, said Cull. Plus, with all production done at its headquarters, the company has been able to keep a close eye on its newest operation.
That momentum was a big driver in the facility expansion currently underway in Muskego.
[gallery td_gallery_title_input="Renderings of Royal Recognition's expanded facility in Muskego" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="566739,566740,566741"]
The project will allow the company to increase warehousing space and production capacity for screen printing and embroidery, with the addition of two new embroidery machines arriving this fall as well as new print machines for name tags and apparel. Roughly 1,000 square feet of office space will be added to the second floor to accommodate the company's growing customer support team.
The expansion will also allow Royal Recognition to add 15-20 jobs to its corporate headquarters, for a total of just over 60 local employees. The company has an additional 45 sales reps based around the country.
The cost of building and materials for the expansion exceeds $4 million, said Cull, but with additional expenses such as interior design, landscaping and new equipment, the total investment will be closer to $5 million.
One challenge on the horizon is finding talent to fill open positions and keep up with the demands of clients. The company is doing "everything under the sun" to attract workers, from job fairs to leaning on recruiters, said Cull. Retention is another story, with an average tenure of 8.4 years across the company.
"We have a loyal base," said Cull. "We have some people who were here when I was 5 or 6 years old, it's pretty cool that way. Internally, we practice everything we sell."