Daniel Gordon, Contributor at Large
A trip down Highway 76 in Branson, Missouri, often means a journey to one of America’s most nostalgic destinations. Known as The Strip, Country Music Boulevard and now, officially, West 76 Country Boulevard, it’s a beloved staple of an Ozarks town that has more tourists than residents.
“We have so many hotels here that we have to have multiple fire stations,” said Mini-Circuits Customer Service Manager Kim Sainato who, when asked to sum up Branson in three words, said simply: “A. Tourist. Destination.”
As of 2019, Branson had an estimated 11,630 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city’s tourism website estimates more than 9 million visitors flock to Branson each year. Most enter into the city’s entertainment district via Highway 65, which runs north to south. But while the exit onto Highway 76 may mean vacation time for most, for a team of Mini-Circuits members, it means it’s time for work.
“It’s a very convenient location because we just get off the highway and we’re here,” Kim said. “If we had to drive down The Strip, that would be another story. In the summertime, locals try to avoid The Strip at all costs.”
How did Mini-Circuits end up in the historic city of Branson, just blocks from where the Presley family opened the first show of their famous Country Jubilee in 1967?
Around 1990, Logene Bernstein, then based out of our Israel office, was returning to the U.S. to take care of her elderly mother. As legend has it, Mini-Circuits Founder Harvey Kaylie asked Logene if, rather than resigning, she could open a Mini-Circuits sales office wherever it was convenient for her. She started the Branson office in 1991.
Today, the Branson location is Mini-Circuits’ biggest sales office in the U.S. Here, the distribution team, led by Distribution Operations Manager Lorie Lenharth, manages our relationships with major domestic distributors, including Digi-Key and Mouser Electronics. The Branson team advances Mini-Circuits’ customer-focused mission by guiding our customers through the entire project lifecycle and advocating for their success at every step.
“Giving exceptional customer service means going above and beyond what the customer is expecting of us,” Kim said. “If they’re expecting a quote by the close the business, we try to get it to them in a couple of hours or less. If they’re expecting something to ship the next day, we do what we can to get it out the same day.”
The Branson office plays a pivotal role in Mini-Circuits’ operations, acting as the liaison between our national customers and our production teams. And while it may not be all theme park rides and musical theater, it isn’t all work, no play, either. Prior to COVID, quarterly team-building events included bowling, baseball games, picnics, chili cookoffs, arcades and a Super Bowl tailgate party celebrating Missouri’s own Kansas City Chiefs before they claimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2020.
While the team hopes to get back to in-person events soon, they’ve managed to make the most of the new virtual normal. Having appreciated the company-wide huddles facilitated by Learning and Development Lead Joanne McDonnell during the height of the pandemic, the Branson office kept the tradition going with their own weekly get-togethers, which, Kim says, “have turned out to be the best team building we have ever had.”
Even as Branson members return to work on a hybrid schedule, they’ve continued to hold the weekly Zoom sessions, with a new activity that has them contending for the physically fittest group of our global operations. The team now gathers at noon each day to plank. Logan Young, L2 Account Manager, initiated the challenge, and Kim has progressively upped the ante by adding a push-up each week.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen when we hit double digits,” Kim said.
With or without push-ups, the culture at Mini-Circuits Missouri is strong and the team is growing with several new positions currently open.