Setting a good example

Oscar Barbara is not one to
hole up in his office, away from the buzz of his business.

Instead, he gets out and visits
his various job sites, meeting
regularly with his 36 employees
to make sure that they know
what’s happening at Quantum
Builders Inc., a home builder and
residential real estate development company. The company’s
founder and president says that
being visible and leading by
example lessens the need to
explain things to employees
because they can see it, believe
it, understand it and respect it in
your behavior.

Barbara also supports his
employees in the field, even
when it means cleaning or filling
in for them in an emergency. He
believes in treating his employees like family and says that
doing so creates a mutual
respect; in return, they will go
out of their way to help the company succeed.

Barbara’s philosophy of leading
by example and supporting
employees has helped the company reach 2007 revenue of
$56.6 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Barbara about how to set a good
example for employees.

Set an example. There has to be
a philosophy from the top, and
it has to manifest all the way
through. If they don’t know
that that’s the philosophy, it’s
hard for somebody that’s
down the tiers to know it.

 

As it goes down, they start to
lose the intent of the company.
So if you meet the guy at the
top and this guy is telling his
senior people, and hopefully,
they’re telling their people,
[then] hopefully, it conveys all
the way down and it’s one philosophy.

It’s a commitment. Whether
it’s as simple as organizing
your documents or doing a
specific task, you just don’t do
it to do it, you do it because
you believe in it and want to
do the best job that you can.

If you don’t have passion,
you’re lost. If you don’t have
that fire to drive you every day
because you love what you’re
doing, you’re lost. If you don’t
believe in what you’re saying
or doing, you can’t sell anything and have anybody
believe you. When it comes
from the heart and you speak
from the heart and you believe
from the heart, it’s easy to follow that example. It’s a way of
life; it’s not a job.

You don’t have to sell it. You
don’t have to preach something that people don’t believe.
If you believe it and execute it
and show them that’s you and
the philosophy, it’s easy to
mimic.

Recognize employees. A pat on
the back and recognition for
a job well done is better than
a big ol’ paycheck. Once they
do something and have gone
out of their way, they need to
be recognized. Not just by a
nice bonus at year end, but
let them know that, that one
moment, that special thing or
that effort they put in is also
recognized on a day-to-day
or weekly [basis] — whenever they do it.

 

Don’t leave it for that year-end bonus. It’s a good motivation to keep everybody energized and to let them know,
‘That was a great job.’

Value-centered culture

For Bruno Silva, core values are everything, and
he’s created a culture at Chima Brazilian Steakhouse
where his 65 employees are
encouraged to live the values
he has established.

“Everyone sharing the values, it’s powerful,” he says.
“You not only make everybody
a family, it’s almost like they
feel protected, and they can
relate to co-workers because
they’re all thinking the same.”

Silva’s focus on values has
helped Chima reach 2007 revenue of $9 million at its Fort
Lauderdale location; it also has
locations in four other cities.

Smart Business spoke with
Silva about how to create a
culture focused on values.

Q. What are the keys to developing a successful culture?

Detect the core purpose and
values, which are a set of enduring principles that we believe
and live throughout the years.
And then actually live them.

As we live them, people start
to understand what are the
behaviors accepted and try to
live them, as well. Some will live
them and grow with the company; others don’t fit and will leave.

Little by little, these values,
it’s addictive; they incorporate
in all the minds and hearts,
and everybody will see them
even if they’re not written.

Listen to your heart because
a culture is something that you
live and believe, and for each
company, it will vary.

Q. How do you develop core values?

You need to include key
employees and managers
because it’s something that
you create together, and
they’re going to be supporting
the culture.

Gather all your management,
and there’s a series of questions and exercises that you
go through to identify the values. The company already has
them; it’s a matter of getting
your team together to create
that. Set up a day and come up
with the values.

It’s important that everybody’s involved because
they’re going to be the ones
enforcing it, living those
values.

The personal touch

Mehdi Ghomeshi cares
about his employees, and he wants to make sure they
know it. He spends time with
his 215 employees at Great
Florida Bank, whether it is by
walking around the 22 solution
centers or going to lunch with
them, getting to know them and
building relationships with
them.

“Many times as I walk
around, I joke with them, so
that they consider me a part of
themselves, and share the
information through that,” he
says.

And when the chips are down,
employees know they can count
on the bank’s founder, executive
chairman, president and CEO.
When hurricanes hit Miami several years ago, Ghomeshi made
sure affected employees had
places to live and helped out
with special needs, such as getting an employee’s mom a dialysis machine.

Creating relationships builds
employee loyalty, which has
helped the bank — established
in 2004 — reach 2007 revenue
of $101.9 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Ghomeshi about how to treat
your employees as equal and
how to create an environment
free of fear.

Lead by example. If someone is
not good at walking around
and being comfortable with
talking with employees, I’m not
sure they can be a leader. One
of the leadership requirements
is to be comfortable to speak
with employees at all levels and
understand them at their level
and make them comfortable
that they can go to the CEO at
any time with any issue.

A leader has to be caring,
that associates know that you
care about not only their professional lives but their personal lives and making sure
that you always have a balance between those two.

You can’t expect people to
work until 7 at night if you’re
going to go home at 2. Employees would have to feel comfortable that they can go home
to their family and feel that if
they are working hard, the
CEO is working hard also. I
would never ask anyone to do
anything unless I’m willing to
do it myself.

There are a lot of things that
a CEO doesn’t like to do, but
unfortunately, we have to do it.
We don’t have the luxury of
picking and choosing what we
like and don’t like because, at
the end of the day, someone
has to do it. I make sure that I
will be the first to take the initiative of doing things that I
don’t like to do.

Deal with the things you don’t like
to do.
Each decision is different. The most difficult decision
is when you have to let someone go and/or when you have
to coach someone to change
their behavior.

I spend a lot of time to make
sure that it is the right thing,
and that doesn’t happen all the
time. With coaching, I prepare
myself and try to do it outside, so the environment becomes
different, and [I] try to get the
associates to be as engaged as
possible and will focus on benefits of changing that behavior.

Try to give them good examples of good behaviors of some
of the greatest leaders in our
country to show them how they
could become a better leader.

Doing business the right way

In 1980, two years after Bud
Farrey became president of Farrey’s Lighting and Bath, he
faced his toughest business challenge yet. The home design store,
which sells lighting, bathroom fixtures and ventilation products,
burned to the ground after a fire
during the Miami riot. Despite this
challenge, all 100 employees were
kept on payroll and the business
reopened 35 days later in a different location.

Farrey, who also serves as the
company’s chairman, says his
focus on doing business the right way is something his father
taught him. (Farrey is third generation at this family business.)
And doing business the right
way helped him pull through the
riot, as his customers and vendors stayed the course with him.
He says that when you do things
the right way, people are more
willing to step up and do whatever they can to help you.

The 84-year-old company,
which has showrooms in North
Miami and Coral Gables, has
been growing ever since, reaching 2007 revenue of $35 million
and employing 130 people.

Smart Business spoke with
Farrey about how to do things
the right way by building consensus and providing guidance
to employees.

Involve employees and get their
input.
It’s management by
walking around, one-on-one
coaching and cheerleading
and impromptu conversations with employees. You
get the pulse of the business
of what’s going on rather
than numbers or reports. You
get a sense of what’s happening, where problems are arising and where there are
roadblocks so you can correct those and move ahead.

Follow up on everything
that somebody brings to you.
You become credible, and if
you don’t do that, then it’s
meaningless. Report back to
employees on what’s been
done if it’s something meaningful. If it’s not, it just gets
handled in the normal processes, and they see the results
over time. Acknowledge
those who bring up good
ideas at meetings in front of
their peers.

There are those who are
vocal and love to hear themselves talk and express
themselves, and there are
those who stay in the shadows. Work on drawing them
out without making them
feel uncomfortable. Make
them feel comfortable, not
necessarily one of the boys
but comfortable around you.

We have vendor dinners,
and we will take the newest
employee and let them speak
in front of the group. Some
are more outgoing, and some
are absolutely petrified and
scared to death, but we work
with them. It’s amazing over
time how they come out of
their shell and get more comfortable in front of a group.
When they see others doing
it, it gives them a comfort
level that it’s OK to not be
exactly perfect in front of a group. It’s a learning experience for everybody.

The right stuff

Howard Mofshin is a big
believer in company barbecues and lunches, which he uses to create an open
environment and to make his
50 employees at Cash4Gold
feel important.

As president of the precious
metal refinery, Mofshin creates
an atmosphere in which employees feel comfortable coming
talk to him. He also encourages
them to leave feedback — good
or bad — in a suggestion box.

“It creates the environment
of people feeling comfortable
at work, rather than always
looking over their shoulder
that the boss might be watching them,” Mofshin says.

This open environment has
helped the company, whose parent company is Albar Precious
Metal Refining Inc., reach
2006 revenue of $41 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Mofshin about how to assemble the right team and how to
create an open atmosphere
where people feel at home.

Q. How do you find the
right employees to grow
your business?

You want to make sure that
you’re hiring people who you
believe are finding a home at
your company. People who feel
like they’re at a place for good
and are going to make a career
there tend to work harder and
more effectively.

When you have a transient
business, you don’t ever develop
a true trust level or get the
employee’s full potential.

Ask them about past experiences. We look for people who
excelled in sports because they
want to win. Anyone who wants
to win carries that over into their life, especially at work,
where they’ll excel because winning is important to them.

Q. How do you identify this
trait during an interview?

When you look at a resume
and someone’s been changing
jobs every six months or a year,
it’s never a good sign. People
follow patterns, and if their pattern is to stay with a company
for a short period of time and
move on, it’s most likely going
to happen if you hire them.

The second sign is asking
them what they’re looking to
achieve when they come to
work for you, where
they’d like to be, where
they see themselves over
the next few years and
how they’d like to develop within your company.

If you’re getting a feeling
that they don’t have any
true plans for how
they’re going to grow,
they’re not going to be
there for long.

An active leader

Juan C. Vila considers his
employees part of his family.

As co-founder, president and
CEO of Vila & Son Landscaping
Corp., Vila today employs many
of the same family values that he
used to start the company with
his dad in 1984.

Instead of staying holed up in
his office, Vila makes sure he is
out among his 700 employees,
sharing information with them
and making sure they see how much he loves his job at the
landscaping company. He also
treats them like individuals, not
like numbers, and takes time to
visit with employees and get to
know them. And he’s created
unique activities — including
gatherings and soccer tournaments at his home — to make
people feel like family, a focus
that’s helped him grow his
company to 2007 revenue of
$63 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Vila about how to create a family
atmosphere by being visible
among your employees and by
staying focused.

Stay engaged. Stay engaged at
all levels, not just at the executive or branch levels. Stay
upfront with employees and
have contact with them. Tell
them where you’re going and
what you want to achieve
together. Treat employees like
a person and not a number.
Keep in contact with them.
Make them part of the team
and communicate with them all
the time and in all activities and
have constant motivation.

Be out there and visible and
be constantly available for
employees. Be transparent. If
the information and numbers
are available for management
and employees, be upfront with
them and share it. Being a
transparent person is just not a
‘go there in the morning and
walk around’ attitude, it’s more
of a family-oriented culture and
being open to that.

When you’re upfront with
employees, they trust you
more. When there are challenges, they will say, ‘I’m with
you; I don’t know where we’re
going to go, but I’m with you.’
When you are upfront and
open with them in the difficult
times, they feel like they’re part
of the team.

Stay focused. Stay on target and
keep motivating people and
working with them so you
don’t lose focus. Work with
people to align them with the
team and coach them so they
will follow you. No matter what
the circumstances are, keep
moving forward and staying
focused.

You’ve got to do what you’re
passionate about doing, what
you can be the best at doing
and what you can make money
out of doing. Combine those
three things in any business,
and you will be successful.

It’s not just a paycheck and
go. No matter what you do in
life, you’ve got to get passion
for it and love what you do.
Motivation doesn’t come from
money because it will only
motivate you temporarily.
That’s not enough; you have to
love what you do.

When clients come to you
and say, ‘What a great job
you’ve done,’ that’s powerful.
Pat employees on the back and
tell them that, and that culture
starts getting into the company.
Employees start thinking that
it’s not just a job, it’s that you
love what you do. That helps
employees stay focused and
loyal. You then will have people
who follow you.

Set measurable goals. Establish
and set aggressive goals that keep a focus of where you
want to hit the target. Set the
goals of what your vision is and
where you want to go, and then
follow the mission to achieve
those goals. It’s good to do
aggressive goals but also goals
that you can focus on and can
be measurable, that are not
unrealistic goals.

Continue to check the goals
to make sure you achieve
them. When the goal is not
achievable or it’s not done or
complete, make sure that you
reinstate a new goal and stay
focused to be able to achieve
that new goal.

The benefit of having measurable goals is to stay on focus
and on track and that you have
a target to aim and shoot for
that you want to achieve. We have aggressive goals, but they
are achievable and keep us on
the right track and motivated.

Make employees part of the team. Engage the employees and let
them think. Coach them, but let
them think by themselves. Be
out there with them on the field,
share the vision with them, and
give them not just a job but a
career opportunity. People
know that whatever they put
into the company they’re going
to get back because they’re part
of the family.

It’s great culture because no
matter how big the company
is, when you have that family
culture, the employee feels
like they’re not just a number,
that they’re going to be treated
right and that they’re going to
grow in a healthy company environment and will keep
moving forward. When
employees feel like they’re
part of the team, they want to
grow with it.

Share the vision. Have people in
place who can work with you.
When you have great people in
place, they don’t need much
motivation or management.
Then they can help you successfully achieve the vision and
follow that with the rest of the
team. Engage the best people
you can get, and you will have
great results.

If the vision is there, you can
make it successful. When you
shoot high and you have a
vision that you can follow forward to a mission, you get your
employees engaged.

HOW TO REACH: Vila & Son Landscaping Corp., (305) 255-9206 or www.vila-n-son.com

Focusing on success

In the constant hustle and
bustle of each business day,
Robert Toney does his best to stay focused. The founder,
president and CEO of G. Robert
Toney & Associates Inc. keeps
his day organized using planning
tools that keep him on task and
help him make sure his 71 employees are on task, as well.

“If you stay focused and obtain
your goal, and it’s the right goal,
it works,” Toney says. “If you get
out of focus and away from the
goals, it’s not going to work.”

Toney’s company is the parent company of National
Liquidators, a vessel recovery
and remarketing firm, and
National Yacht Sales, which
offers boat sales and boat
storage. Toney’s focus has
helped his companies reach
2007 sales of $11.9 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Toney about how to focus on
your business and prepare for
changes in that focus as your
business grows.

Q. What are the keys to staying focused on your business?

Communicating and then establishing goals and staying with
them. Profitability has a lot to do
with it. When you see a goal
work and it’s profitable, it’s much
easier to explain to everybody
why it’s a good goal and why
everybody has the right focus
on that issue. Lack of profitability also gets your attention as to
how you need to adjust your
goals or change your strategy.

Q. What are the keys to
setting goals?

Set goals that are going to
keep the company successful.
Communicate with the person who’s responsible for setting the
goals. I try to put some bullet
points forward — for instance,
do we want to open a new
office location — and then let
the person give their input.

Listen to what they have to
say before rushing to a decision.
Focus on the big picture and let
the person responsible put the
pieces in that can work within
their comfort level.

Q. What do you do if you
lose that focus?

Communicate more
clearly. You don’t have to
communicate all the
time, but when you do
communicate, communicate efficiently. When you
talk to somebody on the
phone, sometimes it’s better to follow it up with an
e-mail or a note that says,
‘Based on what we talked
about earlier, here’s what
I want you to do and
when I want you to do it.’

If you and the person
you’re working with
agreed on a goal and neither one of you can stick
with or stay focused on
that goal, you’ve got other
problems. Either you keep
the manager focused or
they keep you focused,
but if you can’t keep each other
focused, it isn’t going to work.

Q. How does your focus
change as the business
grows?

I stayed the most focused
when the business was growing
and struggling because I had to.
You focus on it 24 hours a day,
seven days a week because you
have to. Every penny counts,
every task you do during the
day counts, and everything you read for pleasure has to be related to your business because you
want to learn more on how to
stay focused on your business.

If you grow and have good
quality people working for you,
the staying focused aspect is
more about the bigger picture.
Hopefully when you’re successful, your people can enjoy their
work and free time a little bit
more because they are successful at work.

Q. How do you prepare yourself for that change?

You work so hard on your
own without much help when
you’re small, new and not as
profitable. But when you get
bigger, successful and profitable, you want to see other
people learn from that area and
you step back.

I still come to work early and
stay late, but I’m able to enjoy
myself when I’m not here
because I know everybody’s taking care of everything and the
place isn’t going under. In the
early days, if I wasn’t here, the
major decisions didn’t get made.

If you don’t step back and let
your managers take over, then
you’re micromanaging, and it’s
going to end up causing you
more problems than it’s going to
save. If you want to be successful and grow, you’ve got to put
that trust in other people.

I enjoy putting trust in other
people, especially good people
who are loyal to me and have
been working for me a long
time and who go the extra mile.
It’s a great feeling.

Q. How do you build trust
with employees, and what are
the benefits?

You can send them out on
their own, and they’ll do the
right thing. You can sense that
in their excitement and communication levels with you.

A good employee who wants
to be on his own knows when
to come and ask questions and
ask for guidance. You’ll find that
the more successful people who
work on their own will communicate better with you and come
asking for guidance and suggestions and proposing ideas to get
your feedback more than someone who’s not comfortable
working on their own.

HOW TO REACH: G. Robert Toney & Associates Inc., (954) 791-9601 or
www.nationalyachtsales.com or www.natliquidators.com

An honest leader

Miriam Lopez is passionate about her job and she encourages her 140 employees to be passionate about theirs, as well.

The CEO of TransAtlantic Bank — part of Banco Sabadell Group — says it’s hard to work at a job you are not passionate about and that having passion for your job helps you stay creative in thinking of new ideas. If you’re lacking that passion, Lopez says, refocus on what’s important to you and figure out what aspect of the business excites you. And if there’s nothing, Lopez says it might be time to go somewhere else.

Lopez’s passion for her job has spread to her employees and helped the bank reach 2006 revenue of $37.1 million.

Smart Business spoke with Lopez about how to lead by example by being honest and by listening to employees.

Be honest. Listen to employees and follow through. It’s about being honest. If I tell them I’m going to follow through, I will do it; otherwise, I will tell you I can’t.

You’re either honest or you’re not. Honesty is synonymous with trust. For you to trust somebody, you have to know that, that individual has been honest and straightforward with you.

It’s not something that happens in a day. Somebody walks in the door, a brand-new employee, they’re not going to trust me, but, after a month or two of interaction, they will. They ask a question; they get the answer. It starts building trust, and that is the basis for any relationship. If you don’t have trust in any relationship, you walk out.

Think outside the box. You cannot be a visionary without knowing where you are today. Sometimes, it’s thinking way ahead and outside the box. It’s taking the time to say, ‘Where do I want to be X years from now? What can I do to make myself different from the rest of the group?’

Get your people involved. I get my top people together and say, ‘How do you feel about this?’ and brainstorm. The vision was not created by me; it’s not my vision. The final product is a combination of employees working together and reaching a consensus. Everybody’s brought in to the vision because they were part of it. If they buy in to what you’re doing, then they’re part of the solution and never part of the problem.

Listen to the dissenting voice. Sometimes, someone tells you ‘no,’ and the majority says ‘yes.’ You learn that, ‘OK, this guy or gal was right, let me hear that individual more.’ Listen to that dissenting voice because, sometimes, they’re right or bring in additional ideas. It’s not just a negative thought on their part.

Ask them, ‘You’re telling me not to do the project, and that’s wonderful, but we’re going to go ahead and do it; how would you change it? What would you do differently? How would you change the product? What would make it different that would make it more acceptable to you? How do you think it would work better?’ That way, you get that person who’s not sold to at least become engaged. Sometimes, when they give you their feedback, you realize they’re right; we shouldn’t be doing it.

Recognize employees for meeting goals; work with those who don’t. Stimulate them. People always think monetary because everyone has a need for money. But reward in other ways. For individuals who meet or exceed goals, I publish it or treat them to dinner or something, like maybe give them a day off.

Obviously, at no point in time do you say anything derogatory about those who did not meet goals. Work with those who did not and ask, ‘What happened, how can we work together?’ Make a big deal about those who did without ever putting down those who did not.

Individuals need to be motivated, and motivation is not just outright dollars. It’s a sense of, ‘Wow, I accomplished something; I was recognized.’

Get employees engaged and excited. Be supportive 100 percent of the way. Meet with employees often. Meet with each level of employee, and by interacting with them, they become engaged. By being engaged, they’re part of the whole, they’re part of the team.

If they’re not engaged, see what they’re doing. Ask them, ‘Do you like what you’re doing? Are you qualified to do it?’ Sometimes, we make mistakes and hire people to do things that they’re not qualified to do, and they’re not engaged because they don’t feel apt to do the job or don’t like the job. Have a one-on-one. What’s the root of the problem?

Sometimes, it’s outside factors, but if it’s inside, everything can be changed by maybe giving them additional responsibility. Sometimes, people are just not motivated because they’re bored.

Look for a good attitude. A good attitude is contagious, and you want that employee on your team.

I ask weird questions. Look for facial expressions and harshness in the voice. Look for the tone. There are ways to check attitude because obviously you ask someone, ‘Do you have a good attitude?’ and they respond, ‘Yes, I have a good attitude.’ Sometimes, I pretend I’m not the CEO during the interview and ask, ‘If I was your best friend, how would you answer this?’ You’d be surprised how the answer changes immediately.

Most important is to listen. Ask a question and let them talk. Give them a few minutes to answer it. Make it a complex question.

HOW TO REACH: TransAtlantic Bank, (305) 377-0200 or www.transatlanticbank.com

Paying attention to details

Chip Sollins not only listens to his employees,
but he also takes action on what he hears. Several
years ago, Sollins learned
that his 1,300 employees at
Prime Management Group Inc.
were unhappy with the office
coffee machine, so he tried a
cup and agreed. Then he
bought a new machine for
his employees.

The president and CEO of
the property management
company says that supplying employees with good
coffee and fun activities,
such as ice cream breaks,
company games and birthday cards, makes them
happy. And happy employees help his company succeed, pushing fiscal 2007
revenue to $41 million.

Smart Business spoke
with Sollins about how creating a healthy culture and
establishing a solid vision
leads to happy employees.

Q. What makes a healthy
culture?

Fun employees. If employees are having fun, they make
customers happy. It’s about
making it fun and having
recognition and incentives.

Communicate to employees
and let them know what’s
going on. Being open and
honest with your employees
creates a healthy culture.
God gave us two ears and
one mouth for a reason, and
you have to listen twice as
much as you talk. Listen to
what they’re saying because
sometimes they know more
of the pulse of what’s happening. I have the pulse, but
sometimes they know other things that are important.

It’s even things around the
office. You feel good when
you walk into a nice office.
When you walk into a lousy
office or the upkeep isn’t
there, people say, ‘They don’t
care about this; how are they
going to care about the outside world?’

These things don’t have to
cost a lot of money, but people love them.

Q. How do you make sure
you’re hearing employees and
remaining open to feedback?

You talk to people. Go out
when everyone’s having
lunch, sit there and talk to
everyone. You’ve got to ask
the questions, and
you’ve got to be able to
listen to the tough
answers as well as the
good answers. People
don’t always love surveys because sometimes they don’t like to
see what they get.

You’ve got to see
what you get to make a
difference because it’s
all the little things
there that if you can
make the difference,
people are happy.

Q. What are the keys to
creating a fun culture?

Take the time and
make it a priority, and
make sure it’s followed
through. Too often, they do
the thing and think they’re
done. Culture is not a onetime event; it’s an ongoing
process.

Dedicate a person to be
your culture person, to create the fun and make it happen, and make sure they follow through. There are so
many things going on during
the day that you don’t think
about culture, but every
once in awhile, you’ve got to
make that time, and too
often, people forget because
they take it for granted.

It’s sending an e-mail saying, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ or,
‘I heard a great thing about
you.’ It takes two seconds,
but acknowledgement is
huge. It’s easy to blow it off,
but if you take that extra
second, it goes a mile.

Q. How do you establish a
solid vision for your company?

You’ve got to look into the
future and say, ‘Where would I like my company to be in a
certain amount of years?’
and, ‘How would I like it to
look; how would I like it to
feel?’ Look out there and say,
‘What is the customer going
to want?’ and be able to beat
your competitors to the
punch. If you do, then you
can be the Super Bowl
champ. When you’re that
Super Bowl champ, you can’t
rest on your laurels, you
have to recreate yourself and
your company all the time to
make sure you are staying
ahead of the pack.

Be detailed, be truthful, be
honest, and be clear and not
vague. You have to be black
and white with your vision
so people can see it. If you’re
wishy-washy, they will not
believe it or follow it.

Being truthful and honest
is, when I go to bed at night,
I go right to sleep. If you
don’t lie, you don’t have to
worry about anything; you
don’t have to make up stories because then you’ll get
caught in them.

Be honest with what your
vision is, and when you’re
wrong, tell employees. Admit
when you make a mistake;
people appreciate that. When
you talk about details, spell
it out to them, and be clear
and concise.

Q. What are the benefits of a
successful vision and culture?

It’s a better place to work,
people are happier, and people tell their friends about it,
and they get them to come
and work here. People can
make more money and have
opportunity to grow within
the company.

HOW TO REACH: Prime Management Group Inc., (561) 997-4045 or www.primemg.com

Quality control

Donn Flipse has a laser focus
on the continuous improvement of processes and quality, and he encourages his
120 employees to have the same
focus. Flipse, founder, president
and CEO of fresh flower super-store Field of Flowers, says that
if employees focus on continuous improvement, they can help
you improve quality and reduce
costs and problems.

“By eliminating waste, your
costs come down, and you’re
able to capture the market by
having not only better quality
but lower prices for your customers,” Flipse says.

This commitment to continuous improvement of quality has
helped the business grow 35 percent during the past three years to
reach 2006 revenue of $8.1 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Flipse about how to keep your
company focused on improving
quality.

Q. How do you maintain a
focus on quality?

By developing a mission
statement and values, a strategic statement of the basic way
the company intends to conduct itself and go about business. Put down a statement,
and then teach it to everybody.

We have an orientation program where we teach people
our mission, values and long-range plan. Try to convey to
employees your business philosophy and strategy of putting attention on continuous
improvement of quality within
the company.

Q. How do you communicate
your strategy and philosophy?

Engage everyone in the process. Instead of coming to work
every day with the idea of, ‘I’m
going to do a good job and do
my job the same way I did it
yesterday,’ get beyond that and
have people come to work
every day thinking, ‘I’m going to
do a good job, but I’m also
going to think of how this job
can be done better.’ Get them
into that continuous and unending improvement mindset.

Use a suggestion system. We
encourage people to make a
suggestion and put it down in
writing. The suggestion will be
studied, and it doesn’t
mean we’re going to do it,
but it does mean that we
will look at it.

If you make changes
simply because somebody thinks you should,
that’s not improvement,
that is just tampering
with your processes. It’s
making changes without
any basis of knowledge
about whether you
improved anything.

Q. How do you create
a culture of continuous
improvement?

Buy in to it and model
it. If you don’t walk the
walk and live according
to your philosophy, culture, mission and values, then nobody
else is going to pay attention.

Teach key managers this and
keep doing it. It’s easy in the pressures of business to fall into bad
habits, but stay focused on what
you believe in.

Processes are the responsibility
of top management, and if those
processes are not sound, then
there are going to be problems.
It’s easy to blame those problems on the front-line people,
but they’re not the ones at fault.

Believe in it; it can’t be the management theory de jour. It
has to be something you stick
with and believe in because
only if you believe in it are you
going to stick with it.

Q. What is the key to
empowering employees?

In some cases, empowerment
can be used in place of good management. You’ll say, ‘I’m empowering you to do your job right so
that we can achieve our goals.’

What that means is, ‘If I don’t
like the goals, then I’m going to

kick you out.’ Instead of improving the processes (that) your
employees use and taking responsibility for these processes so that people can do a good
job, you might use this empowerment catchphrase and say,
‘I’m empowering you, now go
do it and do a good job.’

The unsaid side is, ‘If you don’t
do it right or if I’m not happy
with the results, then I’ll get rid
of you.’ Empower people in the
positive way. Give them information about how the business
works, how their job fits within
other jobs and how they have to
do their job properly so others
can do their job right.

If you teach them that, they are
empowered to make better decisions because they know how
things work beyond their cubicle.

Q. How do you reward
employees who help improve
quality?

There is a good and bad way
to reward. I tend not to use pay
for performance — setting goals
for people and saying, ‘If you
achieve those goals, you’re going
to get a bonus.’ That sends a
negative and demeaning message. …

… Set compensation at a proper level that represents their fair
market value, and then engage
everyone in continuous improvement. You might not only
meet the goal but exceed it. If
you were working on pay for
performance, if you get up to
that goal, why go any higher?

Rewards should come not just
in the form of extrinsic things,
like money and benefits, but
also the things that are intrinsic,
such as pride of workmanship
and freedom from fear of being
controlled.

Make it part of the mission and
values. Manage in a way that’s
consistent every day and with
your mission and values.

HOW TO REACH: Field of Flowers, (800) 96-FRESH, (954) 680-2406 or www.fieldofflowers.com