For J. Ricky Arriola, reputation is everything. And the president of Inktel Direct Corp. says it’s his company’s good reputation that allows him to attract quality customers and employees.
“We’ve got a reputation for taking care of our customers and being cutting-edge in technology, being ahead of the curve in coming up with service solutions,” Arriola says of the direct-marketing communications and outsourced business solutions company. “That has also helped us distinguish ourselves from our competitors.”
Creating that reputation takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work with his 400-plus employees, from the training and motivation they receive from Day One to the professional development they continue to receive through their tenure at Inktel.
The results speak for themselves, as 2005 revenue hit more than $25 million, an increase of more than 15 percent over 2004.
Smart Business spoke with Arriola about the processes he uses to build his company’s positive reputation.
How do you build a reputation for your business?
It starts with the employees — how they’re trained, how they’re motivated. If your employees are happy and motivated to come to work, it starts to create a culture in the company for caring about your fellow workers [and] the environment that you’re creating.
That manifests itself into output. So if your employees are happy and motivated, they’ll do a good job for you. And if they’re producing quality work, that’s what customers want to buy.
How do you motivate employees?
We have a fairly rigorous review process and evaluation process where people are given goals. Those goals are measured. The feedback is given to them as to how they’re doing against goal.
Those that are doing well are rewarded financially and otherwise given opportunities for promotion. Those who are not meeting goal are put on a corrective action plan to get them back on track.
So it becomes a very performance-driven culture. Over time, if you can develop that right, it feeds on itself and it actually becomes a lot easier to attract quality people, because quality employees and people want to be in a culture that is merit-based, that is performance-driven.
How did you come up with your values?
We’re basically putting teams together, talking about what our values are and listing them and voting on them. It was a team effort. It was not top-down at all.
That’s how you get buy-in. If it’s top-down, the person at the top who’s making those value judgments may be the only one who shares those values in his company. Just because that’s what the company says the values are, if they’re not practiced and preached, then those aren’t really the values of the company.
Some of ours are fairly unique, but it’s because that’s what the company wanted and that’s what we look for in employees. We have some things there like sense of humor, like thinking, like relentless work ethic. Those are values that we practice, not just put on our Web site.
Everyone can say ‘integrity’ and ‘ethics’ and things of that nature. That is a requirement. I think that’s the bare minimum. What about your company is unique to your company?
How do you promote out-of-the-box thinking?
We bring in outside resources and we also share knowledge inside. We want to make sure we’re cutting-edge in our thinking. We want to make sure we’re staying current in what’s happening in our prospective industries.
For example, in our mail operations, one of the things that we do as a learning tool — as well as other work-related tools such as presentation skills, communication skills, teambuilding — is we take the U.S. post office’s direct mail manual.
It’s a very dense book, and we make the team members responsible for taking a chapter of those books — everyone gets a different chapter — reading it, becoming an expert in that area and then condensing it into a very user-friendly summary.
And then over a brown bag lunch twice a month, one person who’s responsible for learning about a particular chapter will teach the others. So it distributes the weight of learning and teaching among the team members so it’s not overwhelming, it’s fun and obviously, it’s very useful.
Why is professional development important?
The business world has accelerated quite dramatically in the past 10, 20 years through advancements in technology. Your work force and your service offerings will become stale if you’re not constantly refreshing your skill set.
You don’t have employees that are with a company 20, 30 years anymore like you used to. The skill sets that the marketplace requires change so rapidly that the work force just needs to be incredibly adaptable. So for us, if we’re not constantly looking at things … we risk becoming obsolete.
If you’ve got that adaptable and well-trained work force, you should be able to flex as a company and meet that opportunity, meet that unmet need that the customer is telling you about.
HOW TO REACH: Inktel Direct Corp., www.inktel.com