A focus on people

Valerie Holstein makes it
a priority to know more
than just her employees’ names and job titles.

She also keeps a list of
things they like, and while on
a recent vacation to France,
she made sure to get something small for each of her
nearly 50 employees at
CableOrganizer.com Inc.

“It took me awhile to understand, but I understand that if I
take care of the people who
work for the company then
the company will take care of
itself,” Holstein says.

Holstein’s focus on creating a
culture centered around
employees helped her grow the
cable and wire management
solutions company she started
in 2002 with her husband, Paul,
to 2007 revenue of $10.2 million.

Smart Business spoke with
the co-founder, president and
CEO about the keys of creating
a successful culture and how to
get to know your employees.

Q. What are the keys to
creating a successful culture?

Creating a workplace culture
begins with the people you
hire and bring in to the organization. Trying to impose a certain corporate culture on any
given group doesn’t work.

It’s important to start out
with employees who share the
same core values and work
ethic and you know are going
to be compatible with the
vision of the company.

Ask questions about who
they are as people, where they
come from, what sort of experiences they’ve had. Have the
candidate give you examples
of how they would handle
hypothetical life situations,
and ask about how they have
successfully dealt with and
overcome real-life obstacles.

See if they answer the way
you would. These answers are
telling and can help employers
gain insight into a potential
employee’s value system.

We also ask them questions
that are somewhat personal.
Questions that come up are:
What does your house look
like? How do you organize your
work space? What does your
car look like? We ask them
what has driven some of their
past decisions in the workplace,
or if they made a mistake in the
workplace, how did they handle
it, what did they learn, did they
learn anything, because if
they didn’t learn anything,
it’s an issue.

It takes a lot of time, it
takes a lot of dedication.
You have to genuinely be
interested in other people and show them that
you’re interested. It’s the
same thing as a marriage
— you don’t get flowers
every day, but you like to
know every once in
awhile that your spouse
hasn’t forgotten about
you.

Q. How do you show
you’re interested
in people?

Know the names of their
spouses and children. Remember birthdays. Offer — genuinely — help in times of
need. Then give it.

Whenever possible, accommodate and make allowances
for extenuating personal circumstances. Ask how things
are going or what they did
over the weekend. Then listen.
Talk about your own family
and personal interests. Never
give unsolicited advice on personal matters.

Try to lead by example. Show
up on time. Be respectful. Be
considerate. Be one of the
team. Hold yourself to the same
standards you set for your
employees. Treat your employees as you’d like to be treated.

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