After Patricia Sibley’s employees sat through a morning of reviewing the new employee manual, she treated them to some fun. Each received a movie theater ticket to the movie of their choosing and $20 to buy food. After the movies, she took them to the Braves game. As president and owner of MediaSolutions, a media planning and placement company, she strives to thank her people for their work, something that has helped grow her business to $103 million in billings last year. Smart Business spoke with Sibley about why you can’t be afraid of hard work and how to find personalities that will fit in with your organization.
Ask personal questions when hiring. I ask people what their parents did for a living because that will tell me what their work ethic is. If someone’s dad worked in a union position, then they’re going to be going out the door, and they don’t care if there’s a project due. They’re off work, and they’re gone.
I ask people what was their grade point average in college because if the first question out of their mouth is, ‘Is that a requirement for this job?’ they may be someone I want to talk to. So much of our business is gut instinct, what you think. If you can throw it up in the air and catch it with one hand, and then toss it off to somebody else in the other hand, then you’ll like the business.
Ask them a couple things. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? What’s your idea of a perfect day? What’s your favorite thing about your job, and what do you like least about your job?
If you ask questions that are more personal-oriented versus technical-oriented heck, they wouldn’t have gotten where they are without the technical knowledge now you’ve gotten somebody who will fit with you from a personality standpoint.
Empower people to solve problems. Our job is to be a problem-solver. Don’t come to me with a problem without telling me what you’re proposing we do because nine times out of 10, the client is going to look to you.
You go to a client and say, ‘We have a problem. What do you want to do?’ If all I am is a purveyor of the problem, they don’t need me.
The first thing I do is ask them, ‘Have you gone over this with your supervisor?’ If they haven’t, I say, ‘You need to go start there.’ I don’t want anyone to come in and ‘go ask mom if dad says no’ kind of thing.
There’s a fine line there for somebody to have an open-door policy, but at the same time, to make sure I’m not going behind our management people’s backs.
Set the example. Lead by example and don’t be afraid. Those are tough things for people.
So goes the CEO, so goes the company. You work hard, your employees will work hard. If you’re not a hard worker, then you lead by example.
You can’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to work hard, to express an opinion, to go after business, to hear, ‘No.’
There’s the saying of, ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ That’s the best thing. Success will breed success, and if you have success on one thing, then, ‘OK, I wasn’t scared,’ or, ‘I was scared, but I did it, and look now I’m not scared.’
When I’ve got to call somebody back or have a client who’s upset, I’ll say, ‘Face your fears, and they’ll dis-a-ppear.’
Lead growth yourself. Inspire people to want to grow. They want to stay small because they like it, and it’s homier and more comfortable. I’ve always been inspired to grow by the challenge of it. Can I do it? Let’s see if I can.
The thing is how do I inspire people to have the same take-risk, entrepreneurial spirit as I do with things? You’re part cheerleader and part teacher and part mom and dad, and part priest and preacher. You have a lot of things because you respond differently to different stimuli, and so do your employees.
Some people, you yell at them and they say, ‘I’ll show you.’ Some people, you yell at them, and it’s boohoo, and they won’t do anything.
Figure out what inspires them to work the best, so they’re going to get you to the level or area you need to get to. Our responsibility as a leader is to make sure we get the most out of our employees, so study them to see how they learn best.
Stay out of debt. I’ve seen a lot of agencies go out of business. We’re a debt-free company. We don’t have payments on things. We paid for the offices, and as the money was there, we painted, we bought pictures, we added more computers and things like that. I don’t like having debt, and I don’t like owing people money. I want to make sure we stay as cash-rich as we can, so we know we have enough to get us through.
We’ve been careful about the clients we take and the growth, so that not one client by itself is a huge chunk of business. I don’t like for any piece of business to be more than 25 percent.
Pay attention and learn. People who don’t keep an eye out to the future and keep looking at the trends and at where their business or industry is going, they’re dead in the water.
The day you stop learning and stop growing as a person is the day your business will stop growing. I believe that for myself, and I believe that for every person that works here. That’s part of our job for our clients to be able to lead them and help them and their business grow.
Make sure you’re out of the offices, listening in on phone calls and going to client meetings. It’s not just go up for the dinner the night before. Sit in the meeting. Listen to what they talk about. Stay involved in your industry. Don’t just sit there and go, ‘Yeah, OK, OK,’ and never go to a meeting.
HOW TO REACH: MediaSolutions, (404) 264-1005 or www.mediasolutions-atl.com