For Eric Werner, everything starts at the top.
In any organization, the leader’s job is to set the vision that everyone else will follow, affirm the mission for which the company will stand, and help craft the goals that will serve as the means for realizing the vision and mission.
They are lessons Werner has learned in a career as an entrepreneur in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Werner is the CEO and owner of both Texas Subs and DFW Tanning, and he is also president of Sunset Tan Franchising LP. His Subway and LA Sunset Tan franchises generated a total of $35 million in revenue last year.
“The first thing is that, as a company, you want to have a mission statement and goals,” Werner says. “Where do you see the company three to five years from now, what is the mission statement of the company, what is your purpose of being in existence?”
Smart Business spoke with Werner about how you can build your company to be a success, both now and in the future.
Be the starting point. The CEO is the face of the company. Using the example of Wal-Mart — for years, people saw Sam Walton. He was the face of Wal-Mart. No. 2, the CEO needs to set the company’s philosophy and principles. Whatever we do, I want the people in our company to be honest, upfront and fair. If we make a decision for one person, we have to make it for another person. The third thing is, the CEO has to set the vision. Where are we going with this company, where do we see ourselves in two or three years? Most of the successful companies out there do goal setting. The leadership at Wal-Mart, Subway and other successful companies do goal setting. And that gives people something to shoot for. You might make it, you might not, but you’ve set that goal. If you don’t make it, chances are you’re going to at least fall close to it.
The person at the top of the company, even when they are around an employee, that employee looks at that person in a different light. You try not to be intimidating, but at times, being around the leader will be intimidating for an employee, just because of the position you hold. Regardless of how you’re viewed in a given situation, you do have a sense of professionalism to project out there. People are going to emulate your attitude. If you’re out there and have a poor work ethic, it will trickle down through the company. That underscores how important it is to set the tone for your company.
Build successful employees. You build confidence in employees with recognition and praise that is sincere, not just praise that you hand out all the time. If people know you are a good judge of character, they’ll respect your opinion more. I liken it to Simon Cowell on ‘American Idol.’ When Simon gives praise, it means something.
A second method is to have contests with awards. People are competing against each other, and you have an award at the end of the contest, which gives the winner a sense of accomplishment. A third method is simply the time you spend with your people in group meetings. That gives them a sense of self-worth because they know they belong to the team.
A lot of people don’t need praise, but a lot simply need to know they’re doing a good job. When they do get praise and recognition, they work harder for the company. Too many times people focus on the negative, and I always try to lead people with a positive feeling about the company and try to instill a sense of pride in working for the company.
Promote the mission. You have to have a mission statement promoted throughout the company. We have a company workbook in six or seven sections. The orientation section outlines the company, the philosophy, the policies, what you can be terminated for, how to increase your pay. We give people the ability to control their own destiny with their pay based on the number of training classes they take and based on their performance. You also could display plaques in your office that show your employee of the year or store of the year. There are many different ways to promote your mission.
Where leaders might go wrong with communication is that they’re strong on delegation, but they’re weak on following up. I always follow up, and people know I’m going to follow up. If people know you’re going to follow up, you probably won’t need to repeat yourself too much, because they know you’re going to ask. But if you’re weak at following up on whatever you’ve directed or delegated to somebody, then you’re going to be telling them over and over because they know you’re not going to follow up.
Seek support and feedback. Find a monthly CEO round table in your area, other leaders you can bounce ideas off of. They will make you accountable when no on else will. They can help you address situations to make you a better CEO. There are also CEO coaches out there, if you prefer more one-on-one coaching. They can go over how to better yourself as a CEO.
In-house, with your own employees, you can hand out surveys and set up anonymous feedback channels. Those types of surveys will ask employees questions like, ‘Do you think the company treats you fairly?’ and, ‘Do you think your manager treats you fairly?’ and give employees an opportunity to give their input on how management is leading.