Ted Kolp leads the way at RACO Industries Inc Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

Ted Kolp backs up his

desire to develop leaders at RACO Industries Inc. with cash.

Each quarter, the president

and co-owner of the company — which posted 2007 revenue of about $35 million —

gives each of his 13 supervisors $50 per employee in

their department for a quarterly team-building activity.

The practice not only

empowers supervisors at the

company — a reseller of

wireless data capture equipment, application software

and integration — but also

results in a stronger corporate culture.

“It’s just a way to get the people to fellowship and interact a

little bit more,” Kolp says.

Smart Business spoke

with Kolp about how to use

encouragement and appreciation to develop leaders.

Q. What is the process to

developing leaders?

It’s recognizing that part of

your business plan has to be

leadership, leadership

growth — formalizing that in

your business plan so you

have a road map — and

breaking it down into tactics.

‘I want to be able to accomplish this. I want to develop

good leaders. I want to be a

good leader. I want to continue to strive to be a good

leader, so I need to do this,

this, this and this as examples, on a daily basis.’

We’re a company of 85

employees, of which 72 to

75 are located right here in

the headquarters here in

Cincinnati. I go around every

single morning that I’m here and tell everybody, ‘Good

morning. Did you have a nice

evening? How are things

going? Also, did you get this

big job done? Hey, I know

that you guys really stepped

it up yesterday in order to

get this through, and you

took care of this customer.

Thank you very much for

that. What do you need?’

That type of thing. Just

showing appreciation is

something that I make

myself do every day. It can

take up to an hour to do

that, but it’s an investment in my time that I

think is well worth it

because you build

trust, you build candor, you gather ideas,

(employees) take ownership.

Q. What advice would

you give on how to

develop leaders?

To me, this is very

elementary. You have

got to like people.

When I interview a

prospective new salesperson, I’ve got to pull

out of them, I’ve got to

understand, I’ve got to

get an understanding

that they like to sell — they

get a charge out of it.

My wife is a schoolteacher,

and we talk about, ironically,

teachers out there that really

don’t like children. Come on.

So, first of all, to be a good

leader and to recognize the

potential of a good leader,

that leader has to like people

and to be able to understand

that people have strengths

and weaknesses. You maximize those strengths, you

play on those strengths, you

minimize the weaknesses.

Q. How do you maximize

the strengths and minimize

the weaknesses of your

employees?

You have to bring it up on

your radar. You have to

understand in business [that]

people are —it’s like a chess

game — you’ve got pawns,

you’ve got rooks, you’ve got

knights, you’ve got kings and

queens, and everybody has

strengths, and everybody has

weaknesses, but you all play

a part.

So, I think telling our

supervisory staff here that

you’ve got to recognize that,

yes, people have weaknesses, but they also have

strengths. If you just keep

that up on your radar and

play to those strengths and develop those strengths

within your people, that will

make for a better, smooth-running, successful department and hopefully a better

running company in general.

Q. What is a pitfall to avoid

when trying to identify and

develop leaders?

You better check your ego

at the door, because if you

are coming in with, ‘Hey, it’s

my way or the highway,’ or

it’s, ‘I’m the king here,’ or,

‘I’m entitled just because I’m

in this position,’ you’re

going to fall flat on your

face or you are going to

have resistance.

Some of that goes back

into being secure enough in

yourself to admit your own

mistakes — know that you

can’t do it all. I think that

builds candor that builds

trust in an organization. I tell

everyone, I tell all the new

employees, I’ve got a ton of

stuff coming across my desk

that I move as quickly as

possible because I don’t

want to back up the revenue

stream on a daily basis here.

It’s part of my job here to

make those decisions, but,

will I make the wrong decision? You bet. So question,

question, question, question

everything I do — from the

front door to the back door.

You come and you say, ‘Hey

Ted, why did you do this?’

That’s the kind of atmosphere I want in here — not to

belittle anybody, not to beat

anybody down. I’m all about

self-confidence, building self-confidence here and patting

people on the back and giving

public recognition.

HOW TO REACH: RACO Industries Inc., (800) 446-1991 or www.racoindustries.com