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Giant among Utah businesses to celebrate 85 years

By Jed Boal | Posted - Sep. 26, 2012 at 11:05 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — There's been a lot of discussion this election year about entrepreneurs, business development and job creation. Thursday, one of Utah's greatest job creators will celebrate 85 years in business.

"Mr. Tanner got his start in the basement of his mother's home," Charlotte Shragg told KSL News Wednesday.

As manager of client solutions, Shragg showed us around the Founder's Room at the O.C. Tanner building on State Street in Salt Lake City, pointing out some of the many treasures that tell the tale of Obert C. Tanner's rise from very humble beginnings to start his company in 1927.

"This is actually an original pin from 1932," Shragg said, pointing to a small blue pin that still shines after eight decades.


Every employee here is working on a great mission. Everybody is helping employees somewhere be appreciated for the great work they do.

–Charlotte Miller, senior vice president


Most people in Utah know the name but don't really know what the company does.

O.C. Tanner built an international company dedicated to employee appreciation. He started with an order of lapel pins for seminary graduates: something more than a diploma. Tanner expanded to make symbols of appreciation that caught on not only for graduates, but ultimately workers worldwide.

"People want to be appreciated for great work, it's as simple as that," Shragg said. "When you do that, people give you that much more."

Tanner started off stamping pins with a sledgehammer and a die, supported on a tree stump. Today, the $400 million company of 1,500 employees may be better known for making jewelry and the medals awarded at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

But, the core focus has changed little, and shaped the culture of the company.

Did you know?
  • O.C. Tanner is a privately held company founded in 1927.
  • The company has headquarters in Salt Lake City; Burlington, Ontario; and Loughton, Essex.
  • The company serves 8,500 clients in 29 countries.
  • The 1,497 O.C. Tanner employees hail from 56 countries of national origin.
  • O.C. Tanner is comprised of two divisions: local retail jewelry stores and international employee appreciation and recognition programs and consulting.
  • The company has two retail stores: one in Salt Lake City, the other in Park City.

"Every employee here is working on a great mission," said Charlotte Miller, senior vice president of people and great work. "Everybody is helping employees somewhere be appreciated for the great work they do."

"Being part of that mission brings joy to the people working on it," Miller added.

Tanner basically created his own industry. O.C. Tanner leads the industry of employee appreciation, working with companies in 129 countries to find the best ways to show their employees they are appreciated.

"If you appreciate people who do great work, they'll build on that great work," Miller said.

The founder of the company passed away in 1993, but workers say his vision and values endure.

"I think he would be impressed with the intellectual property, and the teaching we've done, and the impact we've had on employees all across the world," Miller said.

How's this for employee appreciation? Each employee gets a crisp $100 bill on his or her birthday. And for the celebration Thursday, they'll get a trip to the Utah Museum of Natural History museum, where the company has been a major donor.

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Jed Boal

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