Cintas: Cultivating a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline
When people think of Cintas, they may envision khaki pants, fire extinguishers, or first aid boxes. When Kara Howard and Phil Blandford, long-term employees, think of the company, they feel an overwhelming sense of familial empowerment. “When I go into a location, I feel warmth,” said Howard. “There is a drive, a will to win, and to lift everyone up and elevate each other. There are so many opportunities for development that no one is clamoring another to get ahead.”
Cintas and the university are closely partnered. Not only is UK Healthcare Cintas’ largest customer in Lexington, but it is also one of the largest customers in the United States. This partnership extends further, as Cintas employs many UK graduates through its management trainee program.
Howard and Blandford, two employees who started with the company through the programs themselves, spoke about the magnitude of it. “Our most recent CEO, Scott Farmer was the first management trainee in 1982. Todd Schnider, our current CEO was class of 1989,” said Blandford.
The program is a 21-month rotational program for graduating seniors. It includes 6 months in production (physical plant), 6 months in service (driving trucks and making deliveries), 3 months of human resources/ office, 6 months in sales (shadowing a top sales representative). Once the trainee graduates from the program there is a strong emphasis on getting promoted to a sales representative. Cultivating perseverance is the philosophy behind starting in sales. “The hardest thing you can do is be told no and face rejection and adversity, and have mature business conversations which benefit individuals in the longevity of their career,” said Howard. After working as a sales representative for a year and a half, the Cintas employee is eligible for a promotion to a manager position which could include operations, service plant manager, or a sales manager. Promotion to general manager, making six figures is expected in 5-6 years of working as a manager.
Currently, Cintas is hiring 326 management trainees. Applicants must have or obtain a bachelor's degree within six months. Although any degree is fine, students who major in business, communications, finance, or marketing and sales do well in the program. Additionally, Cintas looks for applicants that have leadership experience as well as previous experience in a service job that showcases a strong work ethic and community involvement. But perhaps the greatest qualification is being willing to contribute to the company culture of putting people first. “We need to bring people on board that care about people,” said Blandford.
Students and recent grads who are interested in the program can be confident of its career development potential. Cintas is a Fortune 500 (410) company that has jumped 90 spots in the last 4 years. Additionally, Forbes Magazine named it as one of the best employers for diversity as well as new graduates. “The company may not seem glamorous, but there is proven success and stability,” said Howard.