Get involved. I’m a lead-by-example individual. It’s imperative for a strong team to have somebody who’s willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved with pretty much every facet of the business.
I try to walk through each different department within our operation and consistently interact with all of our employees and engage with them and see how they’re doing, give them positive feedback and basically get a handle on how things are going for them and any challenges or issues that they’re facing.
It goes over very well. I speak some level of layman’s Spanish — I would call it entry-level Spanish — but with our work force being predominantly Hispanic, that has a very positive impression on them, even just simple conversational Spanish.
When an owner or a key leader takes an interest in what they’re doing and how they tie into the organization’s goals, it really goes a long way in letting them know that they play an important role in what we’re looking to do.
Encourage feedback and seek the opinions of others. I’m a big advocate of teamwork, and I’m setting that example in everything I do by involving the other managers and departments and collaborating, leveraging their experience and expertise in the industry. I’m not afraid, if I don’t have an answer, to flat out let people know that I don’t have the answer and that I’m really looking to learn from them. A lot of leaders feel like they always have to have the answer, and I don’t feel in any way that, that has to be the case.
I want to learn from their expertise. These are the individuals that are doing the job every day, every week, every month, and they have more answers than I do.
Open communication and candor are essential in creating a culture of team-work and collaboration. People feel comfortable, and they feel like they have a voice and have an impact on the things that we do, and that’s what it’s all about. I’m really proactive with soliciting their feedback and input and finding out if I’m doing a good job leading and directing the company.
We don’t offer a lot of criticism here; we call them ‘improve-upons.’ We’re very big on revisiting the improve-upons and exchanging feedback because, in a dynamic organization, it goes both ways, up and down the organizational chart.
Be a good corporate citizen. Part of our culture is giving back to the community and others that are less fortunate, and we’re very involved in charities and other phil-anthropic and community endeavors, and so we interview for that. When we bring team members aboard, they have an understanding of how significant that is to our culture and that, that is a core value and that if they don’t understand it or believe in it, they won’t be a great fit here.
We built the safety village in the town of Cicero, we’re on the chamber of commerce, the school board, the archdiocese. We’re probably a little extreme, but what we’ve done as owners is we’ve engaged our team members.
In a lot of companies, the pressure is on the senior management or the owners, and we’ve engaged our team members, and they rally around it, and they really enjoy it, and it helps to build a more cohesive team. Giving back to the community absolutely helps our team members feel good about what they’re doing.
Another benefit has been engaging our customers within all of our charitable, community and philanthropic endeavors. That’s been fun because our customers enjoy it. It’s hard in a business. You can become so internally focused that you can lose sight of the big picture, and the big picture is giving back and helping others and being active in the community.
Stay positive. The most significant challenge a business leader faces is staying positive. Whatever business or industry you’re in, you’re constantly facing challenges. You have such a strong impact on the other team members that it is so important that you are positive leading the way. You can’t develop a positive culture and environment without the leader embodying that.
One of my secrets to staying positive is this: We have a recycling center here that serves the public. We have people coming here pushing carts who collect metal, whether it’s aluminum cans or other metals, and these are people that are basically living on the street.
However bad you might think you have it that day or however tough a challenge you feel like you’re facing, it’s not as bad as what they’re enduring every day. However bad you feel it is, you could have it a lot worse.
United Scrap Metal has been blessed to have achieved success, and for the owners, one of the greatest things that we’re able to do is give back and allow our team members to develop careers and advance through our organization. That, to us, is very rewarding.
HOW TO REACH: United Scrap Metal Inc., (708) 780-6800 or www.unitedscrap.com