Taking one for the team

While the CEO plays a vital role in
the success or failure of a business, Jim Markham learned last year that his company is capable of functioning just fine without him.

Markham, founder and CEO of
PureOlogy Research LLC, had decided to
go on an Alaskan cruise, where he would
be without phone and e-mail access.

“It was really scary not knowing how the
business was doing,” Markham says. “But
the team came through, and they didn’t
need me that much. Sometimes, you’re
not as valuable as you think you are.”

The key to the company’s smooth sailing while Markham is away is his
ability to get others involved in the
day-to-day operations.

“I never say ‘I,’ it’s always ‘we,’”
Markham says of his 58 employees.
“If everything you do is ‘I, I, I,’ I think
you take a little bit of the ownership
out of it. It’s a team effort, and they
are part of the team.”

This philosophy helped Markham
lead the hair product manufacturer to $54.3 million in 2006 revenue.

Smart Business spoke with
Markham about how to develop
leaders in your business.

Q: How do you identify and develop leaders?

Work with them on a daily
basis, and hopefully you have
enough confidence to know
their core competence level.
Work with them and evaluate
what they are capable of doing.
Know what they are capable of
doing if you weren’t there.

A lot of times, they have
great ideas. If they are coming
in with an idea, they are coming in because they believe in it,
and they are becoming more passionate
about their job, especially if they know
how to start it from soup to nuts.

I like to have a presentation of how it’s
going to go, how it’s going to work, what
it’s going to cost and what return we’re
going to get on it. That way, it will be
much better time spent in the conference room instead of somebody saying
they have got an idea, but they have no way to determine whether it’s going to
work or not.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

Anybody in any department can come
see me. Everybody’s opinion is important. We tell everybody that if they have
an issue and they need to talk to me,
they can come in. We have meetings several times a week. There is a lot of communication going on. We have a lot of
departments, and we’re meeting all the
time about different issues.

I don’t ask anybody to do anything that
I haven’t done myself. It’s important that
you listen and you lead by example.

It’s real important that when you first
hire the people, even after you have
them hired, you should really have a little heart-to-heart. Say, ‘Listen, there will
be times when we agree; there will be
times when we disagree. What I want to
know from you is, when we come to a fork in the road and there are two ways
to go, where you want to go left and I
want to go to the right, what do we do?’

Q: What is the best way to build consensus
when there are disagreements?

It’s important as a CEO not to be too
stubborn-headed about where you want
to go. If everybody in the room does not
agree, you may have a problem with the
concept. I try to intercede, and I try to
make the decision where I am the mediator, and I try to get everybody on the
same page. I usually say, ‘I understand
your point,’ and agree with both sides,
and I reiterate both sides.

Q: How do you get to a final decision?

That’s where you need to talk to
them before and let everybody
know you’re going to listen to
everybody’s opinion, and then
you’re going to make a decision.
Right or wrong, we’re going to go
in that direction.

We all need ownership. We’re
going to take parts of what you do
and parts of what the other one
does and try to come to a consensus. They all kind of have to give in
because it’s a consensus.

If you’re a good salesman and
you’re presenting the case and
you’re going in the right direction,
you can kind of guide it the way you
want it to go.

Q: How do you find people you can
work with?

We like to ask what successes or
accomplishments are they most
proud of. How do they see themselves
fitting in to our company; what are
their strengths and what are their weaknesses. That tells me quite a bit.

A lot of them tell you, ‘I’m not weak at
anything.’ I ask specifically, ‘What do
you like doing the best?’ Whatever they
dislike doing the most is probably what
they are the worst at.

HOW TO REACH: PureOlogy Research LLC, (800) 331-1502 or