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In October 2007, Hall gave a short speech to a group of bloggers the company had flown in for a two-day summit. It was the first time Hallmark had held such an event; organizers hoped that the seven bloggers from around the country would help the company understand how to compete online. The bloggers weren't famous; they were mostly just part-time writers such as Stephanie Quilao, a Bay Area blogger who writes backinskinnyjeans.com.
One blogger, Beverly Mahone of North Carolina, tells The Pitch that Hall came in for a five-minute speech. He wore a plaid shirt and a pair of slacks and thanked the bloggers quickly before excusing himself. "He was so reserved," recalls Mahone, who writes for thebabyboomerdiva.com. "He didn't give you the impression that he was the big CEO of Hallmark."
As CEO, Hall has overseen the outsourcing of many jobs that used to be done at the Kansas City headquarters and at plants in Independence, Lawrence, Topeka and Leavenworth. Since 2005, Hallmark has eliminated 2,100 jobs worldwide, slimming to a workforce of 15,900 in 2007, according to O'Dell, Hallmark's spokeswoman. The Kansas City headquarters, which had 5,700 employees in 1999, is now down to 4,200.
Meanwhile, the Hall family has seen its revenue climb — by $300 million in the past three years alone, according to Hallmark press releases. The company releases revenue figures but not profit numbers, so it's unclear if the job cuts are to keep the company healthy or simply to increase the Hall family's take.
The year Don Hall Jr. took over, Hallmark closed the printing plant at its headquarters on Grand. The move marked the first time since 1914 that the company wasn't printing cards in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. (The only cards now printed at the headquarters are from a closet-sized machine displayed in the Hallmark Visitors Center.) Steve Doyal, Hallmark's senior vice president of public affairs, told The Kansas City Business Journal at the time that all 340 employees who worked at the closed printing plant had been given the option of transferring to facilities in Kansas, but it's unclear how many took that offer. "It wasn't an easy decision," Doyal told the Business Journal. "It was a smart decision."
O'Dell, who had promised no layoffs as part of the $12 billion revenue goal, says she stands by her statement. She tells The Pitch that the company has never undertaken widespread layoffs; rather, layoffs have happened as job duties have been redefined. "There are times where employees don't have the skill sets for their new jobs," O'Dell says. "Nothing has changed in the way we value our employees. But that doesn't mean that there aren't going to be changes [that will] lead to job loss."
Hall rarely makes public appearances, but a speech he gave at the 2007 Governor's Summit in Kansas City is still online. In it, he speaks about the need for Missouri and Kansas to work together. But it sounds like he could be championing outsourcing as a way to compete globally.
"We are in a race without a finish line," Hall said. "The competition is the rest of the country and, indeed, the rest of the world. We must build muscle not only to stay in the race but to be at the head of the race."
When Winson Shuen moved to Hong Kong to work for Hallmark in 2005, it was obvious that the office didn't run like other Chinese workplaces. For one thing, most of his fellow employees worked a standard 40-hour week, unlike many workers in China, who are required to stay for unpaid overtime. And then there were the parties.