Equipped to succeed

Working at a company with annual revenue of approximately $12
million, the 77 employees of Des Plaines Office Equipment have
good reason to be happy. And according to President Chip Miceli,
happiness is not an option — it’s a requirement of the job.

“If you’re working here, you have to be happy,” Miceli says. “If
you’re not happy, you don’t do yourself any good, you don’t do
your team any good, and you definitely aren’t going to do the
organization any good.”

For Miceli, making his people happy means quickly assimilating
new hires into the organization and giving all employees the opportunity to contribute to the company’s overall goals and direction.

Smart Business spoke with Miceli about planning for growth
and how to attract quality employees.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

I’m the type of person that likes my employees to take ownership
of their particular job or their department. So I will give out two
choices to them, and they have to pick which one is best for them.

That gives them empowerment, and they feel that they are part
of the solution, more so than being dictated to, and it gives me the
capability to expand my organization a lot quicker, because now I
know that I have people that can get the job done and who aren’t
afraid to make decisions. They take the ball and run with it, more
so than in a dictator-type organization.

Q: How can a leader communicate his or her goals and vision to

Goals are very important, and I express my goals to my people all
the time, but I also like them to make their own goals. If they’re in
charge of a particular department, we sit down before the year
starts, and they tell me whatever percentage of growth they

When people pick a goal, they have something to strive for, and
it’s something they picked, not something I gave them. We have
meetings constantly, a couple times a month with my managers,
and we have a meeting once a quarter to go over the goals and say,
‘Here are the goals you picked, and here’s where we are.’

If you don’t keep people on task for their goals, then the goals are
never going to come around.

Q: What is the most significant danger in growing too fast?

People. A lot of organizations go out and grow really fast, and all
of a sudden turn around and find out they don’t have enough people to support their growth. It’s important for an organization to be
continually looking for new hires and to keep people in a database
that you can hire immediately when you need these people.

Our organization had a growth spurt a couple years ago, and we
didn’t have the people to maintain it, so we had to go out quickly
and hire more. Then you don’t get the quality you want because
you’re in a fast hiring mode, more so than saying, ‘OK, I need to
evaluate you better.’

Q: How important is it to anticipate and prepare for growth?

At the beginning of this year, my people came to me and told me
they were looking for 25 percent growth this year. My first question
was, ‘Where are these people going to come from?’

They told me they had a heavy recruiting schedule in place, and
the first thing they were going after were two managers to manage
the people they were going to have to add to our organization for
that growth. Right away they started hiring before the growth had

That is what you have to do today because there are so many
people that are available that are looking for jobs, it’s hard to find
the right one if you’re in a hurry. If you can take your time and go
through a proper interviewing process, you’ll find that you’re a lot
more successful than just hiring the first person that walks in the

Q: How can you make your company attractive to quality hires?

For (the people) you hire, you have to show them a career path right
out of the box, no matter what position they are in the organization.
Everybody wants to know what will be (his or her) next step in life. If
you can’t show them that upfront, you’re not going to attract people.

There are certain people that think, ‘Hey, I just want to sell the
rest of my life, and I never want to be in management,’ and those
people are great because you never have to worry about it. But a
lot of people want to know, ‘What’s the next bridge I have to cross?’

I like to find people that like to be challenged, because I feel that
if I continue to challenge them, they continue to grow, and the
company will grow with them.

HOW TO REACH: Des Plaines Office Equipment, (847) 879-6400 or www.dpoe.com