Industry News & New Products

Meet an Expert: The Tenge Family

by Nate Kuennen | Jul 11, 2022

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Good pay and benefits, including paid time off and generous profit sharing, are key ingredients to reducing turnover and improving employee retention at Zip’s AW Direct. It’s a recipe the New Hampton-based company tries to follow as it competes for workers in rural northeast Iowa.

Employee referrals have also become critical to the company’s hiring goals, particularly as the business–operating primarily in a community of just over 3,000 people–has grown from 66 employees to 250 workers with the acquisition of AW Direct four years ago.

Facing stiff small-market competition, that recruitment effort has often led to the employment of relatives. A family-owned company, Zip’s itself is led by two generations of the Rottinghaus family, so it seemed fairly natural to hire relatives of current employees to fill job openings.

Besides owners Paul and Margo Rottinghaus and their son David, the stable employee base at Zip’s includes siblings, parents, children, uncles, cousins and even a handful of married couples from the surrounding area. Besides often sharing the same last names, they take ownership in each other’s success, which leads to longevity within the company.

Among the husband-and-wife teams here are New Hampton natives Todd and Maelynn Tenge. Todd is one of the longest-serving employees at Zip’s and oversees Quality Control on the truck side. Maelynn works in the Payroll Department and supports Human Resources.

Todd has been employed by Zip’s for the past 35 years and was joined by his wife seven and a half years ago when the company lifted its unwritten policy preventing husbands and wives working together here. The Tenges said they appreciate the family-friendly culture and atmosphere at Zip’s. 

“We have really been able to raise our family at Zip’s and have been able to send each of our three kids off to college because of our jobs here,” Maelynn said. “This is a very good place to work. Everyone is well taken care of, which makes people want to come to work everyday and do a good job.”

“Zip’s has been able to adapt with the times,” Todd added. “They want everybody’s future here to be long and prosperous, and they want people to stay here. We have a good group of workers, and that starts from the top on down. It’s not one person who makes this company go. Everybody works together to get that product out.”

The Tenges have been married for 31 years and recalled attending Zip’s Christmas parties early on “when there were just 40 of us,” Maelynn said. Although the business has grown exponentially since–including adding a second location in Michigan in 2012–the Tenges said the company’s hometown values have always remained in-tact, which was particularly evident when one of their children was facing health issues.

“The Rottinghaus family really takes care of their employees,” Maelynn said. “They are really good about working with you if you have a situation where you need time off. We have never been denied time to take off for personal reasons, but we have never abused it either. We have only taken off when we really needed to.”

The Tenges said they have returned the favor through their loyalty to the company and their commitment to producing quality products and services. Through their combined 42 years of service, they said they are personally invested in seeing the company prosper and maintain its foothold as a top employer in the region.

“This is our hometown,” Maelynn said. “We went to school here. We work here. We shop here. We want to see Zip’s stick around here for a long time to come.”

“The biggest thing we can do as employees is making sure the customer is happy,” Todd added. “When the customer is happy, we know we did our job right.”