Bill Watson wants to make sure his employees never get a case of the Mondays, so he sometimes creates change simply for the sake of creating change. “It keeps the people energized and excited; it shakes things up,” says the president of Grimes Horticulture. “You can’t let your employees get bored into the mundane ‘9 o’clock: Drink coffee; 12 o’clock: Eat lunch; 1 o’clock: Call everybody who owes me money’ sort of routine.”
So he changes schedules, avenues of communication, promotions and anything else he can to keep employees from slipping into a rut. The strategy has translated into $10 million in 2006 revenue for the gardening supplies vendor.
Smart Business spoke with Watson about how to inspire passion and trust in your employees.
Q: How do you motivate employees?
If the leadership of the company is smiling and enthusiastic about the day, the rest of the employees will just fall right in suit.
If you’re an employee, you want to know that your company is doing well. You want to know that things are going in the right direction, the environment is stable and secure. And the leadership of a company does that by being upbeat, smiling, moving forward on a positive way.
If I walked in the door every day frowning, saying, ‘Woe is the company, woe is me,’ we would fail. You have to just give the image that you’re not afraid of failure. What separates the men from the boys is simply the guy who keeps moving forward.
Q: How involved in the day-to-day operations should a leader be?
You need to spend 10 to 20 percent of your time working on what’s going on in your company. And when you do that, you have to have an outside-in viewpoint.
As a manager, it’s pretty easy to get involved with what’s going on internally inside your company. That matters, but what matters more is how your customer sees you. The only way you can see that is to get involved with the day-to-day operations of how your company is communicating with your customer.
As a manager, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘How did I treat myself today?’ You’ll get some real realizations of how dumb you can be in how you’re treating your customers. Once you become a customer of your own company, there are some light bulbs that go, ‘Pop!’
Q: What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced in business?
You can’t let the business world set your goals, your aspirations or values. Every day, it’s a challenge not to let the business world take you down a path full of quick fixes, lack of integrity and poor ethics. The challenge is not this one thing you go after it’s every day. You’ve got to fight making those short-term decisions that will take you in the wrong direction quick.
It’s so easy as a business leader to take the shortcut, to do something wrong to make the Enron kind of decisions. It’s tough, and every business leader fights that because people expect quick results. Unfortunately, quick results sometimes conflict with good ethics, good morals and business sense.
Q: What pitfall should a CEO avoid?
Lack of trust. If you don’t have trust in your employees and your employees don’t trust you, then you’re not going in the same direction together. You’ve got to have a company that is a team.
Without trust, you don’t have that. We spend a lot of time discussing where the industry is going and where our company fits in with the industry. But if people don’t trust you, it’s just words.
Q: How do you inspire trust in employees?
It starts at the top; you have to demonstrate it first. You have to walk the walk and do what you say you’re going to do.
As a business leader, before I say something, I better make sure I can do it. Or, at least tell them I’m not sure. Because if I say we’re going to go right and then tomorrow we go left, I’ve lost their trust.
Q: How can you improve your leadership skills?
Read. Find any book you can find about leadership and how to manage people. As the CEO of a company, you’re never going to be the one who does anything. You’re going to be the person expected to lead.
There have been so many phenomenal leaders in history. If you go down to the bookstore today, you could probably come out with 500 books on leadership. Read every one of them, because every one has a good idea in it or a good method you could learn from.
You’ve got to be a leader, and that’s not something people are born with. A lot of people think, ‘He was a born leader.’ Pardon my French, but that’s a bunch of crap.
HOW TO REACH: Grimes Horticulture, (800) 241-7333 or www.grimesseeds.com