The core of success Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2008
When Jason Beans asked a trusted friend to manage the front-line staff at Rising Medical Solutions Inc., he had no idea that her highly organized approach would stifle his company’s growth.

Instead of giving employees room to perform, she suffocated the medical financial solutions organization with regulations that created fear and anxiety.

“She was going to put cameras in to watch and make sure that everyone was working,” Beans says.

It was then that the founder, president and CEO realized that he had to let her go and develop a set of core values that would guide his work force toward growth. Following those values, Beans and his 103 employees have pushed the company to 2007 revenue of $9.4 million, up from $6.4 million the previous year.

Smart Business spoke with Beans about how to identify and implement values that reinforce your vision and inspire success.

Q. How do you create core values?

I said [to my management team], ‘Look around, and name the person that, to you, describes Rising.’ They threw some names on the board.

Then I said, ‘Give me every adjective to describe them of why you think they are the ideal employee.’ They start naming those, and you get a huge list of things.

Then, I pulled up our marketing materials. ‘What recurring themes are we branding to our clients? We’ve got to deliver what we promise.’ I wanted to make sure that what we’re saying to our clients was exactly what we’re hiring for and delivering on.

The final exercise that I’ve found the most enlightening, I said, ‘Name a time that I blew up or I reacted strongly. It might have been something really minor that you didn’t know why I made a big deal. It may have been some minor thing that may have even made us money, and I was ticked off or annoyed.’

I made them write up those situations. Literally, a pattern came out of it. These are the things that are critical to the executive. Somewhere in that minor blow up is a core value.

It has nothing to do with making money or losing money. You have to be able to follow a core value even if it loses you money.

Q. What should a leader remember when implementing core values?

Most CEOs are intelligent people, and they hate repetition. They just think that everyone else thinks the way they do. You just have to repeat yourself ad nauseum.

Every single all-hands-on meeting, I start with the core values. Every single managers meeting, I start with the core values. We’ve posted them at everyone’s desk.

All the conversations that you’ve had about it have only been with a small group of your core people. They haven’t been with your front-line staff. They need to go through the same initiation process where their mind instantly fires and knows how to behave.

You’re going to have to repeat yourself to the point where you almost — I consider myself a caricature at this point. It’s comical. It’s not high-brain activity. The high-brain activity was coming up with the core values.

Q. How do you hold people accountable for those values?

Every single [employee] review, you rate the core values 1 through 5 and say how they did at them.

Every single meeting for the front-line staff, I draw someone’s name from a hat. I make them get up. I make them recite the core values. I make them tell one thing they enjoy about the core values, and I give them a hundred-dollar bill on the spot if they succeed.

As part of our orientation, they have to get up in front of the other new employees, and they have to recite the core values before they graduate orientation.

Q. What’s the benefit of establishing strong core values?

Getting the core values out there allows the employees to really know what’s expected of them. It eliminates that cigarette smoke, watercooler gossip and fear. They can actually focus on, ‘I know what to do to be successful. I’m not going to get slapped on the wrist for doing something wrong because I follow all the core values.’

From the company perspective, most executives trust their own decisions. They started the company because they knew they were doing something better than what was out there. But you haven’t really done anything if you can’t get others to execute according to your vision. Having the core values allows you to set the behavior pattern that is you and is what your vision was.

For the executives themselves, I do spend more time repeating myself, but I spend a lot less time with the ‘he said, she said’ or micromanagement or HR issues. The time that I waste on repeating my message is freed up fivefold because I don’t have any people coming here to gossip about other employees anymore.

At the beginning, it takes a lot of energy, but once it gains momentum, it really doesn’t take that much time.

HOW TO REACH: Rising Medical Solutions Inc., (877) 747-4644 or www.risingms.com