Reward ≠ Recognition.

We recently worked with a new client who was confusing “reward” and “recognition”.

Sandra wanted to get even more results from a salesperson who was already hitting his quota.  Sandra knew that it would take less effort to get more out of Mark than two or three of her other talented salespeople and in the end, it would be more profitable.

First she tried a financial bonus for any sale over Mark’s original goals.  But Mark was already financially successful and was unmoved.  Next Sandra appealed to Mark’s ego by asking him to mentor some new people for which he would be compensated.  This helped the new salespeople but Mark didn’t secure any new business.

What was Sandra missing?  And how were we able to construct an incentive program that inspired Mark to sell 25% more than his target?   By understanding the difference between “reward” and “recognition.”  According to,


1)      Something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment;

2)      A stimulus administered… following a correct or desired response that increases the probability of occurrence of the response.


1)      Special notice or attention

We offered Mark something he couldn’t get on his own.  Something that would show his friends and family how successful he is.  Something that would affect his behavior for years to come.

Isn’t that what you want for all your salespeople?  Everyone – from beginners to veterans – needs reward AND recognition.  The challenge is what combination works for YOUR people?

We’re offering a free one-hour consultation to people like Sandra who want to motivate their top performers.  If that’s you, click the link below, tell us a little about your situation and we’ll be in touch.

I want to motivate my TOP performers.


The Devil in the Details

When you travel frequently as part of your job, as I do, it would make sense to stay home when on vacation.  But because I find the world an endlessly fascinating place, for me, vacation is the perfect time to put the shoe on the other foot and be the recipient of all the wonderful destinations, excursions and experiences that we put in place for our clients.

This past December, we travelled to some amazing places in India and Africa.  The trip was filled with new places, people, sites, and sounds and, as it always happens, with opportunities to be reminded of why it’s so important to pay attention to all the details when planning an incentive travel program.

We traveled on a beautiful mid-size ship in the Indian Ocean. The food and service were wonderful and our every need was tended to – except when it came to the excursions.  These exotic locations don’t offer what many tourists expect and if this isn’t understood from the outset, things can go terribly wrong.

Given the smaller ship, the process for on- and off-loading passengers should have been simple and well organized.  It was not.  There wasn’t an effective priority system to get people with planned excursions off the ship first so they could make their scheduled departure time, resulting in long, unnecessary lines.  It’s normal for people not to listen well to instructions so it’s up to the tour operators or the ship to go the extra mile to make procedures clear, easy to follow and effective.

In many cases the tour descriptions didn’t match the experience so we saw many passengers who were disappointed in their outing. And when things happened unexpectedly, even something as simple as a change in weather, there didn’t appear to be adequate back-up plans in place to keep things running smoothly.

Just these few examples reaffirmed why it’s so important to use an experienced incentive company if you are planning an incentive travel program for your group.  The company you hire will:

*  Make sure excursion descriptions match the experience.
*  Choose excursions that match the interests of your employees, customers and channel partners.
*  Work with suppliers to give your group priority boarding and disembarkation when appropriate.
*  Have alternate plans available when unexpected changes occur.
*  Empower staff to make decisions to call for back-up buses, alternate tours or provide timely reimbursement for excursions that are cancelled.

These are just a few examples of the details that can hide the devil and may ruin a program that your people worked hard to earn.

How Do You Motivate the Middle?

Your top performers always perform. They earn the rewards and recognition you offer because it is their nature to consistently achieve results.

But what about the rest of your team?  How do you “motivate the middle” or biggest proportion of your target market?  This is one of the biggest challenges facing executives in a time when employee and customer loyalty as well as engagement cannot be assumed.

We are pleased to announce that Performance Enhancement Incentives has broadened the scope of its services to become a full Engagement Agency.  We can now provide you with the tools you need to help integrate all aspects of employee motivation – performance assessment, communication and learning, collaboration and innovation, rewards and recognition and the ability to measure the return on your investment.  The goal of the Engagement Agency is to help executives improve motivation and engagement in all your team members, not just the top performers, and achieve improved financial results through comprehensive and effective programs designed for your specific needs and business goals.

For example, we’ve worked with several national homebuilders who use incentive travel programs to motivate their sales teams.  Sales professionals eagerly await the announcement of the program and their individual goals.  Then throughout the year they work to earn the reward not only because they enjoy the travel experience but because they delight in the recognition that comes with being a top performer.  In every circumstance, the executives struggle with explaining why incentive opportunities are offered to salespeople and not to construction, customer service and administrative personnel.  Everyone agrees that it requires the effort of the entire team to deliver a quality home buying experience which contributes to increased sales but it is impossible to expand these particular programs to include every department.

The Engagement Agency will provide solutions to this dilemma.  Any individual in any department within a company can earn an incentive reward if they achieve their stated goals.   And this will all be managed in one place making it easy, cost effective and measurable for business leaders.

We will be soon be sharing more information about the Engagement Agency – the program opportunities, client management portal and the results you can expect to achieve in implementing an effective reward and recognition system for all the members of your business team. In the meantime, if you would like more information, don’t hesitate to contact me at 978-287-9500.


Borgo di Vagli – A Feast for the Senses

A view of the Tuscan valley

Our magical part of Tuscany is where the weather doesn’t seem to matter to our enjoyment of all its charms.  We arrived in the midst of a rare fall wind and rainstorm.  After a two hour trip savoring the pleasures of rediscovering shopping in an Italian grocery store, I had a pot of my Ragu simmering on the stove while Colin was deciding which bottle of Rosso di Montalcino we should try – a new purchase waiting to be discovered or an old favorite from Casanova di Neri (one of the greatest wines this area offers).  The rain continued, Il Volo played on the CD player and we sampled salumi and parmesano reggiano.  We were home!

That night the wild boar paid us a visit  and as we lay in bed we heard their snuffling and grunts of pleasure as they discovered the black walnuts and figs that had fallen to the ground from the trees outside our window.

Morning arrived and with it, bright blue sky and warm sunshine.  I had been intrigued by an article I had read about a tiny chamber in the Palace of Urbino, a Renaissance town in the Le Marche region.  We headed off to discover this part of Italy about two hours northeast of Cortona.  The tiny room is by all comparisons, a veritable feast for the eyes but was only one part of the huge castle of marble and stone. The chamber, or Studiolo, a room of contemplation for the Duke of Urbino in the 15th century, is composed of intarsia.  This woodwork technique creates the illusion of 3 dimensions in 2 dimensions and apparently only a handful of these rooms were ever built.  Incredibly beautiful and a must see for anyone in the area.

Fruits of the Region

In the center of Urbino, the restaurant Antico Osteria de la Stella did not fail us either.  As usual, lunch was a two hour affair replete with Carpaccio of beef, gnocchi sautéed with pancetta and pistachios, tender beef filet and gianduja (combination of hazlenuts and chocolate) ice cream accompanied by whipped chocolate cream and almond brittle.  As much as I love cooking I also enjoy being cooked for and this was an unexpected treat!

Days for us in Tuscany pass quickly as we are caught up in the spell of the area – in the rolling hills that lie on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, and the mountains overlooking Lago di Trasimeno where Napoleon defeated Hannibal and the bones supposedly of thousands lie.  Walks in the hills gathering the fruits of the season have become a favorite pastime of mine.  This year I am happy to discover plums, apricots, cherries, berries, and of course overladen trees of figs and walnuts.  Ripe for the picking and oh so good! Beautiful sunrises and sunsets combined with warm sunshine and a nip in the air delight us.

A visit to this area however is not complete without a visit to Ristorante Walter Redaelli, the best in Tuscany if not all of Italy. Walter is the former head chef at Locanda Del Amorosa and his current restaurant is located at a charming B&B La Leopoldina in Bettolle just off the A1.  Fresh local ingredients serve as the inspiration for both imaginative and traditional seasonal cuisine prepared by the chef himself. Great value, impeccable service, and an outstanding wine list make this a must go to and a favorite of mine.


Next on our list was a visit to Poliziano a winery located just outside of Montepulciano for our yearly tasting of their latest vintage!  We were not disappointed!  Fabio met us as usual and Jennifer (American expat and author) did our tasting with us regaling us with her latest anecdotes of life in Italy and all the information on their latest releases including a fabulous Vin Santo of which only a few hundred cases were made.  In addition, we were treated to a new taste treat, their 2008 Mandrone di Lohsa.  I understand Wine Spectator has just given it a 92.  We were lucky enough to be able to buy a couple of bottles and one bottle of the vin Santo.  We intend to share them at Thanksgiving this year……… What fun that will be!

Memories of Boca

It’s wonderful when you can revisit a destination and experience something new and exciting.  We recently operated a program in Florida and stayed at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Boca Raton is an original Florida resort developed in the mid 1920’s. Today it’s a lovely mix of old luxury and today’s conveniences. The resort recently underwent a $120Million renovation and the changes are visible and deep.  Visiting Florida in the summer is also a terrific value.

View of Beach Club and Ocean

The resort boasts two golf courses, tennis courts, a fitness center and a phenomenal spa.  It has great restaurants, beautiful vistas of a half mile white sand beach and the Atlantic Ocean.   From the front desk staff to the restaurants, service here is top notch.  It felt very personalized as the Bellman, among others, engaged us in pleasant and very welcoming conversation as we were shown to our rooms.  It was the perfect centerpiece for an incentive reward program.

On this trip, our client wanted their participants to interact with each other and to network with upper management.  They also wanted to provide them with some true vacation time – time to spend on their own away from their business colleagues.  We accomplished this with a varied and interesting agenda.

Aboard the Kathleen Windridge

On the first evening, the entire group boarded the Kathleen Windridge, a luxury yacht, where they enjoyed cocktails, dinner catered by the resort and a four-hour sail on the Intracoastal Waterway.  They enjoyed views of beautiful homes, the setting sun, the company of their co-workers and company executives while listening to a Jimmy Buffet-style trio.

Over the next few days, guests enjoyed the amenities of the resort as they pleased. We provided additional agenda flexibility by applying a room credit to the guests account.  This credit could be used at any of the many restaurants onsite, at the golf course, spa or for any other resort service. The room credit concept works for the company since it is cost effective, provides a good value and delivers agenda flexibility to the guest.

Tower of Boca

I would like to share one last memory of our trip to Boca Raton.  At the end of a delicious meal at Trulucks Seafood, Steak and Crab House, we ordered a “Tower of Boca,” for our table, a foot high chocolate square pound cake filled with raspberries and whipped cream.  Each individual serving was topped with dark chocolate sauce and sugared pecans.  It was astonishingly delightful and managed to satisfy every sweet tooth in our party. If you are in the Boca area you really ought to try this restaurant for an exceptional dining experience. I recommend it highly!


Beat the Heat

Lake of the Incas

The extreme summer heat inspired my son and me to do something extreme last month.  We went skiing!  That’s right, skiing in the summer.  And there may be no more beautiful location than the magnificent Andes Mountains of Chile.

Lake of the Incas

We flew into Santiago, a wonderful city reminiscent of the most cosmopolitan cities of Europe thirty years ago.  The hotels, restaurants and scenery are all world class.  I have enjoyed wines from all around the world and I wasn’t disappointed at the outstanding quality of the reds and whites that come from the vineyards surrounding the city.

We traveled northeast out of Santiago for about 2 ½ hours to a mile or so from the Argentinean border.  The Portillo Resort sits at 9,200 feet on the Lake of the Incas.  For eight days, we skied the Roca Jack Run (a favorite because it’s steep,) as well as cruiser runs like Plateau or Juncalillo that ends down in the valley below the resort.  The Andes are a “young” range with jagged peaks that haven’t been blunted by erosion as much as the Alps or Rockies and they rise another 5-6,000 feet above where we were.  The majesty and power of those mountains just takes your breath away, even if you aren’t tuckin’ it to the bottom of the run.

It goes without saying that my son is one of my favorite travel companions.  Sharing these eight days with him in one of the most beautiful places in the world doing something we both love was a thrill. Next: the Dolomites in January!

Jared and Colin in the Andes

How Far Would Your Incentive Partner Go For You?

I love to travel.  I also love being able to help clients plan the most outstanding incentive program possible.  And after being in this business for over 25 years, I know how important it is to get all the details right.  So when a recent site inspection didn’t measure up to our standards, we knew what had to be done.

Our 4-day PEI Executive Summit in Cabo was followed by an 8-day program.  In between, we scheduled a site visit in anticipation of bringing our clients to the location later in the year for the “official” site visit.  We were stunned when we found major issues in food and beverage and the overall level of service at the hotel we had intended to use.  We had high expectations for first class accommodations, butler service in the rooms and concierge level support throughout the facility.

We endured three meals, each with its own issues.  Bacon and sausage swimming in its own fat at the breakfast buffet; poorly presented bread/olive oil at dinner; frozen fish that was still cold and ultimately tasteless;  chocolate soufflé that was actually a chocolate lava cake, which would have been nice if that’s what had been ordered.

We met with onsite management, our salesperson and the Director of Food and Beverage.  We conveyed all of our concerns and informed them that we were prepared to move the program to another property.  We requested a conference call with the General Manager the following week, after he returned from a business trip.

During that following week, we were once again hosting a program with another group but during our free time, followed up with the General Manager on a Friday.  He assured us that the situation was caused by a confluence of issues and promised that steps would be taken to ensure that by the time we returned with our client, scheduled for the Fall, all would be well.

We said, “Great!  See you on Tuesday.”  So rather than head home after nearly 3 weeks on the road, we made one more visit to the property.  We also took the opportunity to spend an extra 2 days on the island and check out a different property just in case it was needed.

We’re happy to report that the General Manager’s promise was kept.  Almost overnight, the staff “got their act together.”  The food and beverage experiences matched or exceeded our expectations.  We sampled almost every food offered in every restaurant (small samples, thank you!) to ensure top quality.  And at every level, the service was transformed.

Our goal was not to fix their problems but to ensure that they are capable of delivering the level of service and quality of experience that we expect for our clients.  And this they accomplished.  When the time comes to take our client for their own site inspection, we will again satisfy ourselves that the property is perfect by arriving 2-3 days early and reviewing every detail as we have already done.

It would have been nice to be home for those four days but that’s the price of delivering excellence.  A price we’re willing to pay.

Just One of Those “Lifetime Memories”

Last month I wrote about the wonderful time we had in Los Cabos during our PEI Executive Summit.  I want to talk more about one particular event that was so amazing that I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Travel is a huge part of the work Colin and I do and we love it. However it can be exhausting to always be on the road.  The last six months in particular, have been very busy with programs, site inspections, and hosting our own executive summits.  Rarely do we have the opportunity to be the recipient of any of the special services that we create for our clients.  This was an exception.

The Fiesta Americana Grand in Los Cabos has designed an evening called “Barefoot Elegance.”  From start to finish, all five senses are engaged – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

It starts as we approach the beach.  We are greeted by butlers who “check” our shoes, remove them on trays and escort us to a living room on the beach with overstuffed rattan couches where we are served grape martinis and hors d’oeuvres.  After enjoying this brief respite, we are then taken further down the beach where there are 12 massage therapists standing in various yoga positions awaiting their guests.  The sun is setting, casting a beautiful glow over the whole scene.  At each guest “station” there was an overstuffed rattan chaise and a small wine barrel.  What happened next was quite unexpected!

We each were helped into our own individual barrel where we proceeded to stomp on purple wine grapes.  Aided by the therapists, we smashed and laughed, not realizing that the therapy had already started.  After a few minutes, we settled into the lounge chairs and enjoyed foot and lower leg massages with rare French grape seed oil and the grapes we had just crushed.  Closing our eyes, we could hear the ocean and waves crashing on the sand in front of us, feel the wind, smell the aroma of the grapes and citrus incense as well as enjoy the sensations of the massage.

The timing of day for this event was perfect.  When we opened our eyes, the tiki torches had been lit and the sun was disappearing over the horizon.  At this point, the wine sommelier took us through an exquisite wine and canapé pairing just as the stars began to appear.  After a short presentation on the constellations over Los Cabos, we moved to a private dining table where we watched the chef prepare and serve a magnificent five-course meal.  Another unexpected delight was the staff member who performed a romantic Italian opera aria over dessert.  It was just magnificent.

After dinner, we enjoyed some social time at the fire pit, tasting Mexican liqueurs and listening to live music.  By this time, the sun had fully set and the scene on the beach was warm and totally relaxing. Good food, good wine and good friends.

It’s not often that we step out of the role of host but on this occasion, I really felt like we had been on   the receiving end of this incentive program and of the world-class treatment we endeavor to deliver to our clients.  It was an experience I will remember for a long, long time!

Short, Sweet and Memorable

Our recent program to the stunning island of Bermuda left a very favorable impression on the members of two different companies who had recently become one.  The cross functional group consisted of salespeople, engineering support personnel and management.  This was one of the first opportunities for high performers from the individual companies to come together and meet each other.  The goals of the program included recognizing high achievers from both companies, making new connections, building camaraderie and demonstrating a culture of high quality.

The opening day did not disappoint. The company’s welcome gift upon arrival was a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses which became a fun event as each guest was encouraged to try on different styles in order to choose their perfect pair.  That evening, the Fairmount Southampton outdid itself with an elaborate barbeque buffet on the beach.  Picture the soft pink sand; bright , aqua-marine water; brightly decorated tables; exquisite, melt-in-your-mouth food; premium open bar and music that made you want to kick off your shoes and move.  It was a surreal setting and the perfect kick-off for the 4-day get-a-way.

The next morning the guests participated in a sailing regatta.  The 10-25 people in each boat could choose whether to take part in the work of sailing or relax onboard.  The teams immediately got into competitive mode after receiving team hats and being instructed on the basics of sailing.  They quickly learned the meaning of sailing lingo such as “come about” which basically means “duck!”  This was an effective, experiential and fun team building exercise abetted by cool, refreshing beverages.

While sailing through Hamilton Harbor, each team participated in a destination quiz based on what they heard during the briefing, terminology aboard the boat, some historical notes about Bermuda and what they saw along the way.  Prizes were awarded to guests with the highest scores but everyone on board who enjoyed the beautiful day and the picture perfect scenery came away a winner.

After a leisurely afternoon, the company hosted an awards dinner recognizing all the higher achievers.  It was an opportunity for company executives to share their vision of the future and recognize excellence among their employees.

The following day the guests chose their own company-sponsored event.  Some played golf on the world-class Port Royal course, others took a “boat, bike and beach” tour around Hamilton Sound.  Another group enjoyed a grilling/cooking lesson hosted by Goslings Rum.  They tasted their way through a 3-course lunch sampling various rums and learning how to use the delicious liquid in marinades and sauces.

The final evening was free time for guests to sample the joys of Bermuda on their own.  Our concierge service helped them select a restaurant and their evening entertainment.

While the trip was short, the company achieved its goals of recognizing high achievers, bringing strangers together and using shared experiences to start new relationships.



A chance to learn from an expert, and from each other

Last week we hosted a number of industry executives at the Performance Enhancement Incentives Executive Educational Summit in Cabo San Lucas.  We have several goals for these summits which include 1) providing relevant information on employee incentives and travel reward programs; 2) introducing business leaders to a particular destination; and 3) demonstrating first-hand how a travel reward program can affect business results.  An added bonus is what happens when executives come together in a non-competitive environment – they share their own experiences and learn from each other.

Bruce Bolger and Colin Higgins

During the 3-day summit, attendees visited several venues and restaurants and experienced some of the attractions of this beautiful area.  Hotel executives conducted site tours to demonstrate their ability to manage groups of all sizes, arrange meetings, and provide exceptional food and service for their guests.  The food and service demonstrated at several restaurants proved that Cabo and the surrounding area can deliver an exceptional reward experience to visitors.

Bruce Bolger, managing director of The Enterprise Engagement Alliance, was the keynote speaker.  Bolger conducts research and creates measurement tools related to engagement, including the Enterprise Engagement Indicator and Meter for tracking an organization’s ability to improve performance through engagement.  At the summit, Bolger talked about the three-pronged approach to engagement – customer, employee and vendor.  When every aspect of the business is engaged, it maximizes a company’s performance and its value which in turn, impacts the stock value.  Bolger also discussed the effective use of incentives and recognition in achieving engagement success.

Summit attendees engaged with each other on topics that are important to business leaders.  They shared their challenges, successes and failures on the topic of employee engagement.  This exchange of high level intelligence is extremely valuable for these executives and they left the Summit filled with new knowledge and ideas to implement in their own companies.