Chris Keller stays focused on the big picture at IPEG

Another shared component is an online suggestion program, which enables employees to input ideas as part of the workflow.

“They go to evaluators and then if they’re accepted, they go to project managers and so forth, making sure that no idea falls through the cracks and is forgotten,” Keller says.

While encouraging employees to bring ideas has always been part of the culture, over time, it has compounded as people see that IPEG not only listens, it also consistently acts on those ideas.

Today, the company gets, on average, one idea per employee per year and it accepts 60 percent of those.

Another recent goal has been to see every employee, no matter his or her role, get 30 hours of annual training. As of August, Keller says, the average hit 36 hours.

“That’s something, again, we took out of survey results and town hall discussions,” he says. “Folks wanted the opportunity to do better in their jobs. They wanted the opportunity for more training. They want the opportunity for development paths and career paths and ultimately the opportunities to earn more.”

So, IPEG stepped up and invested in a learning management system within AMPLIFi and made it a corporate-level objective for the organization, which is measured and monitored monthly.

Not everyone, however, understood why training was worth the time.

Keller says there’s always a risk of people thinking: It’s just one more thing you’re asking us to do. So, you’ve got to encourage people to have faith that it will be to everyone’s benefit.

“You have to be really, really careful of how you get people to buy into it, how you ultimately get them to see, this is all part of what we do,” Keller says. “This is all part of not just making ourselves better, but ensuring that we stay competitive, ensuring that we’re creating opportunities for each other, week by week, month by month, year by year.”

 

Takeaways:

  • A disciplined acquisition strategy cuts through the noise.
  • Invest in areas that amplify your business strategy.
  • Listen to your employees and customers; then act on what they say.

 

The file:

Name: Chris Keller
Title: CEO
Company: IPEG Inc.

Born: New York City
Education: Bachelor’s in American studies, with a concentration in history, Yale College; MBA, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? I was a summer intern, otherwise known as a gofer, on the Joan Rivers Show in Hollywood. I learned that you get an opportunity to start at the bottom and you work your way up. There is no lower rung on the entertainment ladder.

Did you always want to go into business? After college, I went into the investment business, then realized that it was intellectually interesting, but wasn’t ultimately fulfilling. I wanted something more tangible. I saw manufacturing, actually making something and being inside a company, as the two keys.

So, I used going back to business school as the way to make the leap from the investment business to manufacturing. It’s funny because everybody at Michigan business school was trying to do the opposite.

Where might someone find you on the weekend? Being active — it depends on the season. I could be up at the lake, on the boat with my family, wake surfing, water skiing and just hanging out with my wife and three kids. Or, it might be mountain biking, golfing, skiing, in the gym.