Philip Sarnecki says his No. 1 job as a leader is to control his own energy.
To do that, Sarnecki practices the healthy habits he learned as a child, such as getting enough rest, eating well and exercising.
“Most business owners, leaders and CEOs, it takes energy to do their job,” says the chairman and CEO of RPS Financial Group Inc. “Our job is to make sure, as things are falling from order to disorder, we are putting them back into order. It helps your focus and your mental toughness, being in shape and healthy.”
Sarnecki channels that energy into leading RPS, which employs about 50 people, to 2006 revenue of about $20 million.
Smart Business spoke with Sarnecki about how to retain employees and how to make sure potential employees fit your company’s culture.
Q: How do you communicate your vision?
I need systems for everything, so I am always creating systems and structures. Once created, I am paying attention and making sure they stay in order.
All great things are created twice first in the mind and then reality. As a leader or CEO, our job is to communicate and overcommunicate the things we are thinking about. Your key vision and values, I don’t think those can be communicated enough.
Repetition is the mother of learning. People might roll their eyes and say, ‘Here is Philip talking about personal responsibility again.’ But maybe that is like a parent communicating to their child. Do they maybe get a little sick of it? Probably at times, but is it imparting something deep in them at times? Yes.
Q: How do you make sure potential employees are genuine in an interview?
I assume I am being put on during an interview.
We have an in-depth selection process, which is six to seven steps. We do several in-depth interviews with different people.
Even our receptionist, he or she is taking assessments because it’s also a good management tool. It helps us know their strengths, weaknesses and what makes them tick. Is this somebody that likes public adoration, or should I just walk by their office and say, ‘You did a nice job yesterday,’ in person?
We had a potential financial adviser, sharp young guy. He had really put on his best face, and we were really impressed by this guy. Then my receptionist told me he had been very rude to her on a couple of occasions.
We decided we don’t share values, and if this is him, what else is going on there? We offered him a contract to join us, and before he got into training, we revoked that. I believe all companies have a culture, and what happens is a culture attracts people like it and repels people not like it.
Q: How do you retain employees?
My leadership style is a high-trust style. My top people don’t have vacation days, and they don’t have sick time. I hire good people, and then we expect them to get the job done.
That may mean they have to come in on a Saturday or work a few evenings, but what they get on the other hand is freedom. They need to coordinate it with whomever it would affect, but they don’t have to ask for a Friday afternoon off.
We hire good people and treat them as adults. On the flip side of that, when I came here two and a half years ago, I told them they can abuse that and lose that privilege.
I assume high trust, but if you violate it, then we will have problems. They know one person violating it can ruin it for everybody, so it’s a self-policing thing.
Something else I did for my top people on my leadership team is they are not to come in on their birthday. Most people are distracted anyway, and there is stuff going on.
Q: How do you handle mistakes?
When mistakes occur, you need to look and see if this is an event or a process. Our No. 1 value is personal responsibility. My assistant, she’s great, and in two and half years, probably only dropped the ball on two or three things. But every single time, she walked in my office, looked at me and said, ‘I am sorry; I screwed up.’
I can’t stand people who try to blame other people for their mistakes. We will all screw up and make mistakes, but the reality is how you handle those mistakes both emotionally and mentally. If you learn from them, take responsibility and try to do everything you can to ensure they won’t happen again, then, even though the mistake wasn’t positive, the outcome could be positive.
HOW TO REACH: RPS Financial Group Inc., (513) 366-3600 or www.rpsfinancialgroup.com