Power of people

When A. Ray Dalton used to work for Jack Welch, he quickly learned that he valued people far more than GE did.

“It was so painful to me to get another e-mail that said, ‘Get rid of 42 more people because all of your C’s had to be gone by November,’” he says.

While GE only grew about 5 percent a year, Dalton’s segment was growing 40 to 50 percent.

“I was struggling to hire people, and he’s telling me to get rid of people,” he says. “This doesn’t make sense.”

For all that GE excelled in, he knew it was missing out on more.

“(GE does) an amazing job,” he says. “But they forget a huge, very important part of that — how they got there. It’s the people that contributed to the number. I come from the inner city, where drugs and alcohol and a lot of things were going on. I saw the power of the people, and I saw that people survived that, and people contributed to things that were better.”

In 2001, he founded his seventh business, PartsSource LLC, which sells replacement medical equipment parts, and from the beginning, he’s focused on that power of people.

“Our growth is completely centered around that we’re customer-centric, but in order to be customer-centric, you have to be employee-centric,” Dalton says. “People say, ‘We really care about our customer,’ but the question you have to ask is, ‘Do you really care about your employee?’ What is the evidence that you can point to that shows that you value your employee as much as you value your customer because you can’t have a long customer without a long-term employee. It doesn’t happen.”

He says that in business, there are “yes” companies and “no” companies, and after his past experiences, he strives to be a “yes” company.

“‘No’ companies are like GE, who will tell you all the things you can’t do — ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t send this e-mail, don’t go over there,’” he says. “They spend so much time telling you all the things you can’t do that by the time they get done with you, you’re a little nervous that you might not have heard right because they didn’t tell you not to do something that you say, ‘I’m sure they don’t want me to.’ They miss out on all this opportunity of all these people who want to do great things, but they say, ‘They don’t want me to do great things — they want me to do this, so I’ll do this.’”

Being a “yes” company is important because it empowers employees to do things their way and try new ideas.

If you want to be a “yes” company, keep the rules to a minimum. Instead of telling everyone what not to do, Dalton instead says employees can do whatever they want as long as they don’t intimidate or offend other employees, customers or vendors. His reasons are simple — companies are like families and going to work is like going to a reunion. You may not like everyone, but they’re still family.

“They’re all people, and they will be respected, and they will all be respected with the same amount of dignity as the most popular person in the building because they’re all family,” he says.

Another way to be a “yes” company is to encourage employees to think on their own so they don’t depend on your ideas and answers.

“If you come to me and say, ‘I have this problem,’ I’ll say, ‘What do you think we ought to do?’” Dalton says. “You know it is impossible for you to identify a problem without identifying what you would do if it was up to you. I’d say, ‘You’re smart, tell me.’”

To avoid being a “no” company, don’t create uniform processes for everything.

“You have a style, and your style is different than people out there, … ” Dalton says. “You’ll never be me, and I’ll never be you, and you have so many attributes that are so amazing and so much better than me that if I try to make you me, then I don’t get them. … We’ll be a lot better company if you don’t try to make me you, and I don’t try to make you me.”

Doing these things empower your employees and ultimately take your company to new levels of success.

“The job of the CEO is to be the chief encouragement officer and not the chief execution officer, … ” Dalton says. “Don’t give up on your people. Your people are your strongest asset. It’s your employees that can get you to heights you can’t even imagine you can get to, but if you can imagine it, they can do it.”

How to reach: PartsSource LLC, (877) 497-6412 or www.partssource.com