It takes a team

Bob Caruso isn’t your typical CEO.

As president of Vuemark Products Inc., a Twinsburg manufacturer of displays and point-of-purchase marketing products, Caruso doesn’t hesitate to get his hands dirty to get the job done. Even while being interviewed for this article, Caruso was working alongside his painters, display builders and general workers to assemble and package a two-truckload order for a client.

Everybody here does everything, from answering the phone to driving a forklift, and I never ask employees to do anything I won’t do myself,” says Caruso, acknowledging that he runs his company differently than most CEOs.

While most company presidents look at employees as a cost center, Caruso sees them as a profit center — because employees are his greatest resource.

“Every employee is a salesperson because whether they’re producing quality material or communicating with customers, they’re selling this company with everything they do,” he says. “Everything they do wrong hurts the company. Everything they do right sells it.”

Caruso reveals that since he launched Vuemark in 1998, the first full fiscal year brought $400,000 in sales; this year, Vuemark will hit $800,000.

“The secret to that growth is that we deliver quality products on time … and we accomplish what we do with only 12 employees,” he says. “Everything we do in this business revolves around working as team players.”

That’s why Caruso personally interviews all job applicants and hires based on a candidate’s team worker traits.

“My background is in sales and marketing, I was a total quality management facilitator for E.M. Jorgensen Co., and my degree is in psychology. I would hope that helps me determine whether a candidate will mesh well with basic personalities,” he says.

Here are the telltale clues he watches for to determine whether an applicant is, indeed, a team player.

Confidence vs. cockiness. “People who exude cockiness have a tendency to put off others. When someone says they can increase all my shop efficiencies just by taking a walk through, that indicates that they’re going to annoy every employee in the place.”

I know everything. “A red flag goes up when someone tells me how terrific they’ve been in all their past positions. It’s okay to highlight achievements, but when someone [boasts], it indicates that their ego might prevent them from being a team player. I’d rather hear someone say, ‘These are some of my achievements and this is how I could apply them to your company.'”

I’ll do anything. “If someone is obviously overqualified and is willing to do and take anything as far as money or position, usually he’s just looking for a paycheck. Somebody who’s willing to settle for so much less is either using it to fill a void while they find the position they want, or they’ve given up on themselves. Either way, that’s not going to help my team.”

Eye-to-eye. “If somebody’s not willing to look me in the eye, or if they’re stammering and stuttering, searching to say what they think I want to hear, I think they’re either not focused, don’t know what they want — or they have something to hide.”

Check references. “I find that almost every employer is willing to either give a recommendation or affirmation that an employee did a good job. When a past employer is reluctant to answer questions or give any kind of a reference, it might indicate that the employee had problems.”

How to reach: VueMark Products Inc., (800) 536-6878 or www.vuemark.com.