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Hotel, Nursery, Data Storage Firm Win Sterling Awards for Quality


IRVINE — A hotel that treats guests as individuals, a nursery that communicates well with its employees and a data storage company that reversed a revenue slide by paying more attention to customers won recognition Wednesday night during the second annual Sterling Awards.

The Sterling Awards, sponsored by a consortium of Orange County companies and organizations, were given to the three companies for their commitment to quality, event organizers said.

Modeled after the U.S. Commerce Department's annual Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards, the Sterling Awards are designed to promote quality in business, government and nonprofit ventures.

This year's winners were honored in a ceremony Wednesday night at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

The Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach was recognized in the "large service provider" category for its policy of empowering employees, a strategy designed to help provide personalized care for guests. The hotel's senior management team meets twice a day with managers to discuss individual customers' needs and tries to help employees exceed customers' expectations.

Hines Nurseries in Irvine, a wholesaler that specializes in ornamental plants, was honored in the "large manufacturing" category for an employee communications program that, according to award organizers, "has done an exceptionally good job of communicating its vision, mission, goals, objectives and strategies . . . throughout the organization.

Hines, the presenters said, encourages employee feedback and bases its compensation plan on quality, safety, productivity and team development.

The Sterling Award winner in the "small service provider" category was Datavault, a company that provides off-site information storage to corporate customers. Datavault was honored for a quality control program adopted several years ago after the company realized that it was losing business to newer competitors.

The company's program clears communication between sales and service representatives, which has helped reduce customer attrition.

The Sterling Awards are co-sponsored by KPMG Peat Marwick, The Times Orange County Edition, UC Irvine's Graduate School of Management, Xerox Corp., the city of Santa Ana, Disneyland, Marriott Hotels, Bank of Newport, Beckman Instruments Inc., St. Jude Medical Center, American Airlines, Western Digital Corp., the Automobile Club of Southern California, the law firm of Corbett & Steelman, Fluor Corp., Bergen Brunswig and Taco Bell Corp.

This year's judges were: Steve Roney, president, Coldwell Banker Relocation Services; Ron Dominguez, former executive vice president, Walt Disney World West; Jack Stranberg, Stranberg Associates; Peter Shea, chief financial officer, Entrepreneur Magazine Group; Tom Nielsen, managing director, U.S. Trust, and Leslie Kossoff, LLK Associates.

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