William Wilson gets involved at KZF Designs Inc Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2008

William Wilson isn’t

just making huge

business deals when he arrives early in the morning at KZF Design Inc.

“I clean up the coffee

machine and refill the sugar

and the creamer and things

like that,” says the president

and CEO of the architectural

and engineering firm, which

posted 2007 revenue of about

$15 million.

And he doesn’t do it just

because he likes coffee.

“There isn’t any job in the

company that you shouldn’t be

willing to roll your sleeves up

and do,” he says. “If you do

things like that, the staff will

be behind you on it.”

Smart Business spoke with

Wilson about staying involved

in your company and how to

communicate with diverse


Q. How do you communicate

with different levels of


It depends on the type of

business that you are in and

the type of people you have. In

my particular business, we

have a wide diversity of people with varying talents and

varying educational backgrounds.

You almost have to have a

smorgasbord of ways of handling things. There’s no one

solution fits all. It’s not like

you have a work force that has

a similar background and they

are all producing the same

product. This is much more

diversified, so it requires a lot

more personal tailoring.

There are people that are

great at working in groups and

talking in groups, and there are people that are very quiet

and don’t like that type of situation. You really need to get to

know all of your staff in order

to be able to manage the

process of interaction at the

level that they are most comfortable with.

Q. How do you get to know

your staff?

We are a team-oriented company. We are always working

together in groups and

teams on projects

together. Beyond that, I

think it’s important to

keep a certain amount

of separation between

your private life and

their private lives and

your life as a business

manager in the company.

But, just through the

general interaction,

you’ll get to know the

people and to learn

more about them just by

working with them.

Management in our

business is a hands-on

business. Our managers

are working managers.

We don’t have a separate layer of management that

has the ivory office and sends

dictation through the various

other people to filter down to

the staff. We’re actually working on projects. The management in our company is actively involved with our staff on a

daily basis.

Q. How could a leader develop a team-oriented culture?

One of the things that we do

here is we have something

called a discretionary fund.

Each of the managers in our

company has an allotted amount of money that’s given

to them every year, and it

varies depending on the size of

the group or the number of

people that would be involved.

The purpose of that is we

didn’t want accounting micro-managing decisions being

made at the floor level or at

the management level within

the company every time someone said, ‘I’d like to give somebody a gift certificate, or I’d

like to buy them dinner,’ or something like that. We didn’t

want accounting saying, ‘Well,

give me a justification for it,’

or making any kind of attachment to it of, ‘This has to be

tied to a client,’ or some other

business reason.

There are just times where,

you as a manager, have to step

in and do something, and it

has to be timely and it has to

be immediate, and it doesn’t

need a whole lot of overview

or peer pressure on you about

why you did it.

So, this discretionary fund

system has been very helpful

in terms of giving us the

opportunity to reward people,

to send something to someone

or give them a night off. Just a

quick way to recognize the

effort that individuals put in.

There are many times that

people work here to late

evenings, multiple evenings to

get ready for a particular presentation or a project going out.

It’s important to recognize

those things when they happen, not to save up a list and

then, at the end of the year,

give them something to thank

them for all they did the previous year, so we tried to reward

people in a timely manner or

on an ongoing basis through

something like that.

It’s one of the many tools that

we use. Obviously, just walking

over and saying thanks or just

being aware at a management

level that someone’s been

working the last couple of days

really hard for you and just

walking over and saying, ‘I

want you to know I really

appreciate what you did.’

It’s those kinds of things

that are extremely important,

in terms of just maintaining

the culture, and also supporting the staff and showing

them that you are aware of

what is going on and that you

do care.

HOW TO REACH: KZF Design Inc., (513) 621-6211 or www.kzf.com