Home cookin’ Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

Anne Chambers knows it’s vital to stay optimistic to lead on a daily basis, especially with the ups and downs of the business world.

Chambers finds having someone to talk to helps her stay focused at RED, her marketing communications company that posted 2006 revenue of about $10 million.

“It’s important for leaders to have their own sounding boards separate from the company, either a traditional board or a coach that you take time to talk with or someone who knows you well and knows what you are trying to achieve,” says Chambers, RED’s president and CEO. “That person who is removed from your business is able to be more objective so you can hash things out and hear an objective point of view.”

Smart Business spoke with Chambers about how a kitchen helps her build camaraderie.

Q: How do you get people to buy in to your plans?

That requires what you call speaking the vision. Saying it out loud, really getting buy-in, trying to paint the picture of where you are going, often and in a setting that allows people to ask questions. Even though they might not want to jump on board right away, they are collecting enough information and seeing the enthusiasm and seeing the train going that way that they are going to want to be a part of it.

If you are consistently building the business, then people are more inclined to want to jump on. If they see you either made a good decision before, and it was the right decision, and they want to be a part of it, or you made a bad decision, recovered well and there was good reason for it. People are supportive and want to be a part of that as long as they understand this is a process.

Q: How important is face-to-face communication?

Face-to-face for us is important because, at least for me, it lets me understand more about each of our employees — what their interests are and what their passions are, and then it allows us to create space for their life to be full, within the context of the company.

For example, I have a couple of people who are genuine humanitarians. They love to have time to give back and do the things that they do. That’s important to us as a company because I want to make sure people feel fulfilled completely.

It’s not our job to fulfill people completely, but it’s our job to recognize that they are complete people that have different interests besides what we do day to day.

Q: Besides giving people time to volunteer, what else do you do to retain employees?

We eat a lot of cake here. We celebrate everything with cake. We have a lot of silly rituals in our company and a lot of them are around food, which is just funny, but, when you boil it down, it’s actually around camaraderie. I would definitely say we have a quirky culture, and nonsense is definitely appreciated.

We just do silly things but it’s a very happy culture.

Q: What do you do to create that happy culture?

We have a pretty nice kitchen, and everybody is welcome to use the kitchen however they want to do it. Sometimes people will come in and make a meal for everybody. One of the new guys came in and made a big pot of soup. So, it’s like being in your own home.

You know how people gather in the kitchen? We try to have the same feeling here. Not all the time because sometimes we are just flat out too busy for anything that nice. But, whenever we can, we do that.

Q: Doesn’t letting people cook take away from their productivity?

Well, you know how you can say a great idea comes to you in the shower? Everyone has had a great idea in the shower.

I look at that and say, ‘Well, when are you working and when are you not?’ If you are getting a great idea in the shower, is somebody paying you for that idea? No, but you are coming in the office and going, ‘I have a great idea.’

I see the same thing happening at any time in your life. You can be driving down the road, you could have a great idea. You could be talking on the phone, reading a newspaper, get a great idea. Of course, you get a ton of ideas from reading or listening to the radio.

The same thing happens in a conversation. When you take the time to sit, listen and talk, great ideas come out or problems come out. You find out there is an issue you never knew about because you were having a quiet conversation with somebody while chopping some onions. I know it’s crazy, but that’s just the way it is around here.

HOW TO REACH: RED, (513) 772-1020 or www.redbeyond.com