Mark Tuchmann Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

Mark Tuchmann measures success by the happiness of his customers, his team and their spouses. As founder and CEO of BeavEx Inc., a $110 million courier service operating in 30 states and Washington, D.C., Tuchmann knows that success depends on his team getting everything perfect every time, and because customers rely on his team getting things to them quickly and safely, Tuchmann ensures that happens by hiring the best people — and keeping them around. Smart Business spoke with Tuchmann about how to be a shepherd.

Be a shepherd. It’s all about the people. If you treat people with respect and let them build themselves and everything out, you get a lot more out of them instead of coming down with the hard stick and whacking them to get them to do things.

One person said to me, ‘You can be a shepherd or a sheepherder.’ The shepherd holds out his stick and people follow. The sheepherder goes and whacks them and pushes them along.

I’ve always tried to be the leader and have people look at me and really want to do it, not that they have to do it. They see the energy that I try to portray or do, and it’s really easy for them to get on board to that.

Trust people. You can’t do it all yourself. Most entrepreneurs start their own business, and they strangle it and never give it a chance to grow because they feel like they can’t trust anyone else. Let go. Trust.

You definitely have to surround yourself with some really good people that have that same vision, but it’s hard. I don’t think I have enough hands to count how many times I’ve been burned, but the opposite of that is our company has grown from $100,000 in sales in 1989, and we’ll probably do $135 [million] or $140 million in sales this year, so obviously, there’s a lot more positives that came out of that than negatives.

You have to trust your people and give them the authority and the leeway, and before that, you have to find the right people. And you’ll never know that until they’re either producing or they’re not.

Hire good people. It really comes down to intuition. I’m looking for someone who can multitask, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. They have a good sense of humor, and you can tell that they have a good common sense.

You look at the degrees and at all the other things they may look at in HR, and I kind of discount that. I would take a guy who went to a community college who has common sense, a good heart and a fun-loving attitude over a Dartmouth or Yale grad.

We give them a personality test, and it’s uncanny how many times that it’s right on. Tools like that really steer us in the right direction.

It’s really just, how’s that person going to operate in the real environment? My gut can, maybe seven out of 10, get it right. I don’t think anyone out there can get 10 out of 10, but it’s like a batting average — if you can hit .300, you’re doing good, and that’s only hitting three out of 10.

Retain employees with positive reinforcement. People need to feel good about themselves and their place in the company. If they feel like they’re part of it and the growth and success of the company, that’s more important than money. That’s probably the No. 1 thing.

They need to look at the senior management and align with that whole process. If they don’t respect and think that the senior people are doing things right, then they’re more apt to get disgruntled, and then you have a bad situation on your hands. It all flows from the top down. The top has got to mirror the bottom, and that’s not always the case.

Give them the opportunity to succeed. It’s really hard, as the company grows, to keep everybody happy about where they’re going in the company and what they’re doing. They need the positive reinforcement, and in that fast-paced environment, managers aren’t given that. When they’re not given that, then people don’t think they’re appreciated, and when people don’t feel appreciated, then all the rest of the things start happening.

Just keep bringing it to the front of their mind — this is important that you’re on time, you did this, you did that, but don’t forget the people that made that all happen.

Don’t be afraid to fire people. If someone hasn’t worked out, you owe it to them and to yourself to cut the cord. That’s the hard part, so if I have to fire somebody it’s really bad.

I usually give everybody the benefit of the doubt, and if they’re not making it in that position, I’m looking for something else for them to do. The last resort is letting somebody go.

Sometimes I use the analogy of a boyfriend and a girlfriend — you know it’s not going to work, but you feel bad, and you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, and sometimes you drag it on too long. Every situation has a different time length. You really have to look at it, and look at that person’s abilities, what they can do, their personality and all the rest.

It’s like the three-strike rule, where you can coach and teach them, but if they’re at two strikes and they haven’t got it, they’re probably not going to get it. Give people the two chances, and if they can’t get it, then you want to cut the cord.

That’s a lot easier said than done. You try to rationalize it, and you look at it and go, ‘Well, we were going through this and this, and this person wouldn’t have done this if they knew enough,’ and you go around and around about that. People have to make decisions and act right then. It’s hard because people like to think about things and they want to analyze it. In our business, that analysis equals paralysis. You’ve got to look at the situation and make a decision. Good, bad, indifferent — make the decision.

HOW TO REACH: BeavEx Inc., (800) 403-7738 or www.beavex.com