Keep your door open. We empower people to make decisions and know that no idea is a bad idea. They’re not afraid to give their opinions, and their opinions could be right or wrong, but as a culture, we would rather have people give us their opinions.
I have an open-door policy in my office, and the only time my door is shut is if there is a meeting going on. Everybody knows that they can come in my office at any time if they’ve got an issue or a question or want to bounce something off me or any other person in the company, and that took some time to establish.
Being in the human resource business, you hear a lot of people say, ‘We have an open-door policy,’ and as you drill down and talk to some of their people, how much of an open-door policy did they really have? What I’ve done is instilled in everybody that I trust their opinion and that there are no repercussions for anything they say to me. They can talk confidentially with me and not worry that there is going to be a repercussion. That’s a key part, whether it’s an employee talking about something in his or her personal life or something corporate or something off the record about a client, employees need to be able to know that it’s confidential, and it takes time for people to realize that.
Maintain focus. Losing focus is something that can cause a business to fail, and not only losing focus on your own business but of your marketplace. You can be running a great manufacturing company, but you have to stay on track with the inventory and where the marketplace is going and stay focused not just internally but on the external marketplace also.
Sometimes it’s not being as involved as you should be. In some cases, maybe you’ve entrusted the management to the wrong people. We’ve seen that happen a few times with some of our clients.
The owners have brought in some people to run day-to-day, and they thought they had someone running their businesses and doing a great job, and the next thing you know, people took their eye off the vision.
Communicate to all employees, not just the top of the pyramid. It’s important to keep communication lines open because if they’re not open, it’s too easy for a department or a person to be thinking one thing, and, as in anything, people talk, and you want the right message to be disseminated to everybody.
The last thing you want in any company is an incorrect rumor going around. Open lines of communication really keep the correct and accurate message going through the company.
Before we started doing the weekly meeting, we had people asking us, ‘Where’s the company going? What’s our direction?’ and so ... we have company meetings at least quarterly where we say, ‘Here’s what our retention is of our clients, here’s new business, here’s what’s happening on the horizon.’
We found a few years ago that the management of the company and the senior people knew the direction and focus of where we were going and the growth plans, the sales department knew who was selling what, but in the overall company, we needed to have the same communication down to every level of employees, so everybody had an idea of the vision of the company.
Doing that enables employees to realize that there is a vision within the company, that they’re working for an organization that has specific goals, that has growth in mind, that has customer service in mind, and it helps the culture of our company grow. Pretty much everybody in our company deals with customers in one way or another, and it helps them know that there is a vision, and as they’re talking, it enables them to be excited about what we’re doing as a company.
Seek input. I always look for other people’s involvement. I started the company with my father and brother 11 years ago, and early on, we established what we refer to as an executive council, which consists of key people from within the organization.
We meet regularly, and we look for their involvement. Each person manages multiple people internally, and I value their input. Outside the executive council, every Friday, all of the key people from each department meet and talk about issues. We typically review three or four clients each week so everybody knows what each other is doing, but at the same time, I want to hear from everybody about what’s going on in their department that other people should know about.
It’s really helped our company grow, and it shows that we value their input. It empowers them to make decisions and think on their feet and to stay focused on the customers.
What was surprising when we first started this process was that because there are so many different components to a company, people know each other from seeing each other in the hallway or the lunchroom or company outings, but they have no idea what the other departments do. ‘Ron’s in loss control, and I didn’t even know what that was.’ So it also started to educate different people in the organization and then empower them to know what the different departments do so they can interact with our customers.
HOW TO REACH: Employco Group Inc., (630) 920-0126 or www.employco.com