One of the team

Brian Margarita has created a work atmosphere
that feels like home and has made his 70 employees at
TalentFuse Inc. feel like part
of a family. But while employees do have fun, there’s also
serious business taking place
at the information technology
staffing firm. When Margarita,
who serves as president,
founded the company in 2001,
he made the mistake of growing the culture first and didn’t
pay enough attention to the
work. But through constant
performance monitoring,
employees now understand
that work-life balance and fun
have helped the firm reach
2006 revenue of $6.6 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Margarita about how to find
and maintain the balance
between having fun and reaching your goals.

Q. How do you maintain a
work-life balance within your

Measuring the key performance indicators and keeping
an eye on the statistics of the
business; we make sure
everyone grades themselves
on a weekly report card, so
everyone knows how they
are doing.

Give consistent feedback. It’s
not just negative feedback, it’s
positive, as well. Have lots of
incentives. Keep people on
track of the minimum standards for a weekly basis.

Q. How does this benefit

Human beings like consistency, so let them know they can
come to work and it’s fun and safe. If work feels like an
atmosphere that is predictable
and you know what you can
do good to get rewarded, it’s a
safe place to be. It makes the
employee in control of their
own destiny.

Q. How do you make sure
employees are keeping on task
in a fun environment?

Track key performance indicators on a weekly basis. You
have a fun and open environment, but you know you’re
going to be turning a
report in at the end of
the week.

Be consistent. Goals
that aren’t measured are
just dreams. When you
stop being consistent
and looking at people’s
goals, it stops.

Human beings need a
positive and negative
consequence for all
behavior. It’s like renting a movie. If there
was no late fee, you
would have 100 movies
in your house.

There needs to be
something good or bad
that happens from
everything that people
do. Look at what people
are doing; otherwise, they just
get sucked into the fun environment.

Q. How do you make sure
you remain consistent?

When things aren’t going
well, it’s easy to be consistent
and get them back on track.
But it’s hard to maintain consistency when things are going
great, and you need to constantly remind people for their
numbers and actions.

If you have a couple of great months in a row, you automatically assume you’re going to
have another great month, but
the opposite happens because
people tend to back off a bit.

If you don’t have a peer or
executive team to go to, give
written goals to a friend who is
a business owner, just things
you are going to get done, and
hold each other consistent to
these. Once a week, share two
or three things, then talk at the
end of the week and ask, ‘Did
you do X, Y and Z?’ It’s another
level of accountability to have.

Q. How do you communicate
culture to employees?

During the interview, we tell
people they’re going to be able
to ask every single question they possibly can because we
want to find out now if we’re
the right fit for you and if
you’re the right fit for us, not
two months from now.

There is no right or wrong
answer, but you’re trying to
determine if they’ll fit in to
the culture.

You get to know who you’re
hiring, and you can bring the
risk down. It’s a big shock if
you have that fun and open culture, so when you bring somebody in that everyone loves,
and then two months later,
they don’t work out, people forget that the person didn’t work
out for the numbers, they just
feel like they’ve lost a friend.

Q. How do you model

Spend time with your people. You can’t instruct the culture unless you are part of it.
You have to go to the user
meetings with people, the networking events, the trade
shows, the lunches with your
staff or on sales calls with
your staff. You have to make
yourself a part of the culture
and constantly be reminding
people what the culture is and
how you do things.

Be involved in the company.
Put yourself on the floor with
people so they see you as a
peer. You have to maintain a
level of respect, but the idea
that respect is going to be
earned from a boardroom or
an office 10 or 1,000 miles
away doesn’t work anymore.
People want to see you lead
by example, so you have to be
personally involved with them.
People aren’t coming to work
anymore to get a paycheck
and a gold watch.

HOW TO REACH: TalentFuse Inc., (858) 456-0060 or