A Most Unusual Project
by Eric Minton
One of Alcorn McBride's most recent installations was a project called "Jeremy the Experience." It was built in project engineer Jeremy Scheinberg's office in the company's Orlando headquarters during the occupant's monthlong trip to California helping install the Honey I Shrunk The Audience preshow for Disneyland, Kodak and EXP Productions.
Engineers started with a torso wearing an Alcorn McBride shirt and sporting a shrunken head and a hand waving at passers by. Soon a tower of emptied boxes and leftover circuit boards went up bearing signs citing the foolishness of leaving an office unoccupied too long. Next, co-workers recorded 16 of Scheinberg's favorite phrases. These were programmed into one of the company's Digital Audio machines, hooked to a show control unit and connected to Alcorn McBride's newest product, the WEBster, so that Jeremy would speak up at unexpected moments. A disco ball spotted with light beams controlled by an Alcorn McBride LightCue and InterActivator completed the set-up. "It was a full-blown show and lighting control system," company President Steve Alcorn says: all meant only as a practical joke.
"My wife came in the day before and saw it, but she didn't ruin the surprise," Scheinberg says. "She just said, 'Your co-workers missed you.' I must say it was a good demonstration of our products." Much of it has been dismantled, with pseudo Jeremy now sitting under the real Jeremy's table. The mirror ball is hanging still. "I'm keeping that," Scheinberg says.
This episode reveals the general atmosphere of working for Alcorn McBride. "I'd like to say (Jeremy the Experience) is unusual… but actually it's par for the course around here," Alcorn says. Fun includes the quirky muzak callers hear while on hold and the company's web site showing Director of Sales David Geoghegan with duct-taped mouth. Says Scheinberg: "In general, it's a very laid back place to work. My wife said 'You're in a very rare situation where there's no competition and everybody gets along."
Alcorn encourages such an office atmosphere as part of the company's foundation in customer care. He wants caring individuals working for him. "When we interview somebody for a job here the candidate speaks with every single person in the company." Afterward Alcorn polls the other employees to determine whether they like the candidate and think the person will fit in a "fun environment."
That environment is physically as familial as an employee would want.. "(Alcorn's) attitude is you spend so much time here, and sometimes you have to put in long hours to meet a deadline, that he wants it to feel like a home for us," says Grace Warfield, marketing manager. Alcoves in the halls contain vases of silk flowers, the artwork mingles interesting photographs with Alcorn McBride ads, individual offices serve as galleries for collections of gadgets and kitsch, and the conference room looks like a typical home's dining room with the latest project's parts occupying one end of the table, where it is being assembled and tested. It is all relaxed, comfortable.
Alcorn's own office is a case in point. It's not a large executive's office, just one of middle-management medium size, but opposite his desk is a fireplace. The bookshelves hold not technical manuals but travel guides and historical encyclopedia. Behind his desk is a cabinet filled with different and mostly obscure brands of hot sauce. "We are looking for the tackiest bottles," Alcorn says of what has become a company-wide hobby. "We started off looking for the hottest sauce, and we realized if we found it we'd die." Most of the sauces in the cabinet "are pretty bad," he admits. "The good ones we've already eaten."