Gerald Hammond keeps SHP Leading Design transparent Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2008

Gerald F. Hammond

learned the hard way

that being honest can sometimes come back to bite

you, even when you are trying

to show integrity by being

upfront with employees.

Hammond, president and

CEO of SHP Leading Design,

once had an intern who was

so excited about what was

happening at the company

that she shared confidential

information with friends at a


“So, we made a policy

change at that point and made

it very clear to our staff that

when we send around a

newsletter, it’s for their information (and) their spouses,”

says Hammond, who leads the

design firm, which posted

2007 revenue of $21.6 million.

Smart Business spoke with

Hammond about how to be an

honest, open leader.

Q. How do you motivate your

employees to work with


By my own example would

be No. 1. No. 2, I talk about it a

lot. It’s in our newsletters. Not

hammering it — just reminding folks that they have great

responsibility to themselves

and to their clients.

We have a very open and

transparent philosophy about

how we run the firm. (We) try

to keep our staff in the loop as

to what’s happening so they’re

not blindsided by surprises. To

me, that’s all part of it. If you

came to see our office right

now, you would be shocked

because there are no private

offices that are not totally surrounded by glass. That’s on

purpose to not be hiding anything behind closed doors.

Yes, we have a conference

room, and there is always

somewhere you can go, but,

on a day-to-day basis, everything is very open and very


Q. Is there a danger in being

too open and honest?

The only thing we have

found is there is a philosophy

of sharing everything with

everybody, and the old Navy

axiom about loose lips and all

that — I think there’s

still a practical limit to

not sharing information

with people that don’t

need to know it.

Because if they’re not

prepared to understand

it, chances are they are

going to misunderstand

it. So, we try to communicate in a way that

keeps things clear, and

we provide people information they need to


We don’t provide them

a lot of information they

don’t need to know.

Q. How do you determine what information

to provide?

For instance, if we are negotiating for something ... and it

may be a difficult situation or

it may be potentially a really

exciting situation, we don’t get

all that out there in the firm.

We wait until we’ve accomplished our objective, and then

we share it.

The other thing we have to

be careful about, of course, in

this day and age, is confidentiality of business information.

Every document we put out

there to our staff says, ‘This is confidential SHP Leading

Design information. Please do

not share without permission

of an officer of the corporation

with anyone else.’

So, we do have things that

we only share internally.

Q. How do you find people

you trust to work at your firm?

I think your greatest test is

when you work with somebody for a year or more, you

begin to understand where

they fit in the life of the firm and whether they fit. You have

to be willing to face both situations. Reward those who fit,

even sometimes at your own expense. That is providing

them the incentives needed.

You also may have to face

those who you may like and in

some ways admire, but they

just don’t cut it in the firm and

the goals of your firm. You

have to be willing to face that.

Try to be humane about it, and

to find a way to help them find

their career elsewhere. But,

you have to be willing to face

that. If you don’t, your firm is

going to go down the tubes


There have been a number

of people that have come

through here who I like, I

would trust, but they don’t

have the skills that we need.

They don’t have the ability to

apply the skills we need and

make positive things happen

for the firm.

Q. Can a company with

integrity still fail?

Absolutely. The long-term

benefits of honesty and integrity are much greater than the

long-term benefits of anything

else you can do. That doesn’t

mean you don’t have to be

smart, you don’t have to be

opportunistic. You do. You

have to be on top of your

game at all times.

A leader can’t appear to be

behind the times or they can’t

lead. So, I keep in touch with

my young people a lot because

they’re the ones just filled

with new ideas. They’re much

more into what’s going on,

and I try to stay right with

them because they’re not

going to respect me if I talk

about the good ole boy network — this is the way we’ve

always done things. We don’t

do that here.

HOW TO REACH: SHP Leading Design, (513) 381-2112 or