[caption id="attachment_43479" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Steve Orander, president of Sharp Business Systems of Indiana"]

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Steve Orander had started a company called Indy Office Solutions, it was just over a year and a half old, and he wanted to establish some principles to guide the employees on how to do what they do. So he took some time off and went on a mini-retreat to compose them.

“I was just trying to look at the major questions that would come up in a typical business day,” Orander says. “So I was able to combine some business and Biblical knowledge to come up with six things that I think are simple to understand, simple to apply and simple to measure.”

In 2007, Sharp Electronics Corp. bought Orander’s company as well as some others and formed Sharp Business Systems of Indiana with him as president.

The organic growth continued. Revenue was about $8.5 million in 2007, has almost doubled since then and the guiding principles have been carried over.

“I feel our culture has been a huge driver of our success,” he says. “The guiding principles are kind of the engine of the organization; they have made a tremendous impact not only on our business growth but truly how we look at what our mission is every day.”

Once Orander knew that his objective was to draw up some principles, he went down a list of key questions that had to be answered daily.

The first and most obvious one was to decide on the core motivation. Orander crafted the most straightforward statement he could devise: We seek first to serve.

“That’s the way we have run our business,” he says.

As for the second principle, Orander reasoned that if a person followed the first principle, it probably was due in a large part to parental influence. The second principle took that into account: We operate our business in a manner that would make our parents proud.

“Would your parents be proud if you took a shortcut with something?” Orander asks. “Would they be proud if you really went above and beyond? If you took the extra five minutes to talk to somebody and truly care about that person, they probably would be proud of that.”

For the third principle, he analyzed that a lot of business growth could come from client relationships that had been lost ? and regained through consistent contact and development. The third principle focuses on commitment: If we commit to something, we follow through.

“They’ve given us the opportunity the second or third time around, and we've been able to follow through on that,” he says.

For the fourth principle, Orander wanted empowerment to be a key factor in satisfying clients: Each employee is empowered to make a decision that benefits the client.

“What that truly means that anybody from the truck driver who delivers the product to me, we can all make the same level of decisions,” he says.

In an industry where the client retention rate is 30-35 percent, Sharp Business Systems has more than a 98 percent rate. Orander felt strongly that making a commitment to serve a customer is not just to get them to purchase from his company, but to build a lasting relationship.

The fifth principle echoes this feeling: We gladly forfeit any short-term gain that would not be in the best interest of our client for a long-term relationship.

The last principle involves helping your fellow man: We give back to the community generously because it’s the right thing to do.

The company has about 100 employees. Once a quarter, 12 Sharp employees get a day off to volunteer at a community organization.

“We will pay their salaries, and they will go out and give back in that practical way,” Orander says. “I think what we see is that our staff truly gets into a mindset of service.”

Using principles as a guide

Guiding principles aren’t just a list that hangs on a company wall. If used optimally, they can assist in not only running a company, but in the hiring and management of employees.

“They are truly both how to execute internally with each other as well as externally with clients,” says Steve Orander, president of Sharp Business Systems of Indiana.

The six guiding principles at the company each make a statement on how important it is to serve.  The first time a prospective employee is exposed to them is during the job interview.

“I always ask them straight up, do you think you can commit to these things because I'd rather have you understand that this is really an important part of being on our team,” Orander says.

Besides being part of the basic operation, the principles also are used when there may be a performance problem.

“I'll sit down with the person, and I would basically saying let's look at our guiding principles here,” he says. “Based on what you did, how did that fit or not fit these guiding principles? Then they become the topic, not me telling them what to do.

“This has been really helpful as a culture because the culture maintains itself to a degree when you have that kind of checks and balances,” Orander says.

How to reach: Sharp Business Systems of Indiana, (317) 844-0033 or http://in.sharp-sbs.com/

Published in Indianapolis