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By Dr. Jarrod Goentzel

Companies continually tinker with incentive programs for their employees to align individual behavior with business goals. Visiting a relatively new venture in Zimbabwe, I found a unique incentive scheme to drive efficiency…literally.

A Pulse employee prepares his new truck

A Pulse employee prepares his new truck

Pulse Pharmaceuticals began distributing medicine in the capital city of Harare in 2009. It started small, with only one product line and ambition. By the time I visited in January 2013, the company had grown to around 40 employees and $20 million in sales. As the company grew, some employees had earned a particularly generous company perk – a company vehicle. Note that I did not say company car, because all company vehicles are pickup trucks.

Why no cars? Because this employee incentive scheme aligns with the company’s distribution system. Orders in by noon are delivered the same day, and many pharmacies are open until 8pm. Pulse employees live in various areas of the city. They can make deliveries, which are primarily small pharmaceutical products, on their commute home. Even the CFO is engaged in logistics on a regular basis.

Besides the obvious logistical advantages, this incentive scheme works on several levels. While receiving a company

Cars await distribution to Pulse employees in Zimbabwe

Cars await distribution to Pulse employees in Zimbabwe

vehicle is a notable acknowledgement of an employee’s past contributions, it is also encourages loyalty for key employees to the company. The perk also fits with my observations about the corporate culture at Pulse, which is very entrepreneurial and focused on growth; Pulse rewards individuals with assets that enable them to continue investing their time, particularly their commute, in growing profits. Finally, the perk is not insignificant; tangible assets are highly valued in a country where recent experience with hyperinflation diminished confidence in monetary incentives.

I’m not sure this is the start of a trend. Walmart does not give its top performers a Peterbilt with sleeper cab. Even UPS, where managers often help out temporarily by delivering packages during peak seasons, is not sending its execs home with a brown truck for their personal use. But for a hungry startup in Zimbabwe, this creative incentive scheme aligns personal, cultural, AND logistical goals in a unique way to really deliver the goods.

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