Rock solid Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2008
One of the toughest things Robert E. Troop has had to do at The Shamrock Cos. Inc. has been finding someone to replace him.

Troop says he’s been trying to retire for years, but he just hadn’t found the right person to succeed him at the marketing communications and project management company, which has fared well under his leadership — 2007 was the 14th consecutive year it achieved double-digit percentage growth.

But now, after the 250-employee company finished 2007 with revenue of nearly $80 million, Troop has appointed Tim Connor as president. Troop, who still retains the CEO title, says Connor expressed interest in his job when he first started at Shamrock 14 years ago at the age of 23. After working with three presidents in the last seven years, Troop is optimistic that his search for a successor is at an end.

Smart Business spoke with Troop about how to build your team for success and why you can’t give employees all the answers.

Build your team through a process of elimination. One of my greatest assets — which can also be one of my biggest liabilities — is I tend to have more confidence in people and their abilities than they have in themselves.

I brought some people into my life as executives who had difficulty completing a job or a process or a project. When I say I did it through process of elimination, I mean there have been a number of people I’ve associated with in this business that had success as a salesperson, that I felt would be great leaders in my company.

The challenge is when you find highly successful sales-people, you’re looking at type A personalities. These people are truly entrepreneurial, so we preach the necessity for them to be accountable for their successes and failures. But at the same time, we preach family and team, so it’s a little bit of an oxymoron if you will.

Let your employees figure it out. The most important thing I’ve learned is to keep an open line of communication with your employees. It’s incredibly important to practice what you preach.

I’m a firm believer in empowering my employees and holding my sales team accountable. I think you can micromanage, which I have never been one to do.

I have a little philosophy, and my people kind of chuckle about it, but they also embrace it: When you talk about empowering people, one of my favorite lines is to tell my employees to figure it out. If they have a problem that they really should know the answer to, if you give them adequate time, they’ll figure out what the solution is.

That’s a theme that is behind the success of our company. Our people really do take the time to figure it out. Whether it’s a problem, it’s an initiative, whatever it is, they somehow, someway are able to figure it out.

Use your culture to empower employees. We spent a lot of time over the years identifying our culture and then trying to tie that to a theme each year. When we first branded our culture back in 2002, our theme was ‘Gung ho.’

It was tied to a book Ken Blanchard wrote called ‘Gung Ho!’ It’s about empowering your employees. What Blanchard had done was take three different animals and tell a story [that] goes back to the Indians.

He started out with the Spirit of the Squirrel. It’s all about empowering your people and encouraging your people to do worthwhile work.

The second animal he introduces is the Way of the Beaver. What we do there is empower your people to be in control of achieving their goals. You see this in a lot of successful companies. They’re encouraging employees to make decisions on the lowest possible level and understanding what good decisions are.

The last part of the philosophy is the Gift of the Goose — and that is just cheering each other on, making sure we’re all working for the common goal.

The underlying philosophy with our company and with ‘Gung ho,’ is that everybody in the company, from the top salesperson to the CEO to the people working out in the plant, understands the role they play in the overall success of the company. They all do play a role in the overall success of every order we touch for our client.

Tie it together by leading by example.

Our executive team is involved with our employees on a daily basis. It’s really living the culture and leading by example.

We’re out doing a lot of team-building on a regular basis. We have culture club meetings twice a month at all of our facilities throughout the country so we’re constantly talking about our culture and having open forums if they’re not focus groups.

They are ways of communicating to our employees the importance of living the culture, not just reading about it or talking about it. (The meetings are) actually empowering the employees to ensure that their peers embrace the culture, as well. They all have an accountability to do that.

Our executive team works once or twice a month out at our fulfillment centers working with our employees. From my perspective, it gives us a better understanding of the role that they play. Sometimes, we can pick up some better ways of doing things, but more importantly, it shows our employees how we as a management team and as a culture embrace the employees.

HOW TO REACH: The Shamrock Cos. Inc., (440) 899-9510 or www.shamrockcompanies.net