by Lisa Grimaldi | January 01, 2008


Wailing winners:
Bosch’s top performers
play at a scheduled
jam session.

There’s nothing musicians
like better than the sound of their own music. That’s just one of the many little idiosyncrasies Bosch Communications Systems discovered recently about the folks for whom the company has been designing incentive programs for nearly 30 years. Another: Leave them alone. Cut the 24/7 organized activities. Give them plenty of free time. And don’t even think of scheduling their flights home in the wee hours of the morning after a night of enthusiastic partying.

The incentive program, which began in 1976 with Telex, a company that was acquired by Bosch in 2006, typically involves some 350 participants. Over the years, winners have been taken to far-flung places such as Australia, Argentina, Monaco and Vienna.

In the past, every minute of every day was jam-packed with activities, tours, events and meals, and music always played a part in the agenda. In Australia, for example, winners visited the Sydney Opera House; in Vienna, they were entertained by the Vienna Boys Choir.

But the program began losing some of its steam in the mid-1990s, and the company put it on hiatus after 2001. Three years ago, it was reinstated, and every year since, the format has been tweaked to make it more in tune with what these winners want.

For the 2007 program, participants first were queried about their preferences. “They’d had some complaints in the past that the trips were too packed, and they wanted more free time and relaxation,” says Carlson Marketing’s Matt Robb, who has been involved in the latest revamp.

Solution: More laid-back settings and destinations were selected for the programs (Aruba and Puerto Rico preceded the Dominican Republic). The number of activities and formal events was trimmed, and winners and their guests were given a lot more free time.

Over the years, one of the most popular activities for this group of part-time or former rockers and blues players (who typically bring their own instruments) was to form impromptu jam sessions around the hotels or resorts.

For the most recent program, Tom Hansen, Bosch’s vice president, sales, the Americas, and Robb took the winners’ love of jamming to another level: Instead of hiring entertainment for one of the nights, they added a formal jam session to the agenda, with equipment, lighting and all the other accoutrements of a professional set.

drummerGuitaristSingerthe stage







In the spotlight: Many Bosch incentive winners have musical backgrounds -- and the personalities that go with the territory.

The night featured an ever-changing roster of talent, with winners serving as musicians and singers, and the show continued on to the beach, to various balconies and patios, and even to the piano bar in the lobby, where other hotel guests thought they were watching professional entertainers. In fact, when the jam session moved to the lobby, some of the winners set up a donation bucket for the group and any other hotel guests who wanted to contribute. The money collected was donated to the victims of the floods that had devastated parts of the Dominican Republic the week before.

The annual event has evolved in other areas: The first night has no formal welcome event; with participants arriving from all over North and South America, it takes the worry out of flight delays and other travel snafus. The big welcome now is held on the second night.

Similarly, the “final” night affair actually takes place on the next-to-last night, since partying often goes into the wee hours; this way, there are no early-morning flights to miss. And the final bash is strictly casual: Khakis and flip-flops are de rigueur.

Another change, recommended by Matt Robb, was the timing of the programs. Trips traditionally took place in December, but because the holiday retail season is so important to both the company’s and the winners’ business, they now are held in early November.

Along with more satisfied winners, the fine-tuned program resulted in a greater number of winners -- a 23 percent increase in 2007 alone. In fact, the group was so large -- 425 in total -- that the room block at the host hotel, the Paradisus Palma Real, wasn’t large enough; the overflow was housed at the hotel’s sister property, the Melia Caribe Tropical.

“The culture of our firm is more collaborative and has an open environment,” notes Hansen. And now, he adds, Bosch’s incentive program more winningly reflects that culture.