For Richard Grow, leading a business isn’t much different than leading a professional sports team. Sure, there are the obvious
differences in sports, many players receive multimillion-dollar salaries and have every move second-guessed by the media and
fans. But to the founder and chairman of DEI Inc., the similarities outweigh the differences. He says that no matter what kind of
organization you are leading, sports or otherwise, you need teamwork, strong leadership and motivated employees to succeed.
And you have to track your statistics, so you know where your organization excels and where it needs improvement. Grow has
used this approach to build DEI a 75-employee design and construction planning firm that he founded in 1985 into a
company with more than $45 million in revenue last year and with projected 2007 revenue of about $56 million. Smart Business
spoke with Grow about how to become a successful head coach, manager or general manager in the world of business.
Identify with your team. I never ask an
employee to do something I wouldn’t do
myself. They understand that I understand the difficulty of the processes they
That’s important from the fact that
most people look at their job as a lot
more difficult than the next person’s job,
that they’re working much harder than
the other people are, so knowing that
I’ve done their job in the past, I understand exactly what they’re going
I build that understanding by the fact
that I’m still willing to go back and do
the part of their job that they need help
with while they’re doing it. Whether it’s
going outside and picking up paper in
the yard to make it look good for customers, emptying trash, cooking lunch,
helping with any of their individual
tasks, it doesn’t matter. We’re all part of
the same team.
To give you an example, we once had
an executive vice president who had a
lot of education and a lot of titles behind
him. I asked everyone to go outside and
clean up what needs to be cleaned up so
that it looks good for our customers. So,
I’m out there picking up sticks with
everybody else, and when I came back in
the office, he was still sitting in his
office. He wasn’t willing to get his hands
Within two weeks, he was gone. That
shows me by example that if he wasn’t
willing to do what I’m willing to do,
that’s not really a team effort.
Get down to a personal level. You have to
get out of your office. You have to mingle
with people. You have to understand that
they have a personal life, and what is
important in their lives is different than
what is important in your life. But it’s
taking that extra effort to show that it is
important to you.
You have to make time for that type of
communication. You do that by giving
other people responsibility to perform the tasks that you don’t have time to do.
You have to basically get rid of the things
on your plate that somebody else can do,
give them the authority to make decisions and then let them do it. That will
give you the time to do other things, like
examining the direction of the company
and paying attention to employees.
To make that happen, I push everything
down as far as I can until I see mistakes
being made. You give people the authority and responsibility, give them the
opportunity to step up to the plate and
take care of those details.
Treat your employees like customers. The
No. 1 thing as an owner is to find the
right people. People are your most
important asset. Our saying here is that
our employee is our No. 1 customer.
Customers come and go, but your
employees are here, so you have to treat
your employees as your No. 1 customer.
Then they know how to treat your customers. So, it’s finding the right people
and then treating them the right way.
Wednesdays, we have someone come in
and do manicures and pedicures on
company time, and we pay half. Other
Wednesdays, we have someone come in
and cut hair on company time, and we
pay half. We have a heated massage bed that they can go in, close the door and
use any time they need to. We have an
outdoor grill. We have teams from our
six different disciplines that work
together to make creative meals.
So, we do these things for our employees, and they understand that we value
the company, and they push that down
to our customers.
Listen, don’t just hear. What you want to
do is 70 percent listening and 30 percent
talking. My sales training has given me
the skills to ask open-ended questions,
listen to the answer, then speak.
Most salespeople have to be leaders.
They have to listen well, they have to
hear what the customer is saying, they
have to read between the lines and hear
what a customer is really saying. Just
hearing a question doesn’t mean you’re
Just pay attention to any conversation
and ask someone what they were just
talking about 10 minutes ago, they have
no idea what they said. You have to pay
attention to really hear. That’s why listening 70 percent of the time and talking
30 percent is really what I try to do.
Talking with a customer or an employee, or even with my spouse, I really try to
ask open-ended questions, to listen, to
really try and understand where they are
Keep track of your statistics. Measuring
your business plays into the sports team
analogy. You have to keep score. Your
score is going to end up being the bottom line.
The measurement is always important.
It gives people goals and objectives. It
gives them areas they can see to improve.
Measurements are important. In our
case, a sales-driven team is always looking for goals, for increases in sales. It’s
very important to understand the score
and what it means for the company.
HOW TO REACH: DEI Inc., (513) 825-5800 or www.dei-corp.com