Personal touch

 Linda Stone’s business centers around her people — how she attracts them, how she motivates them and how she communicates with them.

“We are a people company,” says the CEO and president of APR Consulting Inc. “We don’t have inventory. Our ability to find the right people to do the job is really the key to our success.

“I will not be able to be a successful company without them. The only way you could make them happy is to provide them the support they need when they need it.”

Her efforts have helped the Diamond Bar-based company — which provides contractors, consultants and professionals for business sectors including IT, management and human resources — to attract quality talent and grow revenue from $19.6 million in 2004 to $23.9 million in 2005.

Smart Business spoke with Stone about her approach to leadership and how she builds relationships with both employees and customers.

How do you motivate employees?
We let them look at the company as their own … instead of just (as) employees working for a company. And if it’s their own company, what are they going to do to make it grow?

You need to give employees the tools they need to perform their jobs. You have to listen to what they have to say. You need to communicate the goals and objectives of the company with them. You have to provide them training.

When employees know the direction the company is going, they will be able to support you. You provide them the tools and training they need, they will be able to perform their jobs well. They also feel you are interested in their well-being, so you build loyalty, teamwork and a happy work place.

We also look at our accomplishments, because we have to pat ourselves on the back when we do well. We compare our target with our actuals every month and review what we are doing great and what we are not doing so well, and decide what we’re going to do to fix the problem.

How do you make yourself accessible to employees?
I walk the floors every day and make them feel that (I am accessible). Although we’re growing very fast, we still have a culture of (them belonging) to the organization, that we communicate to everybody — including the lowest-level person — because they are important to our business. Everybody’s important to the business; it’s not just the president or the key personnel.

Basically we look at our organization from the bottom up and manage it from the top down. We try to make sure everybody gets the attention they need in order to be successful. When you feel that you’re recognized, no matter what you do, and you are an integral part of the organization and you’re contributing to the success of the company, you feel good about the company.

And we have an open-door policy. If they’re not happy with their manager’s decision, they come to me. I make sure the problem gets resolved.

How else can leaders build loyalty with their employees?
You don’t ask what you cannot do yourself. They want to imitate what you do. I would not ask somebody to do something I will not do myself. I think they can see that.

If I tell them they have to be at the office on time, I make sure I’m there before they come in. When they jump, I am there to help them. I give them the support they need.

How do you build strong client relationships?
We don’t go for easy and fast bucks. We’re here to stay, so we want to make sure we keep the high business integrity by being ethical.

We do what we say we’re going to do, and we do it when we say we’re going to do it. We need to gain the trust of our client, and if they find out that we don’t mean what we say, somebody else will do it.

If there is something wrong, you fix it immediately. If you wait for six months, sometimes the problem can linger, and you could lose your client if you don’t address it immediately.

We don’t have a secret to success. We just want to make sure our clients are happy with the service we provide. When they ask us to jump, we ask how high. When they ask us to run, we ask how fast — and we deliver.

HOW TO REACH: APR Consulting Inc.,