by Alex Palmer | October 22, 2012
With an eye on expanding their respective offerings, recognition firm TharpeRobbins Company, Inc. and incentive supplier Hinda Incentives have merged, the organizations announced on Oct. 22. While the leadership for each company will remain in place, both expect the new arrangement to allow for greater flexibility and innovation in their incentive offerings.

“It’s really a perfect fit from the standpoint of both companies,” said Brett Tharpe, president and CEO of Statesville, NC–based TharpeRobbins. “We see the different generations in the workplace — four main ones and a fifth on the way — and the different demands from the marketplace, and the combination of our two companies allows us to have better coverage for the future.”

Tharpe will remain in his current leadership role, as will Dave Peer, president of Hinda Incentives.

TharpeRobbins, one of the first companies to offer a one-stop employee recognition solution by bundling program design and administration with product fulfillment, will also continue to showcase these strengths while tapping into Hinda’s incentive and loyalty offerings. The 40-year-old Hinda Incentives will continue to focus on offering incentive merchandise, digital awards, as well as books and entertainment through its infinitE platform.

Tharpe emphasized that while his company has been more focused on employee recognition, Hinda brings a greater emphasis on incentive rewards and loyalty.

“They’re not conflicting markets but there is a lot of crossover opportunity from a technology perspective, product, and reward offering standpoint,” he said.

Calling it deal an “ideal fit,” Peer agreed, adding, “We both occupy relatively separate and distinct niches within the market. They’re much, much more focused on employee recognition, whereas Hinda is more focused on loyalty and channel. The natures of our businesses are different enough that we don’t really anticipate colliding with each other in the marketplace.”

The merger will also allow the companies to take advantage of the technology capabilities of one another. Both platforms that the companies offer are Oracle products, and Hinda will be able to tap into TharpeRobbins’ more current ERP software.

“The vision for the technology development of both companies lines up, so we’ll be able to be more efficient and really leverage each other,” said Tharpe. “We can develop something like a mobile app together in partnership, but for the end user the product will be a different experience, so lots of opportunity for back-office efficiency.”

Another area of crossover for the two companies was that both were family-owned businesses and had the same family culture, Peer said. “That was one of the things we really found attractive between the two companies,” Peer said. “That’s how you get two companies to work together, if they have similar backgrounds and cultures. That was one of the things that really helped us finalize the deal.”

Of course, the reason CEO Michael Arkes was selling the business his father and uncle started in 1970 and named after their mother, was that he was ready to retire, Peer said. “He wanted to focus his energy on his philanthropy, “ Peer said. “He had gotten to that point in his life where he had other things to do, and it was time to move on.”

A core part of that philanthropy is Helping Hands Rewards, which will be exhibiting at the Motivation Show in Chicago this week. Founded by Arkes in 2006, Helping Hands Rewards is a non-profit that connects social enterprises that produce merchandise with incentive companies. It provides more than a just channel to market, however, working with those social enterprises on issues like marketing, business development and fulfillment required by companies in the special markets field.

One social enterprise that has worked with Helping Hands Rewards and Arkes for years is the Women’s Bean Project, which helps women escape poverty and chronic unemployment by hiring them to produce gourmet foods and jewelry, while providing social services support and the job- and interpersonal-skills training needed become self sufficient. Another is Mercado Global, which assists Guatemalan women’s cooperatives that produce artisan crafts to sell them at fair market price, working on issues like design, product development, technical training, financial planning, and organizational management, as well as connecting them to markets.