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Jewish World Review March 22, 2001 / 27 Adar, 5761

He Works/She Works
By Jaine Carter and James D. Carter

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Consumer Reports

The Vista Rx formula -- THE ability to work at a flex- or part-time schedule, experts say, has become more attractive to some employees than big bonuses, incentive trips or gifts.

A recent study by the Radcliff Public Policy Center, a Harvard University think tank, found that 70 percent of men in their 20s were willing to give up salary in exchange for more time with their families. Sixty-three percent of women, in the same age group, agreed.

Arriving at a workable compromise is difficult for employers. Organizations need to have employees they can count on to be on the job when they need them.

Coverage is only one problem faced by organizations. Employee morale is another. Workers who work full-time schedules sometimes feel overwhelmed with extra work they perceive part-time colleagues should be handling.

Pfizer, Inc., a pharmaceutical company, had developed a creative solution.

Begun nearly two years ago, the highly competitive Vista Rx program has nearly doubled in size and proven to be an invaluable asset to district sales managers who are able to deploy members of the team as needed. Only the best Pfizer sales reps are accepted into this special group. Pfizer's prescription for success is now being watched closely by others in the industry.

"The initial impression of Vista was of a program for people who wanted to slow down," said Bruce Fleischmann, national sales director for Vista Rx. "That thinking changed dramatically as the positive impact of the Vista force on sales became apparent. Not only is there increased competition among reps to enter the program, but district managers are also clamoring for more members of the flexible field force as a way of enhancing overall performance in their regions.

"We created the Vista Rx formula ... to help our best and brightest salespeople keep their careers on track while spending more time with family and pursuing other interests, hobbies and dreams. It offers its members part-time work with full-time satisfaction and benefits, and has proven to be a win-win proposition for both employer and employee."

Vista is the first part-time sales force in the industry to receive full-time benefits.

Vista representatives are expected to work 60 percent of a full-time work schedule. Most choose a schedule that includes three full working days per week.

"During this time," said Fleischmann, "they call on primary-care physicians who have high potential to use the Vista line of products. Vista representatives come exclusively from the ranks of the full-time Pfizer field forces, and the qualifications include a minimum of two years of Pfizer experience, plus a strong sales track record."

So far, Vista has complied an impressive record of sales performance because it has selected highly motivated, strong performers who have experienced a change in their personal circumstances that makes it challenging for them to continue full-time work.

Champion triathlete Kelly Parker is part of the Vista Rx team. "I'm thrilled with the balance that Vista allows me," she said.

Parker, who at 39 shows no signs of slowing down, said, "I would like to explore the limits of my athletic potential and to explode the myths of aging as I continue training and competing at this level well into my 40s."

Parker joined Vista Rx as a charter member in April 1999 and resumed triathlon training after a 10-year break. She attributes her personal and professional success to discipline, persistence and a keen competitive spirit, characteristics that also help her succeed in Vista.

At any given time, there are more than 100 applicants waiting for a rare opening. The success of Vista Rx has led Pfizer to almost double its initial flex force of 70 to 130 reps, with additional expansions planned.

The Vista management team is a traditional full-time group, with responsibilities that mirror Pfizer's traditional field force management. "This team is highly motivated and challenged by the opportunity to work with a high-performing, tenured group of sales reps, and to develop their skills even further," said Fleischmann.

"While the work schedule for Vista reps is somewhat flexible, we find that the Vista reps are no less motivated than their full-time counterparts. This results in strong sales productivity that contributes to Pfizer's success as a company. We have a slogan which states that Vista reps are 100 percent committed 60 percent of the time."

Jaine Carter, Ph.D. and James D. Carter, Ph.D. are management consultants and authors of the book, ''He Works She Works -- Successful Strategies for Working Couples." Comment by clicking here.


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