Meredyth McKenzie

Tuesday, 25 November 2008 19:00

A measure of success

For Matt Coltharp, passion is an important part of being a leader.

And the president of The Cyril-Scott Co. makes sure he shows his passion in his work every day, because he never knows when he may be meeting someone for the first time.

Coltharp says that passion is contagious, and you need to have people around you who share it with you so that they can share it with others.

“Passion gives me a quick measure on if somebody wants to be successful or not,” he says. “If I’m passionate in insinuating the positive all the time, then the people who report to me will be in the same mode constantly.”

Coltharp’s passion for the job has helped him lead his 260 employees at the commercial printing company — which also supplies creative and direct mail services — to 2007 revenue of $40 million.

Smart Business spoke with Coltharp about how to find people who share your passion and how to use that passion to help your company prosper.

Put the right people in place. You need to make sure you have the right people in the right place. Sometimes people don’t have the right people in the right place; you don’t have someone who can reflect your leadership style, your level of enthusiasm and your energy and passion level.

There’s nothing worse than a roadblock, and if you’ve got the wrong people in the wrong place, that tends to equate to a lot of roadblocks in your organization, which is tough to communicate your message.

It starts with a positive attitude. You’ve got to be positive, you’ve got to think positive and act positive, and positive things are going to happen. It all goes back to passion — somebody who’s not afraid to work and has a good work ethic and without a doubt is a good team player.

Most oftentimes, you’ve only got 30 minutes to an hour to interview somebody. And I had many interviews back in college where the interviewer did their best to make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t believe I can pass judgment on a person without getting to know them, and if you pin them into a corner where there’s no way out, I don’t think you get to know the person.

I have a good, enthusiastic conversation with them that oftentimes isn’t even about the job at hand. That tells me more about the person in the time that I’m given to find out what their makeup is. It’s not going to tell you everything you want to know, but you’re going to learn a lot more from somebody by talking to them on the level they can relate to as opposed to tricking them. You get much better people that way than by making them feel uncomfortable and not knowing how to answer it or having no confidence in my 30 minutes to an hour time.

You can make progress quickly in an organization. If you have the right people in the right place, that means your entire management team and key people are thinking the same. If you’re thinking the same, you can make the decisions that you need to make to improve your company.

Lead by example. You have to be consistent in what you do. If I were to show up at 8, 8:15 every day and leave at 4:45 or 5, I’m going to have a company full of people doing that.

I’m usually the first one in my company every morning.

While I’m not always the last to leave, I know what I’m going to be doing the next day, and I expect my people to do the same thing. It puts you on an even playing field — I’m not asking you to do anything that I cannot do or that I do not do or I do not believe in doing.

You have to be consistent in your message. Once your message is established, you have to live it and not be afraid to make decisions. Leading by example is accentuating the positives and putting the right people in positions to be successful for the outcomes that you desire for your company.

Repetition is a good thing. If you focus on a message and are consistent, it comes to take effect, comes to take hold of your organization. If you stay consistent and don’t ever stray from that, then, in time, people are going to understand and your organization will understand this is the way we’re doing things going forward.

Keep focused on your message. The most important thing would be to not lose focus of your message. Whether that message is energy, enthusiasm, you have to live it and breathe it every single day because consistency is going to be the No. 1 reason a leader’s message gets established and followed. So consistency in the message and the self-confidence to know that you are the leader and are making the decisions that are the best fit for your group and company.

If you let up on your belief in that message or that goal or vision, then people are going to let up on it, as well.

The simple answer is to recommunicate. I’ve seen the mistake made that when business is good, people often forget where they’ve been, and that is a motivating factor. All ships rise in high tides ... so when the ship’s not rising, tide’s not high.

You’ve always got to be prepared with what to do for when the tide is high again. I like to consistently refocus our efforts and remind people of where we were and what we focused on in the business.

HOW TO REACH: The Cyril-Scott Co., (740) 654-2112 or www.cyrilscott.com

Sunday, 26 October 2008 20:00

A new vision

When Frederick A. Massey Jr. came to FamilyLinks Inc. in 2005, he had a tough road ahead of him.

Two nonprofit agencies had recently merged to form the social services agency, which focuses on individual and family social services. And Massey not only had to help merge the two organizations, but he also had to craft a new vision, communicate it and get everyone working on the same page.

“I analyzed what was the best of both organizations and put that together in a common thread and then started to articulate that to everyone,” says the CEO of the $23.2 million organization.

Smart Business spoke with Massey about how to craft a vision.

Q. What are the keys to creating a vision?

The part of the vision that you want to put to an organization is not something that is separate from the individual or leader. That leader walks, leaps and believes in that vision. It has to be real and a part of you; it can’t be something you’re going to learn or adapt to.

People bring their own passions to the table. The leader has to make sure he articulates, ‘This is the single vision that we’re going to move that passion to so that we can keep moving versus being stagnant and everyone doing their own thing.’ It’s important to do that because if you don’t ... they’re going to start articulating their own, and you’re going to have a stagnant organization.

Leadership is framed from the character of the person. Life experiences help an individual to view certain situations. One has to be able to look at themselves in a mirror and feel comfortable in making decisions based upon what they feel is right.

Q. How do you craft the vision?

You have to start with your board of directors or stakeholders or shareholders who need to have a clear mission of what they want from the organization and expect out of leadership.

Then the leader has to come with their vision that’s part of them and be able to tap out and see key leadership — senior leadership — and also in the employee base people who are going to be your cheerleaders at carrying out and driving other individuals. You need to pull those individuals in and work with them so you clearly articulate to them so they can be your voice as they go out within the work force.

You must have patience. Human behavior is resistant to change. You have to communicate your vision as often as you can to as many people as you can.

Q. How do you find those people who will help you carry out the vision?

Any good leader has to get out and about in his organization and go in and talk to individuals. People want to be heard. If you go out and you’re at a point where you can be perceived as open, people will open themselves up to you.

Communication is a strong characteristic, but the flip side of it is you have to be able to listen. It’s not just hearing people complain, but it’s taking what people said and implementing it so people see the value of their words.

I have a brown-bag lunch once a month ... where I select 15 employees and bring them in and sit down and talk with them. Most employees have an idea of what is the best thing to do. You’ll be able to see the cheerleaders — those who are respected by their peers come out through those as you talk to them.

Q. How do you become more open and a better listener?

You have to be confident in your ability and relationship with employees. You have to talk and show through leadership, especially to the employees, that as an organization, just like a person, you’re going to make mistakes, but you need to be willing to have some risk in order to have growth take place.

Allow for some safety nets if all will not go as planned. When implementing plan A, make sure that plans B and C are viable if needed. When a mistake is made, have an open and honest discussion with all involved and go through the ‘what-if’ scenarios in case the opportunity comes up again.

At the same time, you have to have the confidence and trust of your employees, vice versa with leadership, as they’re willing to come forward if they see a potential problem upfront so it doesn’t get buried within the organization.

Q. What are the benefits of having a vision in place?

There are many ways, right ways, to get to one particular place, there are many spokes in the wheel, but in order to get there as fast and efficiently as possible and everyone intact, you have to have one vision that everyone buys in to.

You can have 10 different ways to accomplish the same thing, but you’re not going to have those people all together at the same time. If you want to accomplish the goals, you have to clearly articulate the vision.

HOW TO REACH: FamilyLinks Inc., (412) 661-1800 or www.familylinks.org

Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

Safety zone

William A. “Bill” Fink has been known to utter a phrase that was passed down to him by his grandfather — “It isn’t bragging if you did it.” As the founder, owner, president and CEO of Area Wide Protective Inc., Fink has a lot of bragging to do for all that he’s accomplished.

Fink previously worked in the radio broadcasting, public service and insurance industries before purchasing Mid-American Security Service Inc., a small contract security guard company, in 1992. In 1995, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and had many problems to deal with — a competitive market that offered thin margins, numerous liability issues and a small number of reliable employees. Fink decided to do a complete 180 and switch the company’s direction. He created AWP and delved into the world of temporary traffic control service for the public utility industry.

Fink’s choice was a smart one. The company now operates in 12 states and serves many of the country’s largest public utility companies, including First Energy, American Electric Power, Columbia Gas, Verizon, Dominion Resources, Allegheny Power and Duke Energy.

The company has also had an impact on the Akron area, creating more than 400 jobs. The company had 210 employees in 2003 and is up to 650 in 2007. It has also had roughly 22 percent annual increase in sales during the past five years.

Fink has also changed the way the traffic control industry is viewed. Public utility companies previously had no cohesive solution for traffic control, but AWP now offers its services to numerous companies across the country. Flaggers in construction zones were once looked at as marginal and unskilled employees, whereas now AWP has set the standard for work-area protection and training, only hiring the best of the best. All employees must go through a pre-employment drug screening and motor vehicle and criminal background checks.

AWP has also raised the bar for safety in construction zones with a spotless safety record on more than 10,000 temporary construction sites for the past 15 years and has provided on-time response to more than 20,000 electrical power outages.

HOW TO REACH: Area Wide Protective Inc., (330) 644-0655 or www.awptrafficsafety.com

Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Game plan

As a former Pittsburgh Steelers player, Chuck Sanders uses many of the lessons he learned on the field to lead Urban Settlement Services LLC.

He motivates his 120 employees by taking them to football games, to hear a coach speak, or using examples of reaching and achieving goals as a team.

“You also need to be a risk-taker,” says Urban’s founder, president and CEO. “And then just letting people know they can count on you.”

Sanders’ focus on these skills has helped him grow his company — which provides title, appraisal, and closing product and services for lenders in the loan transaction process — to annual revenue of $10.5 million.

Smart Business spoke with Sanders about why it’s a good idea to take risks and how to not lose your personality.

Q. What are the keys to risk-taking?

The old gut feeling. It’s always going to come to those decisions — is the business going to turn this way? Even though everything else adds up and all your advisers and numbers and reports point in one area, if there’s something in that gut that says, ‘I’m going to go with this and take that risk,’ you’re not afraid of failure.

If you’re wrong, you’re in trouble. If you’re right, it’s going to differentiate your company from other companies because you will be ahead of the curve.

Q. How do you get people to understand why you’re taking that risk?

Your people have to trust you; they have to see a track record. They see it not just in the big moves but in your every day, how you treat them and work with them, you’re open to their ideas, your communication with your managers and all the way down to your security guard and mail room.

Once you’re going to make a risky move and say, ‘All aboard, follow me, let’s charge the hill,’ if you haven’t established that trust relationship, it’s not going to work.

Q. How do you create trusting relationships?

It’s practicing the basic things that make a good person, and that’s being honest and communicating with people. No one likes to live in fear, so always (let) people know where the company stands.

There’ve been times where we’ve had to pull all-nighters, and I’m going to be right there, working with you. You build trust by working with people, making sound decisions and also being recognized. We’ve had successful contracts, we’ve landed the big deals, and they see they have a confident leader who can go out and make these deals, get things done and keep the company running.

Q. What are the keys to being honest?

It’s hard to teach integrity. People of integrity are going to be people of integrity. If something’s happening that’s going to affect somebody’s life, it’s unfair not to talk to them.

Telling the truth is something that ... you have to accept and be responsible for.

There are two types of people. You’ve got that person who always has something in their back pocket they’re hiding. They may be thinking, ‘This is the card up the sleeve,’ and they’re going to be slick about it, but I’ve never seen those people get ahead in the long run. The ones who are honest and lay their cards out there, they’re moving on to their next project and the bigger, better things. They’re not sitting there worrying about this lie told or trying to be deceptive, and it leads to more success.

Q. What are the keys to successful communication?

With all of the gadgets and things we have now, you’d think you’d communicate more, but we communicate less because we send e-mails or text somebody. The key is that personal, one-on-one time with people.

We have a thing we call ‘No Text Fridays,’ where you can’t e-mail or text; you have to talk to somebody, pick up the phone, go visit and talk with them.

Be a good listener, hear what they have to say and see what their input is. Be honest with people and truthful. Even if it’s bad news ... let people know what’s happening.

It’s easy to get stuck under your desk and paperwork. Make it happen, just like you plan your board meetings and forecasting and meeting with your accountant and others, make sure you plan on meeting with your people.

Don’t get to the point where you lose your personality. I’d like to think that most CEOs at one time were that class clown in college or majorette or student in the lab class or the band. Be yourself and share your personality with your employees and colleagues.

Q. How do you keep making sure your personality isn’t getting lost?

That goes to having people around you who are honest. If you’re the smartest person in the room all the time, you’ve got a problem.

HOW TO REACH: Urban Settlement Services LLC, (412) 325-7046 or www.urbansettlement.com

Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

Universal thinking

To Dale T. Knobel, being a leader means being responsive to many different constituencies to make the best possible decisions for your organization.

And the president of Denison University says that in order to be responsive, it is critical that you listen carefully to what people are saying.

“Being a good listener about their needs and reactions is important, and then trying to take advantage of the knowledge base and experience of your own staff and employees is important,” he says.

Knobel, who is finishing his 10th year at the private liberal arts and sciences school in Granville, also relies on delegating responsibilities to his 650 employees and setting a vision for everyone to follow to help him lead the school and oversee its $95 million budget.

Smart Business spoke with Knobel about how listening carefully can help you delegate better and set a clear vision for the future.

Be a consistent listener. One of the keys to being a good listener is not making snap judgments based on what you first hear. Being a good listener means listening not just to one person or voice, it means listening to many voices and then trying to reach an informed judgment.

Most leaders coming into a new organization are pretty good at listening at the outset and trying to get a measure of the people and culture. But there’s a temptation [that] once you’ve been at a place for a long time, it’s easy to fall in the trap. You have to keep relistening over the course of a productive career because what people have to share changes.

You certainly use your own experience and judgment to try to make sense of what you hear, but you also test what you hear with others. I rely upon trusted members of my own staff to share my impressions of what I hear and test the conclusions that I think I’ve reached from what I’ve heard and see whether they would arrive at similar conclusions or not.

It prevents you from starting with preconceived notions about how something ought to work and plowing doggedly ahead without those notions being tested, whether it’s by those who are recipients of your services or those on your own team.

Learn to delegate. There’s always the temptation for anyone in a leadership position to try to do everything themselves and do it in a way that suits their own predilections, but you soon become aware that not only can you not do everything yourself, but you’re liable not to do it well if you try to take on too much.

Press decision-making down to those who are immediately engaged with the issue, who are most likely to understand it, have experience with it and are able to come up with good answers to an issue or opportunity. The farther you get away from the front line, the more likely you are to make a bad decision.

When you empower people to make decisions, you have to back them up. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ever find occasions where you can help people with that decision-making; there are never occasions where you don’t, after the fact, help people see how they could have made a decision better.

If you’re going to delegate and empower people, you also have to back them up, and that means not second-guessing them. Empowering people means not just giving them a chance to make a decision once, but, as a habit, allowing them to make decisions that affect their area. It’s only by habit that they acquire the sense that you have trust in them.

You’re simply overwhelmed if you don’t delegate, and being overwhelmed means you don’t make decisions well and let things fall through the cracks. You’re liable to get better decisions because you’re delegating to people who probably have a more intimate knowledge of the decision to be made than you have.

Set and communicate a clear vision. I’m a history professor by training and trade, and I try to use some of those skills. That is, try to look back across the history of an organization and identify the enduring strengths, because it’s those strengths that you’re going to try and find ways of taking out into the future as part of a new vision, and you may have to adapt those strengths for a new time and conditions.

If you find the strengths, you also find the places where the organization has not been successful. A lot of it is talking to people. You can find evidence by looking in records and reports, but you learn more from talking to people.

Articulate the message in a way that isn’t inconsistent. On the other hand, you’ve got to talk to people about their particular role and show how the vision relates to what it is they do. Talk to each of these groups about how the vision applies to them. So consistency on the one hand, but on the other hand, try to work with people about what this vision means to them and what they do.

Translate a vision for everyone in ways that help them understand how they are a part of it and how their particular role furthers that vision and how it can help make them feel more [like] contributing members of the organization by adopting the vision.

It gets everyone moving on down the same road in the same direction. If you listened well, a vision helps you find those commonalities and getting all those groups to collaborate.

HOW TO REACH: Denison University, (740) 587-0810 or www.denison.edu

Two years after joining Phillips Edison & Co., Chief Operating

Officer Mark Addy helped oversee the purchase and integration of

25 shopping centers that doubled the size of the company.

Addy, the top executive at the Cincinnati-based headquarters

(CEO Jeff Edison and President Mike Phillips work out of the

Baltimore and Salt Lake City offices, respectively), knew the 2003

acquisition meant significant growth challenges for the organization.

As a result, the management team began working on ways to

make sure the $176 million company was prepared to face current

and future growth as it continues to redevelop grocery-store-anchored shopping centers across the nation.

“What you find as you expand and grow ... you need to continue

to grow your people because you need a lot more quality people to

run an organization that’s twice the size it was two years ago,”

Addy says.

The company had about 35 employees in 2003. It now has 175, with

135 of those in the Cincinnati office. With that kind of growth rate, you

need to prepare to grow your infrastructure so you can handle it and

make sure you have the right people and systems to take your company to the next level.

“Whenever you’re building a platform of key people, what you find,

if you create a culture and environment where people learn and live,

then what they’re going to do is foster an environment where that carries on to all the other associates,” Addy says.

Prepare your infrastructure

Any growth opportunity takes preparation. You need to prepare to

grow your infrastructure so you can make sure you have the right people and systems to take your company to the next level.

The first step is making sure you are hiring people who can handle

a fast-growth environment.

Addy does situational interviews, asking questions based on an

employee’s resume and background, to find the right people for the

company. For example, he asks potential employees about the most

stressful situation in their lives and how they dealt with it.

“The best indicator of future results is how they’ve done in the past,”

he says. “If you see where personally and professionally they’ve lived

in an environment where they like that challenge and change, that

may be a fit.”

Addy says people either thrive or don’t in a fast-moving organization,

and those who cannot change is apparent early on. In most situations,

employees will come to you and say that the company is not a good

fit, mostly because it’s too fast-paced for them.

He gives new associates the opportunity to work at a position, and if

they’re willing to continue to learn, they will receive training. The ones

who cannot change show signs of that when confronting challenges.

He says body language and attitude are sure signs to tell if the relationship is not going to work out.

A fast-growth company also requires a strong management team to

keep the momentum going.

Addy first identified the key areas of the business that needed more

expertise and depth, then looked internally to find employees who

were ready to step into the leadership role and externally to add a few

key members to the team.

As the list of candidates narrowed, current members of the management team were involved in the selection process. Addy looked

for people who had the skills and expertise as well as those who could

fit into the culture and be examples for other employees.

Along with people, systems and technology also need to be prepared for growth.

During the purchase of a portfolio of 66 properties last year,

Addy realized that PECO’s software reporting system was inadequate to handle the growth. The company spent six months

researching options before selecting a new product to use that

would cut costs and build efficiencies.

PECO also had to change some of its financial reporting functions

in order to promote transparency with its investors and lenders. The

company has fully audited financials, conducts semiannual conference calls, and provides quarterly reporting to lenders and investors.

Addy says to be successful, you need to invest in your base and

take a long-term approach at building it so it’s prepared to handle

growth.

“That base starts with the culture,” he says. “That culture needs to

be stated and restated as you grow your management team. You need

to live and be an example of that culture. As you train the trainers, the

message will be consistent and carried throughout the organization.

Invest in technology, which needs to grow as your company grows. It

can provide information and efficiencies that you will need in a fast-growing company.”

Keep your culture intact

Growth can create significant challenges, but keeping your culture

constant gives you something to believe in, even as things are changing.

“We say that our three P’s are our most important assets — our people, product and partners,” Addy says. “Those three P’s will change

and change again, but if you have developed a culture, it will endure

as the guiding light.”

Addy says you need to communicate often, in a consistent manner

and with the door open for questions to reinforce the culture. PECO

associates know what is going on through quarterly newsletters and

teleconferences where they have a chance to ask the management

team questions.

“It’s empowering for associates to realize that they have the knowledge and know that’s being communicated clearly to them by man-

agement and know the direction the company’s going,” he says.

Addy has created an environment where it’s OK for employees to

have conflict over issues and wants them to question why PECO is

doing things a certain way. He encourages this open discussion within the management team and employees

“We feel that by introducing conflict to the topics or issues we’re

discussing, we’re better able to understand those and see all the

angles, and then we’re going to make a better decision,” Addy says.

“Everyone brings different experiences and benefits to that discussion.”

Creating an environment like that requires a significant amount of

trust within your management team and associates. It doesn’t happen

overnight but is earned over a period of time by doing what you say

you are going to do.

PECO used this open-conflict method on a transaction last year. All

aspects were openly debated within the management team to reach

the best decision for the company.

During these discussions, Addy is actively soliciting information to

make sure all employees are involved. While everyone won’t speak

up, the open-conflict method provides an opportunity for employees

to do so if they want.

“The ultimate decision of whether they communicate, that’s up to

them, but again, we try to provide a fertile ground where they can

voice their opinions and they’re going to be heard,” he says.

Keeping your culture constant also requires that you live it. Addy

leads by example and reinforces the message from the top down. He

walks around, spending time with associates to get to know them

and find out any issues he may not be in tune with.

“You’ve got to put a little shoe leather into it, and then you’ve got to

be willing to, when that opportunity comes, you’ve got to jump in and

lead,” Addy says. “Sometimes you have to lead by example and sometimes by servant leadership, where you’re actually assisting in what

they’re trying to do. You’re going to build a bond there with your associates that’s strong.”

For example, last year, the single-tenant development plan was not

growing at the level expected, and it needed someone to turn it

around. Addy jumped in to help, and this provided him an opportunity to learn more about that process and the people involved in it.

He says you need to prioritize to know what tasks to jump in and

help with and which ones to leave alone and only offer advice. He

helps clarify the issue or problem, then tries to offer guidance to the

employee without solving the problem. He then moves out and lets

the team work toward a resolution. Addy says the team’s resolution

will be better than his because they are closer to the problem.

“I get in and then get out so that I do not become part of the problem or issue,” he says.

Living your culture lets employees know that it’s not just words

and you believe in it, too.

“It gives a tremendous amount of credibility if you believe it and

you’re living it and people can look at you and hear the words and see

it in action,” Addy says. “It comes to life for them.”

Continue to grow your people

Addy says people are the key to growth, and he has built the company’s culture around developing ways to grow their skills and capabilities. Several new initiatives have been integrated at PECO over

the last few years to help associates grow.

“You don’t have to search long to find out that the way you’re going

to get there is through people and building around your people so

that you’re providing a culture that allows people to be challenged

and where they can grow and learn,” Addy says.

For example, an associate is assigned a buddy after he or she is

hired to help the new hire get acclimated to the company. The buddy

can introduce the new employee to others, teach him or her the little things, like how to use the copy machine, and be there to answer

questions. The program lasts the first few weeks.

Since implementing this almost two years ago, PECO has seen efficiencies from new associates because they have someone to go to

with questions. It also provides a learning experience for the person

serving as the buddy.

Another initiative is a two-day orientation program at one of the

three offices led by Addy, Phillips and Edison. Phillips and Edison

will discuss the company culture and vision, while Addy will discuss

the business model and the execution of it.

This gives employees an opportunity to sit with the company leaders and ask them questions.

On-the-job training is another initiative at PECO. The company has

been working the past two years on more than 20 applications used

within the PECO University training program for employees to learn

topics, such as “how to read a financial statement” or “how to understand a lease.”

Addy says these applications develop associates and allow for better internal training than using an outside company.

Employees are also invited to PECO’s annual meeting, which

includes a mix of business and fun. Adventure races have been set

up for employees to compete in, including one that took place in

New York City to help them learn more about the city, while another was an outdoors race in Moab, Utah. These races take employees

out of their comfort zone and challenge them and also help them

build communication and planning skills.

Being able to develop similar initiatives requires time, effort and

resources.

“It’s going to take time to evaluate, and it’s not something you can

pick up a chart and necessarily see how well you’re doing it,” Addy

says. “You have to be patient and keep that intensity for a sustained

period of time, and then you’ll see the results come through.”

PECO’s growth is not stopping. The company typically sees a 20

percent growth rate each year, and Addy expects it to continue as

work is done and initiatives are developed to continue building the

platform.

“Try to have some fun,” Addy says. “You need to provide energy for

the organization, and as you’re growing and taking these steps, you

have to provide an environment where people want to work, enjoy

working and have fun working. So work hard and have fun.”

HOW TO REACH: Phillips Edison & Co., (513) 554-1110 or www.phillipsedison.com

Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Out with the old

Osborn Engineering had been in business for 116 years, and Gene Baxendale knew it was time to make some changes.

To get started on updating the firm’s image, the engineering and architecture firm last fall began a strategic planning process, through which it identified a need for rebranding itself. While the firm had a sports practice area that had been designing sports facilities since 1909, there was nothing in the company’s name to highlight that niche.

“We decided to celebrate the success and build upon it, so we pulled that out as a separate division,” says Baxendale, the firm’s president and CEO.

The department now operates under the name OSports-Osborn Sports and Recreation Architecture.

The firm also shortened its name from The Osborn Engineering Co. to Osborn Engineering and developed a new logo to update its look.

“We’ve always been known for engineering, but we wanted to re-emphasize it and update our image to a more modern look,” Baxendale says.

To make sure the company was headed in the right direction, Osborn hosted focus groups with clients to test out several potential names and logos before making a final decision.

“Most people knew the company for a long time, so this helped us get some outsider feedback and a fresh look to see if we were on the right track,” says Christopher Wynn, director of design with OSports-Osborn Sports and Recreation Architecture.

Once you’ve identified the changes you are going to implement, you have to communicate them to employees and get feedback from clients. To do that, Baxendale set up workshops with employees to discuss the strategic plan and vision.

“We tried to keep them involved and up to date on the rebranding and how we were going to make it happen,” Baxendale says. “We explained where we were, where we wanted to go, why we wanted to do it ... and then how we were going to make it happen.”

Sharing information with employees engages them in the process.

“If you’re not sharing, they’re not going to know what is expected of them and what the goals are,” Baxendale says.

While he says most of his 70 employees favored the changes, Baxendale sat down with those who were still unsure to explain the changes and the benefits more thoroughly.

“You’re never going to get 100 percent buy-in [initially]”, he says. “We explained why we were doing it and what direction the company was going. Eventually, everyone bought in to it because they saw the benefits.”

It’s also critical to get buy-in from your clients.

“We went to our clients individually before we went public,” Baxendale says. “We let them know ahead of time what we were doing and why we were doing it. We wanted them to feel important.”

Rebranding your company doesn’t happen overnight, and you need to give yourself enough time to get it right.

“Create a project schedule that allows sufficient time for the process to work,” Baxendale says. “Listen to your consultant’s recommendations. Schedule review sessions throughout the project and allow ample time for those reviews.”

The result can be new life for your company.

“Sometimes, when you have a brand that’s been around for a long time, you take it for granted,” Baxendale says. “Rebranding allows you to take that fresh look and communicate with employees and clients.”

“It gave our firm the opportunity to think deeply about our business. ... It forced us to step back from managing our day-today operations and allowed us to understand the company intimately.”

HOW TO REACH: Osborn Engineering, (216) 861-2020 or www.osborn-eng.com

A helping hand

Rebranding isn’t an easy process, but hiring a consultant can make it a little less painful.

“You don’t go to the grocery store and ask the clerk to take care of your headache, you go to an expert, somebody who’s trained and knows what they’re doing,” says Gene Baxendale, president and CEO of Osborn Engineering.

To find a consultant who best meets your needs, ask your peers for referrals. Look at a firm’s work history and make sure it not only has a good portfolio but also has positive recommendations from clients.

And finally, make sure the consultant is a good fit for you. Although someone might have the right skills, a good consultant should also be able to connect with you and understand your business.

“Some people might be good at what they do, but if they don’t relate with you, they’re not going to understand your ideas and you’re not going to feel comfortable telling them things,” Baxendale says.

When Baxendale began the rebranding effort at Osborn, he narrowed down a list of several consultants, then brought in the top contenders to learn more about them and to let them learn about the company.

“This face-to-face meeting gave us the opportunity to interact with them and get a feel for how we would work together, which allowed us to establish a rapport,” he says.

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

growth.

“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

other companies.

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

understand them.

“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

the company.

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

business grow.

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

actions.

“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

prospective employees.

“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

your employees.

“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

larger goals.

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

well.

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

feedback.

“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

Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

Investigative work

There is no such thing as the perfect employee. But there are ways to find out, through pre-employment screening, if a candidate will be right for your company or if that person could potentially cause problems once hired.

“Statistically, companies end up with fewer turnovers when they screen employees because they hire the right candidate to begin with,” says Ted L. Moss, founder, president and CEO of Crimcheck.com, a Berea-based background check company.

Moss, a certified protection professional, says the two main types of screening are instant checks that check criminal history and comprehensive checks, which cover a criminal record check and verification of employment, education, credit and driving history.

“We know it’s important to make sure we’re not hiring a criminal, but why?” Moss says. “It’s to protect customers, provide a safe work environment and ensure that the company runs smoothly and is profitable.”

Moss says that first you should decide which type of check is most appropriate for your organization, and then find a company that suits your needs.

“It isn’t just looking on the Internet but finding organizations that have outlined what the best practices are,” he says. “Also, ask people you know from business and find out what they’re doing and who they’re using.”

You also need to determine the scope of the check, how far into the person’s background you want to go, how much information you want and how you are going to apply it to the hiring process.

You can either do pre-employment screenings on your own, or you can use an established company, which can educate you about the different types of screenings and how you can use the information obtained.

“It’s like, you can hire a plumber to fix your pipes, or you can get a book and figure out how to do it yourself,” Moss says. “You can do these things yourself, but it takes some expertise to make sure you’re doing it correctly.”

When using pre-employment screening, many employers want the information immediately, and while instant checks are possible, they might not be the best choice for your company.

“Think about it — instant check or hire this company that says, ‘It’s going to take 24 to 48 hours to get this check,’” Moss says. “It indicates that someone’s doing a little more work.”

But even with the extra time, something in the candidate’s background may get overlooked because a pre-employment screening isn’t as in-depth as a full-blown background check.

And remember, no one is perfect. Even if your candidate doesn’t have a spotless record, there may be some things you are willing to overlook.

Moss says pre-employment screenings are worth the cost of between $75 and $100 because the alternative is much more expensive.

“Considering it can cost between $7,000 and $15,000 to hire and train a new employee, the investment of $75 to $100 up-front is probably smart money,” Moss says.

Moss says the benefits of pre-employment screenings are immense.

“The Society of Human Resource Management says that 45 percent of all resumes contain at least one major fabrication, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that 33 percent of U.S. business bankruptcies are due to employee theft and embezzlement,” he says. “It’s risk mitigation. It’s a necessity; it’s like buying insurance. Providing a safe work environment for your employees and customers is the goal. You increase productivity and profits and reduce turnover.”

“It’s just a smart business decision. Having the information up-front allows you to make a better hiring decision and run your company more efficiently.”

Successful pre-employment screenings

Ted L. Moss, founder, president and CEO of Crimcheck.com, offers these tips for successfully using pre-employment screenings.

  • Evaluate.Ask yourself why you’re doing it, what your risks are, how it would benefit your company, what your budget is and what return you expect on investment.

  • Determine the scope and define the categories and types of jobs you have in your business. If you have a lot of sales-people, you’re going to want to run the driving records of potential candidates. If you have people dealing with money or confidential information, you might want to run a credit report.

  • Decide if you want to do it yourself or outsource it.

  • Do your research. Find screening partners who are truly concerned about your needs. Do they take the time to understand your business? Do they offer education and training? Will they come on-site and train your employees? Can they offer technology to suit your needs? Are they flexible? Are they recognized in the industry? Lastly, check their references and the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are a viable candidate.

  • Centralize your screening process. It’s much easier if you pick one person to be the main point of contact and filter information through that person because he or she can be your in-house expert and work with your provider. The provider is then constantly educating that person and updating him or her about any industry changes or new legislation.

HOW TO REACH: Crimcheck.com, (440) 816-9920 or www.crimcheck.com

Wednesday, 26 March 2008 20:00

Value-oriented

Fonda Hopkins models company values each day at Montesquieu by listening to her 112 employees and communicating with them.

“I communicate my work so they know what I’m working on and how I’m making the organization stronger and creating more opportunities for them and our clients,” the president and CEO of the imported and domestic wine distributor says. “The more connected they are to that, the easier it is for them to do their jobs.”

Creating values and a vision that everyone buys in to promotes teamwork and has helped Montesquieu reach 2006 revenue of $24.7 million.

Smart Business spoke with Hopkins about how to create a vision and values that employees buy in to and how to spread that to your clients.

Q. How do you set values and a vision?

We find people we can trust and whose aims and values are similar to our own. You have to do a lot of listening. Listen carefully to what is important to people, and you’ll understand what their goals are, what direction they’re interested in going and how they’ve gone about tackling goals in the past. It’s easy to see if you’re doing more listening than talking.

Give your full attention. It’s demanding in our workdays. Commit to giving your full attention to each one of the people who you’re talking to at that particular point in time.

As much as possible, you don’t want to dictate the goals, but you want people to be working for something that they believe in and are committed to. If you can align goals within your organization, it makes everything easier.

The more challenging the goal the better because employees will get behind it, and they will want to make a difference and impact that goal. If employees own the goal and feel supported and empowered, they’ll work hard to achieve it.

Q. How do you encourage and promote teamwork to achieve those goals?

Make sure they’re always supported. Any challenges that come up along the way, any opposition they’re having, give them support and help them learn to find the opportunities within those challenging situations. If they can overcome those, it makes them stronger and more dedicated to future achievements.

It’s important to recognize on a regular basis the contributions that each department or employee is bringing. As often as you can, make those recognitions available and show your appreciation. Let people within the organization know that every aspect of it is important and valued, and share that as frequently as you can.

Q. What are the benefits of employees working together and being aligned with the vision, values and goals?

You have less distractions, there’s more focus in your work-place, and there’s a commitment to one another and to the organization.

The benefits outweigh anything else. It’s important that people are happy when they come to work and [that] they’re eager to come to work.

Q. If an employee is not happy to come to work, how do you refocus that person?

The question would have to be posed, ‘What is it that they are expecting, and what do they want out of their career?’ It’s back to the basics of aligning goals.

Find something that the employee wants to achieve or shoot for. ... Once you clearly understand what is motivating and driving that employee, find a way that you can work with them mutually. It’s going to be far less expensive for you to find a way to re-engage that employee than to start from scratch and to retrain someone all over again.

Q. You also mentioned the importance of staying close to clients and forming relationships with them. How do you do that?

A personal business approach — talking with clients on a regular basis, getting as much feedback as you can and having a lot of dialogue. It’s not just sharing information with clients, but it’s getting the feedback, creating the dialogue and having open lines of communication.

Educate. Educate them as much as you can. The more your clients and employees know about your business, the more they know about your product and industry. The more informed they are, the more confident they are about their decisions to work with you and the choices that they’re making.

Q. How do you create dialogue and open communication with clients?

Visit salespeople as frequently as you can, and make sure that they understand that your goal is to educate the clients and keep the clients happy with the product. Make sure they feel supported, and the clients know that it’s in your best interest that they’re happy with the product because that’s what keeps them coming back.

HOW TO REACH: Montesquieu, (877) 705-5669 or www.thespiritofwine.com