Multiplex, a manufacturer of automatic beverage-dispensing equipment, based in St. Louis, earns 40% of its $36 million in annual sales overseas. "We are always looking for ways to improve customer service," says J.W. Kisling, CEO. "There's E-mail, voice mail and faxes for overseas customers, but one of the things they really appreciate is our summer hours."

During the summer months, Multiplex employees work an extra hour each day from Monday through Thursday, and on Friday they work a half day. "By Friday noon in St. Louis, it's 6 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 7 p.m. on the Continent, and Saturday morning in the Orient. We don't get many calls anyhow, so why not give customers longer hours of service when they can really use it?"

Company employees love the summertime perk, and customers can still count on a skeleton crew to answer the few calls that do come in. "Essentially, we've extended our workweek to 45 hours," says Kisling, who won the 1996 White House E-Star award for excellence in exporting.