A winning philosophy Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

People are important to Curtis J. Moody. As an athlete and student at The Ohio State University, he learned from coach Fred Taylor that you always win with people and that it’s important to have the right people on your team.

And to create that winning team, Moody makes his 170 employees feel important at Moody•Nolan Inc. by celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and by hosting company gettogethers.

“It lets people know we understand there’s a human side to what they’re doing, and it’s not just all about them coming in here eight hours a day and that’s all we know about them,” Moody says about how he operates at the $24.7 million architecture, civil engineering and interior design firm.

Smart Business spoke with Moody•Nolan’s founder, president and CEO about how to attract the right people to your company and how to develop relationships with them.

Q. How do you find employees who have the qualities you are looking for?

The best source is our employees themselves to determine if they know others in the industry who would be a good fit. Our preference is to talk to our people, talk to people they know and to seek out others who would be a good fit.

It has to do with whether a person can work independently without having to be totally supervised on a regular basis. We like to find people who are self-motivators, who can work independent and work in a team environment.

We’ll look to see if they’ve been in those situations and what their experience was. Sometimes, individuals will say what their preference is as far as working environment. ... Sometimes, we’ll see that through resumes, and other times, it’s actually hard to find that out until you actually hired the person.

Q. How do you create an environment where employees can work independently?

We don’t have the kind of firm that everyone has a supervisor and that supervisor’s looking over their shoulders to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. In most cases, they’re given something to do, and then we’re waiting to see if they get it done.

You reach a certain point of growth that you recognize that a lot of creative ideas — not just your own — are important. If you listen and never implement any ideas from staff, it doesn’t set a positive example; it basically says that you don’t value their ideas. The way you show value is by implementing ideas of others, regardless of who they came from.

It’s important that we have strong relationships, healthy relationships among our people.

Q. What are the keys to developing strong relationships with employees?

Keep it simple. Follow the basic tenets of what does the employee want to get out of their job.

In most cases, it’s they have certain skills and want to be able to exercise them? And have you provided the environment where they can exercise their skills and they are noticed for exercising their skills and given the appropriate accolades when they are?

Showing respect means appreciation for what other diverse talents exist within your company, whether they are large or small — for example, we appreciate our receptionist because she does such a good job at making that first impression. When people call, they like talking to that individual and want to know if the rest of the firm is like that person. We respect that just as much as the talented designer who wins awards for us.

Q. How do you set an example of respect for employees to follow?

It’s not just us saying, ‘Do as we say, but do as we do.’ Over the years, we’ve been able to do that, and therefore, it doesn’t necessarily have to be communicated in words all the time. ... ‘Have you ever seen such and such act this way or act in a negative way?’

When you have to answer, ‘No, I haven’t seen the head of this division act a certain way,’ then that example is one you should be following. The same way with me. ... I can’t expect others to behave a certain way or handle themselves in a certain way if I myself am contrary to those standards.

It’s a matter of personality. There are plenty of leaders who are outgoing and can contribute to how comfortable their people are. In my case, and maybe other cases, where we’re not necessarily outgoing, it’s important to self-assess what you’re comfortable doing. The importance is to understand each person’s strengths that can be capitalized on and used as an example of what you hope will show your employees and clients that you are dedicated to serving them.

If anything, you’re trying to respect them, and they, in turn, will respect you back. If you are not respectful to your people, they will not recognize you as someone who is caring or has concern about their well-being.

HOW TO REACH: Moody•Nolan Inc., (614) 461-4664 or www.moodynolan.com