As its name would suggest, TP Mechanical Contractors Inc. started with a Teepe.
But CEO Scott Teepe Sr., son of founder Bill Teepe, says he doesn’t want it to end with one.
“My goal is to have an everlasting company,” he says of the plumbing and mechanical contracting company. “I don’t want it to end with a Teepe, [like] if a Teepe doesn’t run the company, the company doesn’t exist.”
So he’s equipping his managers to think like leaders by prodding them for input and urging them to set their own visions. He narrows the focus by aligning their goals and finding the common ground that can benefit the business, which posted 2007 revenue of $63 million. And Teepe’s leadership is evidenced in his ability to set a single vision from the compiled input of 400 employees.
Smart Business spoke with Teepe about how to use input from your employees to guide your company’s vision.
Push employees for their input. Gather ideas from your executive group or the people that report to you. You want to get their thoughts and get them involved in the decision-making process.
Challenge them beyond their means. I always want to make them think a little bit more outside the box than they’re used to doing.
Their motions will take charge a little bit, and you’ll see their frustration if you push too hard. It’s things they do, it’s how they sit up or if they slump down or they lean back. I have one that I run my fingers through my hair. Everybody knows; they make fun of that. When I do that, that typically means I’m frustrated or not getting my point across. Others will cross their arms. Others will look down; they
won’t look up. You look for those signs of disengagement.
Zoom in to get more input from more people. One of the things I try hard to do in meetings is get
everybody’s input. Instead of getting an idea out there, I would ask them to write their individual ideas down first.
I try to eliminate, ‘Oh, I agree with Bill,’ or, ‘I agree with [President] Dave [Reder].’ I want everybody to read what they’ve written down, so I allow for three minutes of silence to jot their own ideas and let them read it.
I’m a big believer in team building, in building small off-site [exercises] so that everyone has their ideas that are brought to the table. If you give the small groups a specific task that needs to be taken care of in the short term, which is in 30 days or less, they will find ways that are far better than what I would have thought of.
One thing that really motivates employees is that [if] they’re involved in a change, they’re going to be more involved in getting things accomplished.
Share your vision. Let people know what your vision is and what you’re really trying to accomplish. I kind of had it in my mind, but I never put it in writing. So I put it in writing, and it’s behind every one of my e-mails.
If you wanted to see my vision, you could check my e-mail out and it speaks to what I’m trying to accomplish here. Trying to get people to understand that direction and move toward that direction is really the key.
If you don’t set what you want your company in five years to look like and you don’t talk about it or you don’t think about it enough, it probably isn’t going to happen. That just comes down to communicating your vision again.
What makes teamwork difficult is the personality types that we have in our company, finding a common ground that everyone is mutually excited about. You want those different personalities because you get so
much more experience and ideas out there than you would if you had all the same personality types.
As much as I’d like everyone to be just like me, we’d probably run 250 miles an hour and crash into a wall. But it is difficult to try to find that common ground. That process has worked very well just by being open and honest with people. Everybody has to know where you’re going.
The things that I’ve asked questions about and jotted notes down [about] is what motivates each manager that I have working for me, what are some of their dreams. I’ve been asking them to prepare their own vision. They’re not publicized; not every manager has their vision underneath their [signature].
I’m asking those questions. It takes time, but I think I have a pretty good handle of what motivates my managers and gets them excited about coming to work every day.
Locate the common denominator. Find out what their thoughts are and address them. You have to act on them one way or the other.
When you get more people involved, then you see a common theme being developed. I certainly have gone against the common theme before; sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. But if the common
theme is moving in that direction, then maybe [I have] to modify my thought process to accomplish less of what I really want to accomplish but move it in the right direction.
If I say, ‘Well, I’ll just have to determine it later,’ then everything’s on hold. Nobody knows what direction you’re going, and we’re all just in mass hysteria. In this case, you may have to modify your thoughts.
How to reach: TP Mechanical Contractors Inc., (513) 851-8881 or www.tpmechanical.com