Dave Reder Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

Dave Reder found out the hard way that moving your business to a new location is never easy, but it was worth the effort. When Reder recently moved his company, OKI Systems Inc., into a larger facility, it created a hectic environment in the short-term, but he says the investment will pay off in the long-term. In addition to the company’s physical location, he also invests in his workers — the 400-employee company has 173 service technicians, all of whom are coached by an organizational development director. The materials handling company had 2005 revenue of $80 million and is poised for further growth at its new facility. Smart Business spoke with Reder, president and CEO of OKI Systems, about how he helps his employees improve themselves and gets them more involved in the business.

Hire leaders and delegate to them. I have a hands-off style; I’m definitely not a micro-manager. What I try to do is hire good people, train them and get out of their way.

You get a lot more done that way, and people develop a lot quicker because they are making decisions and learning from their mistakes. Plus, you attract good people because good people don’t want to be micromanaged. They want to have the freedom to be creative and try different things.

CEOs have to be aware of what’s going on and have a pulse on what’s going on, but I don’t think they need to be involved in day-to-day happenings. We look at trends, and if we start seeing any trends going the wrong way, we may have to get involved more than we were. But if things are going as they should, a leader doesn’t need to be involved on a day-to-day basis in-depth.

Delegation is something anybody can use. Business is business; it doesn’t matter what business you’re in.

Look for employees with a strong work ethic.

The two things I look at most, one is attitude and the other is work ethic. If you have a good attitude and a strong work ethic, you can be successful at anything you do.

We can teach you the business, but if you don’t have a work ethic, or you don’t want to work toward it, or you don’t have a good attitude toward it, you don’t have a chance.

Focus on training. Training is critical. You have a lot of people who want to grow in an organization, but they’re not sure how to do it or what they lack. What our organizational development director does is say, ‘Here’s where you are, here’s where you want to go, here’s the things we need to do.’

Some of the things they help them with, you need to do on your own. But you find out quick who really wants to grow and who just talks about it, because there is some effort involved on the individual’s part as well as the company if they want to grow.

Training and development can’t just be something you do when you have time. It has to be a constant focus for somebody. That’s why the organizational development director has been phenomenal for us. People are excited that they have an opportunity to grow.

They sit down with him and say, ‘Here’s where I am, and that’s what I want to be. Help me get the things I need to get there.’

Lead with integrity. Don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions. I think a CEO can learn how to do that. You don’t want to take too long to learn it, but it is learnable.

Integrity is the most important thing you can have. If you don’t have integrity, you will never be successful as a CEO or in many other places, especially with what’s going on today. If your employees don’t have confidence in you and the way you’re leading the company, you’re not going to be able to get the good people we’re talking about. And without the good people, you’re not going to be able to grow or sustain the business.

People do not want to work for someone who doesn’t have high integrity.

Show employees they’re important. We’ve implemented a gain-sharing program, so if the company does well, the employees share in the successes. It keeps everybody involved and a part of the business, and shows what they can do to have an impact on the business.

It’s about trying to show them how they’re important to the company. I meet with employees in open forum, no agendas. We talk about what’s on their mind and what concerns they have. People really feel good about the fact that I sit down with them hear what they have to say.

Then we’ll do what we can to address their concerns, so they feel like they have a voice on what goes on at the company.

Look within your existing customer base for growth. Try to look at areas where you can grow business without a lot of additional overhead or resources. We’ve tried to figure out how you can cross-sell or leverage a relationship in one area to gain business in another area.

We’re trying to cross-sell where we already have a relationship. We try to go in and sell everything we can do for them, because it’s a lot easier to sell to an existing customer than develop a brand-new customer. We try to do a lot of cross-selling in accounts where we may be doing business with them in one area and try to round out that account to do business with them in all the areas we can.

For CEOs in other industries, it would depend a bit on product mix. One of the things you do when talking about growth is look what areas they could grow into, and it might be areas that they can cross-pollinate — if that opportunity doesn’t already exist in their company.

They can find things to do that are in their customers’ plans that could tag along with what they are already doing and leverage those relationships.

HOW TO REACH: OKI Systems Inc., (513) 874-2600 or www.okisys.com