Building quality Featured

8:00pm EDT October 28, 2006
 When Jeff Klump started his two companies in 1999, it was just him and two partners. Today, the businesses employ more than 80 people, and he hasn’t achieved that kind of growth by playing it safe.

“We’ve done it by taking chances,” says the president of K4 Architecture LLC and K4 Construction Inc. “You have to step out there and take risks.”

The risks have paid off, as evidenced by the company’s revenue growth from $6.9 million in 2003, to $10.8 million in 2004 and $15.7 million in 2005.

Smart Business spoke with Klump about how to find and keep quality employees and how to rebound when risks don’t pan out.


What qualities do you look for in employees?
Good communication skills. We look for creative people, but we also look for people that offer something above and beyond what myself or the other principles can offer.

We have actually hired people when we did not have a position for them. We met them and we thought they might be a good fit. They could add some depth to the company, and it’s been a plus.

Typically, we’ll interview an architect who’s had experience in something myself or other partners have not had experience in. That is one way we’ve been able to grow this company. What I’ve done is brought on partners that had a more diverse background than I do.


How do you keep good employees?
We’re very open with our employees, but we also encourage them to be an active participant. A lot of people want to be challenged. They want to feel like they are a part of the company. We promote that.

I tell people, ‘We’ve grown this and have been very blessed. It’s our staff and employees that have put us there.’ Every one of them has to be involved in customer service. The way they answer the phone, that’s customer service.

So, we encourage and promote with them to be open and communicate and get involved.


How do you rebound from missing the mark?
I tell everyone they need to take ownership. Nobody has all the answers. We, as a company, we know there’s going to be mistakes made. You just have to step up to the plate and accept them and just go on.

I don’t dwell on them and I’m not going to belittle somebody over it. I do expect managers to step up to the plate and take some responsibility and ownership of their people. But once it’s done and over, don’t dwell on it. Get to the point, address the issue, resolve it and go on.

Don’t hold a grudge. There’s no benefit to continue belaboring an issue like that. You learn from your mistakes. I tell people in their reviews, ‘I want you to learn something new every day. If you’re not challenged and you’re not learning, then I don’t want you here.’ You have to have some sense of purpose, and that’s the fulfillment of a sense of purpose for people.


How do you create a corporate culture?
People today want to feel like they are a part of something. We give them the opportunity to truly express themselves. I tell people ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink’

I let our people take responsibility, because people learn from their mistakes. People want the opportunity to prove how they are and what they can do. We encourage that.

We’ve had people that started with us right out of college that we have promoted two to three times into different positions. It’s important to give people that opportunity to prove themselves.


How do you get the most of out of someone not living up to potential?
We bring them in and talk to them. Again, communication is so important. I want to give everyone a chance to prove themselves. I force them to be creative, think outside the box and go that extra step.

When I was in college, a professor told me architecture, design and everything you do in life is like taking a sponge and dipping it in water. You take that sponge, and most people are happy taking it and ringing it once.

I am a believer to take that thing, ring it two to three additional times, and get those last drops because that’s what makes the difference. Everything about business is relationship. The more you can show people the relationship is important and the culture is important, that’s how we work with people.

We try to become part of their culture and integrate them into our culture and how we do business.


HOW TO REACH: K4 Architecture LLC and K4 Construction Inc.,