Kim Shoemaker had a major dilemma in 2009.
Not only was her company, Acloché Staffing, trying to pull out of an economic recession, but its longtime CEO had died unexpectedly at the age of 56. Grief was high, morale was low, and employees needed to be reassured and inspired that the company was going to go forward.
Shoemaker, who previously held leadership roles in the company, had been named the new CEO and set out to overcome the heavy challenges.
“My first charge was to increase morale, to show appreciation and to really build on the staff,” Shoemaker says. “I think that’s extremely important to make your team feel appreciated, improve on that and lift their spirits up. There was a lot of uncertainty among our staff and the business community regarding the future of our company.”
As a first step, she found it effective to have one-on-one conversations with staff members to determine what they were feeling, what they needed and what they thought they were lacking professionally.
“Then, you need to deal with those individually to help them grow, to be stronger individuals and to be stronger team players,” Shoemaker says.
“We looked at our processes first and went through how we did things and redesigned them ― we streamlined them, made them more efficient,” she says. “We tried to help people with their day-to-day productivity.”
While proposing what to do to improve morale, Shoemaker hit upon the idea to redefine the company to reassure the market that Acloché was alive and well, ready to assist.
“We had been in business since 1968, and there had to be something that we could be doing to market ourselves better ― to let people know that we were here and that we were here to help the business community,” she says.
She brought in an outside consultant to work with the sales and marketing team to reinvent the company’s image, keeping the same branding but introducing the company again to its clients and embedding itself in each of the communities where its 10 offices are located.
When employees are encouraged to participate in the decision-making process when new ideas are formulated, successful results occur.
“Present the processes or procedures that you are going to consider to your sales and management team, get their thoughts, opinions and feedback; then take that information and fine tune it,” Shoemaker says.
When the final tweaks have been made, let the operations team review the proposal.
“This is very successful because staff members see that their managers are excited about this innovation or this new process and they’re getting their team members’ input before decisions are made that affect the entire team.”
As with many changes, there may be those a little hesitant to get on board. However, if they give their input regarding the change factor, it makes it a lot easier to accept and implement the change.
“They have a voice and an opinion in the entire process,” Shoemaker says. “I think people feel more at home with it. They feel more involved with it and part of the entire process.”
For Acloché , the approaches Shoemaker took to step in as the leader, improve morale and redefine the company continue to pay off. The next year saw $33 million in revenue, and the company is ranked among the 100 largest privately held companies in Central Ohio.
“Any time that you’re doing anything new, get the buy-in from your internal staff because it’s important for them,” Shoemaker says. “It’s important in order for the entire process to go well if they have buy-in on the decision-making end.”
Turning over a new leaf
Some say if you don’t make innovation a priority for your success, you’re bound to fail, and Kim Shoemaker, CEO of Acloché Staffing, can testify to that.
“Innovation is critical in any business,” she says. “In order to compete, you need to regularly redefine your strategies and reposition yourselves in order to continue to grow.
“The only way to stand out is by constantly offering new services and presenting new ideas.”
Client feedback is worth its weight in gold when it comes to innovation.
“Go in, listen to what their needs are, to what their challenges may be and what their successes may be, and redefine yourself to that specific client to help them so they can focus on their core business needs,” Shoemaker says.
Failing to keep fresh may lead to a loss of your place in the market.
“You would stagnate,” she says. “Employees would not grow to their potential to be able to service their clients.
“I think it’s an ever-evolving business community, and if you do not keep up with it and evolve and even try to stay a step ahead of it, you’re going to be losing market share,” she says. “You will not be the partner that people would need you to be.”
How to reach: Acloché Staffing, (614) 416-5600 or www.acloche.com