Meeting of the minds

When Paul J. Sarvadi and his co-founder sat down to talk about what kind of company they wanted to become back in the mid-1980s, they really didn’t have any idea what they were doing.

But, one thing they did know is they wanted the company to be about people, corporate culture and freedom for employees to do their jobs.

“What’s interesting to me is that most people spend an incredible amount of time and effort to develop their financial plan or their sales plan or their operating plan, but very few people spend the amount of time and effort to develop their people plan,” says Sarvadi, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Administaff Inc. “What’s their people strategy? What is the culture they want in their company? What is their organization and leadership philosophy for the company? How do they want to award people? … These are equally important issues but generally don’t get the attention. The funny part is, it’s the people that implement all those other strategies.”

With 1,900 employees and more than $1.7 billion in 2008 revenue, Sarvadi is far from those days when corporate culture wasn’t even a common term in business circles.

He still believes in leading by example and communicating the type of culture that will continue to help the professional employer organization succeed.

If it’s after 5 p.m. and Sarvadi sees someone still in the office, he doesn’t automatically think what a great worker he has on his hands. He wants to know why that person isn’t home with his or her family and if he or she needs help with whatever it is the person is working on.

“In our world, we want to have a good work-life balance,” he says. “That’s one of the things we value. I want your work life to be a benefit to your home life. I don’t want you to live to work; I want you to work to live. So, I would rather reward you for innovating so effectively that you could figure out how to do the job better from 8 to 5, than I would reward you for being there at 6 in the morning and 10 at night. What are we doing wrong that we can’t get it done within the work hours?”

It’s that type of caring that has helped shaped Administaff’s culture and working environment today.

“(Your culture) becomes how your company reacts to the things that happen to you, good or bad,” he says.

“Your culture … either enables everything you are trying to do or inhibits everything you are trying to do. In our particular case, it’s been a tremendous enabler.”