Straight from the Heart(land): All Ideas Welcome Here

Bob Carr is founder (in 1997) and still leader of Heartland Payment Systems, the fifth largest credit card processor in the country. Its Jeffersonville-based Heartland Service Center was recently honored in the seventh annual Best Places to Work in Indiana program. Check out their story.

One nugget that didn’t make the story cut was Heartland’s "I have an idea" program. Think of it as a suggestion box on steroids. Not only can anyone (including customer advocates, or call center reps in training) offer their thoughts, but they all go directly to Carr in his Princeton, New Jersey office.

This is a company with more than 2,600 associates across the country. Carr either responds directly or enlists someone on the management team to find out more information about the proposal before answering the employee.

Jeff Nichols, head of operations in Jeffersonville and a 15-year member of the Heartland team, explains: "We recognize if we have to make decisions and don’t take in information from every channel, we’re limited by our own creativity. Anybody in the company can send in an idea. We’ve implemented hundreds and hundreds. Some are very big and save the company money. Some are just simple things."

Kudos to Carr and Heartland, along with rest of the Best Places to Work winners. Learn more about these organizations in the current BizVoice.

Making Sweet Music at Heartland

"It’s like a family reunion."

"It puts a face with a name."

"I really get excited when I see people get together who’ve never met."

Those are three participant descriptions of a mid-March event hosted by Heartland Payment Systems. Titled "Beyond the Win: Heartland Summit 2012," the gathering is part business meeting, full festival of fun and recognition.

"We bring the sales force in, our external team for all 50 states," explains Jeff Nichols, executive director of the Jeffersonville-based Heartland Service Center Operations. Heartland, founded in 1997 and headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, is the fifth largest payment processor in the United States.

"We work with those folks on a daily basis," Nichols continues. "The real big value of the overall summit is it’s more sales driven. We always roll out our newest products. The nighttime is all about celebrating our employees."

Hearty handshakes, and more often hugs, were the norm as I attended one of the evening celebrations. Why was I there? To do a story on the Jeffersonville operation as one of the Best Places to Work in Indiana. It was easy to see through both that event and interviews with some of the Heartland team the next day at their state-of-the-art home why the company earned the honor.

My full Heartland story will be in the May-June BizVoice magazine. It debuts May 3, the night of the Best Places to Work in Indiana awards dinner. It’s not too late to attend the dinner with 70 of Indiana’s top workplaces as determined by their employees. If you want to participate in the 2013 program, learn more here.

The awards event I attended as part of the summit was capped by a Fourth Street Live (if you’ve been to downtown Louisville, you’re undoubtedly familiar with this venue) concert performance by Nichols and a talented group of other local musicians. A Steely Dan tribute was the theme for the night, and I tried not to be too offended when some of the attendees mentioned how they really didn’t know too much about the band, which enjoyed its greatest popularity in the mid to late 1970s (translation: they’re young and I’m getting old).

Steely Dan featured some excellent music and talented artists, but then that’s another story. For now, congratulations to Heartland (and all the Best Places winners) and stay tuned for more about some great workplaces.