Elli Workum knows a few things about working hard for your cause. A decorated athlete in both field hockey and track and field in college, Workum is in the athletic hall of fame at Miami University.
The tenacity, hard work and diligence that helped her in sports now helps fuel Technology Recycling Group. Workum is one who truly practices what she preaches, as her company, which specializes in the reuse and recycling of technological equipment, runs an operation that is 99 percent recyclable. In a time when more and more companies are looking for efficient solutions to recycle and reuse, TRG is able to not only offer up solutions but also to show clients how to walk the walk.
Moreover, Workum helps lead the charge for recycling in the community, donating working computers and monitors to underprivileged schools and TRG also offers a complete computer system to any student in the area for only $100. Beyond that, Workum recently realized that the company often received older but functional computers that were meant for use in hospitals. Rather than selling these computers, they’ve been sent to test markets in India to see if they would be able to be used in third-world hospitals. If they are, TRG plans to send them along so those hospitals can use them to better provide for patients.
Leading that push for more recycling everywhere gives Workum the ability to truly talk the talk, as few people do as much as she does for the cause.
HOW TO REACH: Technology Recycling Group, (513) 761-5333 or www.recyclegroup.net
Even though he’d already had more than 35 years with the company, nothing had prepared Vince Corrado for what happened at Shook National Corp. in 2004. Corrado was named Shook’s CEO in 2003 just as things turned ugly in the industry. With a perfect storm of events mixing together including subcontractor failures, underperforming jobs and unforeseen litigation the company and its new leader suddenly found themselves in a scary patch.
But Shook, who believes in strong relationships with his people and his community, had the tools to dig the regional professional construction solutions company out from under the muck.
He took a step backward. Refocusing on jobs with trusted owners, the company had the experience to better gauge expected cost and financial stability. Being more careful with the type of customer the company would work with led to smaller, more productive jobs.
At the same time, he turned up the internal pressure on accountability, opening up communication lines to get more feedback from front-line employees to figure out what things could be improved upon to get things running the Shook way. As he developed those relationships with more and more employees, he created a program dubbed “Beyond the Bottom Line” that focused employees on their duties, not just to the company but also to the community it serves. This new focus both internally and externally led to the kind of relationships that eventually meant more jobs, more accountability and a better balance sheet.
HOW TO REACH: Shook National Corp., (937) 276-6666 or www.shookconstruction.com
David K. Schoettmer got his start and his
early success at a traditional ‘Big 6’ firm,
but his talent has really shown through in
his vision for a regional consulting services team that focuses on local markets to
eliminate unnecessary travel and overhead costs to differentiate itself from others in the market.
With roughly 50 consulting professionals focused solely on Navigator
Management Partners LLC’s home market, the company is able to deliver superior project delivery and return on
investment to clients it knows well.
But having a client-focused company in
the services industry is not enough.
Schoettmer realized that in order to win
his team would have to have the most talented and experienced people. So he created an atmosphere at the company that
focused on being a top place to work,
making work-life balance the forefront of
the culture. That mindset manifests itself
in the training and personal development
budget that is 30 percent of the total compensation based on the individual’s ability
to become engaged in entitywide decision-making, consulting engagements and
through devotion to the local communities Navigator serves.
Schoettmer’s approach to his clients
and employees has enabled him to have
better than 90 percent client retention
and satisfaction while keeping his
turnover rate of less than 10 percent. In
an industry with traditional turnover
rates around 15 percent, Navigator has
been able to retain its top people and put
the tools together to grow quickly and
truly serve its local clients.
HOW TO REACH: Navigator Management Partners LLC, (614)
796-0090 or www.navmp.com
Thomas Bishop could have left well
enough alone. After more than 30 years in
the medical field, including stints as a
CFO and a CEO for clinics around the
U.S., he didn’t need to prove that he could
start all over again at Central Ohio
Primary Care Physicians Inc. and shoot to
But after joining the company as CEO in
2000, he’s helped lead COPCP’s unique business model to new heights by leveraging a
smarter network system that takes advantage of numbers to give physicians better
choices for their independence.
COPCP has developed a primary care
medical group, providing the advantages
of a single tax ID organization while providing the individual practices the autonomy to function almost like a private
Those who join COPCP’s group get better
reimbursements, buying power, administrative services and employee benefits that
they almost certainly couldn’t provide on
their own. Beyond those basic functions,
the group opens up revenue opportunities
from laboratory, radiology and cardiovascular services. All of these perks come in a
group that is 100 percent physician-owned,
with an easy system that lets physicians
come and go on their own terms.
Leading such a dynamic group, Bishop
has been able to form a solid base that
attracts the highest quality physicians
who wish to retain their entrepreneurial
With that model in place, COPCP, which
started with 33 physicians in eight locations in 1996, has ballooned to 175 physicians practicing in 39 locations with
roughly 1,000 employees.
HOW TO REACH: Central Ohio Primary Care Physicians, (614)
326-2672 or www.copcp.com
Kim Allan Sharp, the
founder, president and
CEO of FocusMark Group LLC, has a saying he has
adhered to all his life: “Not
always right but never in
The statement reflects Sharp’s
view on how important it is for
a leader to not only make decisions but also to empower
employees to make decisions.
He says employees need to
know a leader has the decision-making ability to execute on
the vision of the company.
“If the leader or the CEO
doesn’t make the decision necessary to execute your vision,
obviously, everything bogs
down,” says Sharp, who led the
marketing agency to 2007 revenue of about $40 million.
Smart Business spoke with
Sharp about how he uses data
— and gut feelings — to make
Q. How do you empower
employees to make decisions?
Many times, I’ll bring everybody — or the particular
employees — in, and we’ll talk
about what are the options,
and we’ll narrow down those
options to two or three options.
What I’m always about is, ‘I
can make this decision for you
right now, but here is what I
think, from a consensus standpoint, we agree [that these] are
the logical options that fall in
line with executing our vision.
It’s up to you to decide which
one of those routes to take.’
At the same time, understand
that you’re going to be held
accountable from a revenue
standpoint or from an employee morale standpoint, whatever
road you take. In many ways, I believe, if you can educate your
employees, they will help you
make those decisions, and, quite
frankly, usually they make the
decisions you’d make anyway.
Q. How do you educate your
employees to make those
We’re very numbers-oriented,
so we look at it from a numbers
standpoint. That can be financial numbers, those could be
those could be numbers
regarding square footage
of a building.
We always have a way
of saying, ‘OK, let’s say
here’s what the numbers
tell us,’ and we’re a numbers-processed, engineering-type organization in everything we do.
What we then say is, ‘OK,
even though we know
these are what the numbers are, we all know,
even if you are a good
statistician, that about 20
percent of a good statistician is that gut feeling or
the subjective nuances
that you bring into your
So, we try to balance it.
Providing people with facts and
figures and then mixing that
with your good, old, ‘OK, this is
what my instincts tell me,’
that’s the best way to have a
powerful mix of information
that allows and empowers our
employees to make the right
Q. How do you react if your
team is married to the data,
but you want to go in another
You have an organization
that, in many ways, you’ve educated to look at the numbers in
their decision-making. Then
what happens is, you have to
come back and you have to sit
them down and coach them
and say, ‘OK, here’s all the numbers. But what, for instance,
would be the impact on that
employee you are talking
about? Or, what would be the
impact — I know we’ve
worked hard on that, I know
we’ve overcommitted the
hours on a project for a client— but what’s the impact? I
understand what the numbers
are, but what’s the long-term
Many times, it’s just coaching
and also educating our employees and senior management
team, that, yes, they have decision-making authority, and yes,
we want them to be aware of
the numbers, but, at the same
time, they have to look beyond
that. There’s a balance between
those two, and we highly
encourage that for them to
make those decisions. Again,
you might have an executive
VP or senior VP from an operating unit, they’re going to follow the numbers, and it may
end up that you lose a client
over it, or you lose a key
employee over that.
I’d rather see somebody
make that type of decision and
see the consequences of the
decision because that is going
to be the best learning tool,
rather than if I am always just
making decisions for people.
Q. How do you handle mistakes?
I’m a big believer that, many
times, you have to fail in order
to succeed because you learn
from your failures. It’s more of
The numbers allow you to
provide analysis. If you have
failed, well, why did you fail?
Let’s look at it from an analytical standpoint first, and then
bring in the empiricals. From a
coaching standpoint, I don’t
mind failure because that
means that employee is trying
and, at the same time, developing that learning curve that
we all have to work on every
HOW TO REACH: FocusMark Group LLC, (513) 583-4660 or www.focusfgw.com
As with most other areas in today’s
world, going green in the data center is a hot topic. There are a number of reasons to go green, energy efficiency being just one of them.
In fact, a study by Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratories for the American
Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
determined that data centers can be as
much as 40 times more energy-intensive
than conventional office buildings.
“There are three Es to consider — environmental, energy and efficiencies,” says
Geoff Hanson, practice director of
servers and storage for Pomeroy IT
Solutions. “With the right green initiatives, you can help the environment, save
energy (and dollars) and create efficiencies that will also save money and help
the bottom line. The green movement is
starting to affect the IT department in a
Smart Business spoke with Hanson to
glean further insights into greening up
the data center.
What exactly is a green data center?
A green data center is one designed
with the mechanical, lighting, electrical
and computer systems for maximum
energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact. The construction and
operation of a green data center includes
advanced technologies and strategies.
Does it cost or save to be green?
You can definitely save by becoming
green. Yes, there are investments needed,
but when properly planned and implemented, the savings can offset those
costs. The time it takes to realize maximum offsetting savings depends on a
number of factors.
What are the first steps to take to be green?
The first step a company can take does-n’t cost a dime and is not difficult. You
can easily start saving money by simply
turning off your desktops and monitors
at the end of the day. Companies can also
look at their server environments.
Through server consolidation and virtualization and implementing multicore
blade server technology, you will
improve the utilization of your server
hardware investments while reducing
your data center footprint, power, heating and cable management costs. Also,
through emerging technologies and
power management by chip manufacturers, servers can be powered down when
not utilized, thus realizing additional
Another step would include consolidating and virtualizing storage into shared
storage pools and by implementing such
tools as de-duplication of data to save on
disk space. This helps to reduce the overall storage requirements and backup
costs and simplify data recovery.
A fourth step would include virtualizing
the desktop infrastructure and implementing Energy Star-compliant PCs,
monitors and/or thin clients. Companies
will realize energy-efficient gains in
power as well as improvements through
centralized systems management. Desktops also have the ability to be powered
down either manually or through automated tools to help reduce electrical use
and heat dissipation.
Other steps to take to move toward
going green would include the procurement area, changing the way equipment
is purchased. Procurement procedures
could be put in place to seek out Energy
Are there other things that you can plan for
as you make changes or upgrades?
Many companies are building new
data centers and/or disaster recovery
facilities. As these facilities are being
architected, designed and constructed,
they should be looking at efficient structures and materials during the build out
process. There are new and improved
air handlers, water-cooling systems,
environmentally controlled computer
racks and energy-efficient hardware
available for tomorrow’s data centers
today. In many data centers, cool air is
pushed by air handlers through raised
computer room floors and drawn up
through perforated tiles into cabinets
and the hot air pulled through ceiling
return air ducts. Cables under the raised
floors that are spread throughout
restrict the flow. Companies are now
addressing cable management under
their raised floors to improve airflow.
Better cable management, cable trays
and/or air conduits are being utilized for
more efficient cooling.
A strong recommendation to organizations moving forward is to have assessments performed of their IT facilities’
environmental and energy footprints. It
is also extremely important to have
assessments performed on their servers,
storage, desktops, printing and networking infrastructures. These assessments
would allow them to better understand
their hardware utilization and the cost
savings that can be realized through consolidating and virtualizing their environments with new energy-compliant and
energy-efficient technologies. Regular
audits of the infrastructures should be
performed as a follow up to ensure
everything is being fully utilized.
GEOFF HANSON is the practice director of servers and storage for Pomeroy IT Solutions in Cincinnati. Reach him at (602) 690-6376
Simon Hay thinks about culture every day.
Instead of sitting in an office, Hay spends the majority of his
time working with clients and talking about clients to show his
employees how important they are to dunnhumby’s culture.
“Culture is the thing that can have the biggest impact on how
we benefit from talent,” says Hay, CEO of dunnhumbyUSA, a relevance marketing company that analyzes customer purchase
decisions for consumer packaged goods and retail companies.
“Then it’s a question of what actions you can take to reinforce
those values and build the culture.”
Since the U.S. headquarters of British-based dunnhumby
opened in 2003, Hay has worked to build a culture with clear values and vision. With the company growing rapidly — from 14 to
300 employees in nearly five years and fiscal 2006 revenue of
$100 million to fiscal 2007 revenue of $150 million, his No. 1
objective is to create and maintain the culture while dealing with
“Obviously, every day, we want every employee, myself included, to
live those values to the best of their ability,” he says. “The other
opportunity that I have as the leader of the company is to reinforce
the communication of those values and that culture but also to help
put in place processes or actions that can actually reinforce those values in the culture, either the way that we design our offices or the
way we do our work.”
Establish core values
Hay’s key to a successful culture is establishing a core set of values.
Creating these values and making them an integral part of the culture
shapes the way employees work and interact each day and helps
them better understand the company and its culture.
“Values tend to get overlooked,” he says. “So find out what are the
things that differentiate you, describe what’s important to you and
your employees, and what they can act upon?”
Talk with employees and clients about what they see in you. Hay
got feedback from external partners, clients and employees to determine the company’s values. He says getting feedback from others
was the best way to find out what made dunnhumby different from
Once you have that information, summarize it into the few things that
define your company and are believable, realistic and truthful.
“If your employees look at your values and go, ‘I’ve never seen that
here,’ obviously there’s no connection between your aspiration and
reality,” Hay says. “Values have to be recognizable and inspirational,
something that people believe and are important to the organization.”
The values also need to be simple and relevant for employees to
“Sometimes, there is a tendency to list 10 or 12 things, but if you
don’t distill them down, how are people going to remember them
well enough to act on them?” Hay says.
Dunnhumby’s culture ended up being based on only four core values: collaboration, curiosity, passion and customer first.
Once you have your values in place, you need to communicate
them to make sure employees understand and live them each day.
Hay not only uses things like monthly company meetings and brown-bag lunch sessions for employees to share thoughts and ideas about
culture, he also has tried to integrate the values into the very fiber of
For example, he has created an open office environment to reinforce collaboration among employees.
“Our office is completely open plan, no one has an office, and that
includes myself,” he says. “Everyone has the same size desk, the barriers are 12 inches high above your desk, you can’t even get away
from the person next to you. That’s a very deliberate design because
it facilitates communication.”
There are also other areas inside the office, including a café-type
space and open meeting areas, for employees to get together and collaborate.
To reinforce the curiosity value, Hay holds regular innovation sessions for employees to bring forth new ideas or products to help the
Regardless of how you try to integrate your values into your culture, be consistent.
“Values are something we talk about every day, they’re not rolled
out for the annual business presentation and put away in a cupboard
for the rest of the year,” Hay says. “You’ve got to continually highlight
great examples of people living those values, reward those people,
and consistently communicate (those values) so that they absolutely, 100 percent become embedded in everyone’s daily thoughts and
“You’ve got to see a connection between your values and everything that’s going on every hour of every day.”
Hay has created a 360-degree review process that is 100 percent
focused on the values, how they align with the vision and how
employees are meeting them.
“It’s not what you do in your job, it’s a rating by your manager, yourself, your colleagues and direct reports on how you do that job in
terms of those values,” he says. “That gives clear, specific feedback
of what they do well in terms of their behaviors, living up to the values and where they can improve.”
There will be people who achieve or exceed living the values and
meeting goals, ones who live the values but struggle with meeting
some targets, and those who cannot meet them at all. You need to
address the problem and see if the employee will be able to stay with
the company or not.
“If you’re achieving numbers but not living the values, you’re ultimately destroying them,” Hay says. “Behaviors, values and the sense
of purpose that builds an organization are long term, and anyone
who is destroying that is also destroying your long-term value.”
Having a clear set of values from the beginning alleviates some of
those employee problems because you can hire people who meet
those values. For Hay, having the open floor plan is the first filter for
“Our open plan tends to self-select out the people who care
whether their desk is one size or what chair they have,” Hay says.
“Being clear about that in the interview sets people’s expectations.
You’re either going to find that exciting and liberating or that doesn’t
meet your needs.”
Have a clear vision
Along with core values, you also need to set a vision that will help
you keep everyone working toward the same goals.
Without a successful vision, you cannot create excitement among
“If you don’t have the vision right, you can’t get the sense of purpose
or the focus and delivery from those talented people,” Hay says.
“Without vision, you’re mismanaging the talent you have.”
DunnhumbyUSA’s vision was created as part of the company’s regular review of brand values and position.
“We do it through engaging our employees, leadership and customers to ensure that we’re pointing in a direction that’s right for
them and our business,” Hay says.
Vision is similar to values in that you need to make it core to your
company strategy, understandable and aspiring to your employees,
and tie it to your actions and business plan. Hay says if your vision is
not connected throughout your company, employees and clients will
be able to spot it, causing confusion and problems.
“It has to describe what you’re trying to achieve and inspire your
people,” he says.
It also needs to be kept short. When vision statements are lengthy,
the average employee won’t be able to remember it all and can only
remember parts of it. When that happens, employees all learn different parts and head off in different directions.
As with the values, it’s important to remain consistent in your communication of the vision. If it says one thing one year and something
else the next or if it’s too far-reaching, the vision may be wrong.
“Your vision has to be unifying to get people pointed in the right
direction toward your bigger goal and objectives,” Hay says.
The vision also needs to be relevant so employees know how their
job fits into it.
“If you see the vision and go, ‘I’ve got no idea what my job does
toward that,’ either you haven’t been clear in how you’ve described
that job or your vision is incorrect,” Hay says. “There’s got to be a connection between people’s work every day, where the business is today
and making it clear where you want the business to be tomorrow.”
Getting employees to connect to the vision can be simple, starting
with a written statement that explains how each person fits into the
Hay says you can also set up a performance management system
that will take your vision, break it down into smaller pieces and give
clear goals to the different parts of the organization on how to
achieve that vision.
“These are the six to seven things we are trying to achieve this
year,” Hay says. “As we move through the organization, they get cascaded down. People might not necessarily own all of those, but the
part they own, they know where it fits, and ultimately, it goes back up
to the vision. That ensures a direct connection between everyone’s
focus and targets for the year in what they do and our overall vision.”
Keep the culture a priority
Hay makes sure to keep his culture the No. 1 priority so that it can
envelop any changes that happen in the high-growth company.
“We set the expectation that standing still is not part of our plan,”
he says. “We either grow or die.”
“Everyone goes through formal training and introduction courses,
not just from their managers but by the senior leadership and myself.
We see communication of our vision and culture and the training of
our employees as a leadership team responsibility.”
Making culture your top priority requires you to keep it No. 1 on
your list, no matter what other tasks come up. It also means making
the culture fun so that employees will keep it their top priority, as
Hay makes sure to take time to celebrate successes, recognize
great performers, and keep employees engaged and informed — all
in a fun way when possible. For example, the company recently
ended its financial year and celebrated with beer and pizza at lunch
for all employees, with a more formal recognition later in the year.
Establishing a successful culture also means holding yourself
accountable to the same standards as your employees. Hay goes
through the same reviews and 360-degree feedback as his employees
because it’s hard to lead employees unless you’re getting their honest
“You have to be fanatical about the living, delivery and communication of those values,” he says. “You need to be clear on what you’re
aiming to do and prepared to be measured against that.”
Without a focus on culture, Hay says dunnhumby would not
have achieved the level of success it has, including growing 40 to
50 percent per year in revenue since 2003 and being named one of the
best places to work in the Cincinnati area.
“It’s not easy,” Hay says. “Absolutely make it your No. 1 priority. It’s
easy to be distracted by the tasks of running a business, but you can
only do so much as one person. If you get the culture right, you can
have, whether you have hundreds or thousands of employees,
pulling or pushing much more successfully to the vision than you
just trying to do it yourself by managing those tasks.”
HOW TO REACH: dunnhumbyUSA, (513) 632-1020 or www.dunnhumby.com
After an employee survey
showed that some of
his 65 employees at
Thinkronize Inc. wanted
more communication, Randy
Wilhelm looked to the past
to fix the problem. When the
company — a digital deliverer of K-12 educational content — was smaller, Wilhelm
would order pizza for his
employees, and they would
talk about what was happening at the company.
But as Thinkronize grew,
the co-founder and CEO got
away from that method of
when the survey showed that
move had been a mistake,
the pizza deliveries returned.
“My statement to the
group, to my leader team,
was, ‘For us, right or wrong,
pizza is comfort food,’” says
Wilhelm, who led the company to fiscal 2007 revenue of
about $10 million.
Smart Business spoke
with Wilhelm about how to
paint your vision and how to
communicate it so that
Q. What are the keys to
being a good leader?
The way I define whether
you’re a good leader is
whether people are following.
It’s really creating an environment where people are
drawn to it almost magnetically. Then they’re drawn to
where you are going. For me,
what it really comes down to
are a couple of factors.
We’ll call it vision and communication. In order to be
able to lead effectively,
you’ve got to be able to communicate where you’re going. I’m talking about
painting a vision that the
team can see themselves participating in because if they
can’t see themselves inside
that environment, they’re
going to be reticent to go
When you’re painting, we
just remind them that it
might look big, and it might
look difficult, yet it’s very
attainable. When I am talking
about vision to people, I am
always painting the picture
and drawing mental images
for them of what it’s
going to look like
when we get there.
That helps people
toward following that
vision. For me, good
leaders are really good
Help people see
themselves in that
place and help people
understand that as you
go along that path
toward getting to that
vision, you are going to
have rocky roads and
sometimes you are
going to have to deliver bad news. If I can
share to them the ‘why’
that’s behind the ‘what’
— the ‘what’ is the bad
news. But, if I share the
‘why’ behind that and help
them see how they fit into
that, they can remain productive and comfortable.
Q. How to you paint that
vision so that all of your
employees understand it?
Vision has to be something
that is visible and real. We’ve
boiled our vision down to
some core four- or five-word
phrases, and we have them up in the office so everyone
can see them. They see them
when we walk through the
doors, first thing in the
morning, and it just reminds
them of why we are here.
We do hold quarterly meetings for the team, where we
go off-site, and any question
can be asked of the leadership. All the information is
shared, good news and bad
news. We are a very open
organization with our data.
Now, they don’t know
everything, that’s obvious.
But, being open and having
them feel part of the process
is really critical. I think the
good leaders and leader
teams really just use those messages to motivate people
to achieve things.
(The vision) needs to be
repeated often and regularly.
These are no-brainers. It has
to be communicated regularly through a variety of different vehicles. If you, as a
leader, are living that yourself and are consistent with
that, people are drawn to
that by your integrity to that
vision. So it creates a magnetic draw because it’s
Q. What is a pitfall to avoid
I think the thing that hurts
organizations or the thing
that hurts leaders is when
you don’t have people’s trust,
and you can lose people’s
trust a variety of ways. For
instance, a way that you can
lose credibility very quickly
is when an employee comes
to you and says, ‘I need to
have a conversation with you
about so and so, but you
can’t tell them that I talked
to you about it.’
In essence, I, as a leader,
have been neutered and
marginalized by that
So, you’ve got to know that
that’s not the kind of environment that we have here. I
can’t accept that. If you want
to tell me something, know
that, if it’s important, it’s
going to be communicated to
the right people.
If you don’t want to tell me,
don’t. But you don’t give
someone the right to marginalize your leadership — and
people do this all the time.
It’s a way that they gain a little power.
HOW TO REACH: Thinkronize Inc., (513) 731-4090 or www.thinkronize.com
Born: Morrow County, Ohio
Education: Bachelor’s degree, mechanical engineering, Purdue University
First job: Janitor
What do you like best about being a leader?
The most rewarding part of it is to watch the fruits of your effort in the growth of people and the business. You sit back and see Tom Jones’ son or daughter has gone off to college and done exceptionally well. That person has been employed for you for 20 years, and you know that the company you started provided the income for that parent so they could nurture the child and have them go off to school and accomplish things maybe they otherwise couldn’t have. That’s extremely rewarding to watch your own employees improve and grow. Does ego come in? Yes, it does, but I try not to do it for ego. When somebody tells me that their son just got a scholarship to graduate school at XYZ, it makes you feel good because, in some way, you know you contributed to that.
Mellott on leadership: Leaders are born; managers you can train. Certainly, you can improve and hone leadership skills, but I’m not sure you can take somebody who’s not a leader and make a leader out of them because that’s not ingrained in their mannerism and personality.
Mellott serves on the boards of Inter-Pac Inc. in Tupelo, Miss., and Storopack, along with U.S. Bank and The Plastic Loose Fill Council.
Timothy Loudermilk wants
a work environment
filled with self-motivated performers. So to create that
environment, the founder and
chief software architect at
Trivantis Corp. hires the best
people he can and then trusts
his employees to do their jobs.
“If you are in a company
where you need to manage
people tightly, then I think that
what you have is you have a
company of people that are
relatively unpersonally motivated,” says Loudermilk, who
managed the 85-employee
provider of publishing technologies and services company
to 2006 revenue of more than
Smart Business spoke with
Loudermilk about how to hire
the best people and how to get
the most out of them.
Q. What do you look for in
First of all, I look for people
with specialties that are better
than what I can do. I don’t
think you can be afraid of hiring people in their field that
are better than you.
For example, at this point, I
can assure you I am not the
best computer programmer in
the world because I’ve moved
away from it over the years. I
have a team that’s just the best
in the world that I can find.
But, I think you have to be
confident in the people you
hired, and you have to look for
people that have real expertise
in their field.
Q. How do you find the best
I think it’s really hard to pop an ad in the paper and hire
someone. Your best places to
look are really to your own
Many of the people we’ve
added to the business have
been references from other people in the business that are very
happy and very excited about
the job that they have. They’re
your best possible recruiters.
Our development team in
Florida, for example, almost
everyone that is on the team
was recruited by word-of-mouth. It’s very popular, word-of-mouth, in a marketing
sense, to talk about products. I think in this generation, it’s just as important on employment.
Occasionally, we will
use some outside professional recruiters, and the
reason we do that is
some of the folks that we
work with have a keen
sense of what we are
looking for because I am
looking for the top 10 percent performers to hire.
And when you have a
company that’s 15,000 employees, you might be
able to afford to not have
the top 10 percent performers. But, when you
have a company that’s
85 people, everyone’s contribution really matters.
Q. How do you motivate your
I think there are certainly
ways to motivate. You probably
have to keep from demotivating them more than anything
because I think some work
environments that are highly
structured can be somewhat
demoralizing to professionals.
So, what I want to do is create an environment in which they absolutely love to work.
That means an environment of
trust, of personal responsibility, and they have an opportunity to contribute to the end
product. I think it’s really
important that they be able to
see and use the end product
that they are working on. And,
of course, that is coming from
a software standpoint. It’s really easy to look at the product
and realize your contribution
to it, whether it be in sales or
whether it be in development.
Q. How do you show
employees that you trust them?
First of all, you should never
give them deadlines. You
should actually get them to
buy in to deadlines.
Let’s say you have a particular project. You look at the
project, assess how long it’s
going to take, let them assess
it in their sense, agree to it,
and let them be accountable
for saying, ‘Here’s where I am
on this project.’ I think that
there’s too often a tendency in
business to set random dates
that mean nothing. I don’t
think that’s the way I choose
to manage this business.
We agree to dates that are
real, and then they own them
— they are accountable for
Q. How has hiring the best
people and trusting them made
the company a success?
Everybody personally has an
investment in the end product.
When you have a successful
end product, everyone feels
the success of that. That’s the
Whether it be in sales or
product development, having
a successful company takes a
lot of different skills across a
broad range, and when people see the success of the
company, they need to understand that, that is their personal success.
So, the reward system has
to be there in terms of financial, stock options. Profit-sharing is appropriate. Those
all have to be in line.
HOW TO REACH: Trivantis Corp., (513) 929-0188 or www.trivantis.com