In the southeast corner of the parking lot of the headquarters at IBT Industrial Solutions, a quiet memorial stands in a shady area. The small park—complete with flowers and benches—is a tribute to an enthusiastic, longtime employee, Charlie Howard, who passed away in 1996.
“He was just an excellent employee—always there to help people, always positive,” said Stephen Cloud, the Chairman of the Board at IBT. “Charlie was the thread through the lives of many of our employees,” he said, adding that Howard was a “dear, close friend to my mom and dad, the founders of the company.”
30 Years at IBT
Charlie Howard spent 30 years at IBT. During that time, he performed several jobs at IBT, including working in the warehouse operator and acting as a radio dispatcher, back in the days of radio-controlled delivery vans.
“The thing that Charlie did that was so unique was—he took young, new employees under his wing and personally mentored them,” Cloud said. “Nobody asked him to do that, he was just a great employee. Always there to help people, always positive.”
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Salvaged Many Careers
When a new employee at the warehouse had difficulty showing up for work on time, Howard sat him down privately for a one-on-one talk and explained how important this opportunity was. If necessary, he even called the employee each morning at 6:30 a.m. to wake him up—until he got into the routine of showing up for work on time. For another employee with car trouble, Howard gave him a ride to and from work until the car was fixed.
“I can’t tell you how many careers Charlie salvaged,” Cloud said. “He did not want to see these employees get fired or miss out on an opportunity, so he would help them solve their problems.” Cloud added that many of those employees are still on the payroll—up to 40 years later.
To honor his accomplishments and inspire other employees to follow his example, IBT created an Employee of the Quarter award in 1987—with Charlie Howard as the first winner.
“Charlie was an outstanding employee,” said Gary Hense, Director of Training/Marketing Services at IBT. “We look for someone who emulates his work ethic in their daily job.”
After Howard passed away in 1996, the name of the award was changed to the Charlie Howard Spirit Award in his honor. It is still given once a quarter to the employee at IBT corporate headquarters who exhibits loyalty, enthusiasm, punctuality, good attendance, and a positive attitude.
IBT issued its 100th award in Q4 of 2011—to Rushdy Elghussein, the Director of Information Technology. While managers aren’t normally eligible to win the Charlie Howard Spirit Award—the distinction is usually reserved for employees only—Hense said that a special exception was made for the 100th award.
“We try to pick someone who really goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Hense said about the selection process. He added that every manager and employee at corporate headquarters is invited to nominate one team member. Final determination is made by a selection committee. The award is a surprise, and is announced at the quarterly luncheon, which is usually a pizza party.
“We want to keep the spirit of Charlie Howard alive by encouraging people to live up to his example, and the qualities of excellence that he embraced,” Cloud said.