Growing performers Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008
Andrew Greenlee, President and CEO, US Farathane Corp. Andrew Greenlee, President and CEO, US Farathane Corp.

Andrew Greenlee doesn’t have room at US Farathane Corp. for slackers. Instead, he wants workers who are motivated by more than just a paycheck.

“We set up jobs where, if you want to perform, you’ll be rewarded,” says the president and CEO of the company that develops and manufactures highly engineered plastic parts and materials. “If you want to

figure out ways not to work hard, then you’re not going to be successful.”

Greenlee empowers his 900 employees to meet the challenge by giving them a say in setting their own goals. His managers then keep tabs on their performance with reviews, but Greenlee takes the business’s temperature more frequently by getting out of his office and interacting with employees on the floor.

With that open communication and team involvement, US Farathane Corp. reported 2007 revenue of $133 million.

Smart Business spoke with Greenlee about how to push your employees to perform without overworking them.

Reward employees who excel. In larger companies, I’d see all this structure, [such as] ‘This is your

specific job, and this is your job description. You don’t go outside of this. If you see something wrong in this department, you don’t worry about it.’

I tell people, ‘If you see something wrong or we can do it better, I want it brought up. I don’t care what the reporting structure is. You need to be able to go to somebody to get this addressed.’

We do not overload with structure. If you don’t perform, you stand out like a sore thumb. A ton of structure allows for lack of performance. Performers are rewarded, whether it’s President’s Awards or discretionary bonuses or announcements at picnics. There are a lot of different ways that we let the top performers know they’re appreciated and give them recognition.

Don’t push too hard. We work closely with people so we know what hours [they work]. You watch the parking lot, who’s here late and who’s early. You watch on weekends, who’s in on weekends.

That’s a barometer for me. If they’re here late or on weekends a lot, we try to address that and figure out if they’re doing more than just their job. We have to make sure we’re not pushing them too hard. We

watch very closely.

If somebody’s working too many hours, we want to know why. We either improve the resources or restructure things.

Involve employees in setting goals. Initially, we have employees write up on last year. There were training goals and work performance goals. They write out how they did against those goals prior to the review. [After] the review, they write up what they think this year’s goals should be and how they can improve themselves and improve efficiency for the company.

Once those are submitted, then they sit down with their manager and review them. The manager usually tweaks them, and then those goals are turned in to me. I briefly meet with the manager and approve them.

I read every salary review. I know the goals that are set. I’m very aware and involved in setting goals. And that’s not just an annual process. Those things are reviewed and tweaked, and they obviously can change.

We have a follow-up process six months into the year. It’s a sit-down with your manager. You review all the goals that were established; it gives you an indication of where you’re at. And then at the end of the year, they have the full review.

Follow up on employees’ progress. If they’re far behind, it’s a regular meeting, weekly or monthly, with their manager. Most of the time, it’s lining up what the employee needs to do and giving them the opportunity to do it. If there are flags raised in that six-month area, there’s a regular meeting set up.

People are generally given two to three opportunities where things are laid out very clearly. If for some reason they can’t do it, then eventually a change has to be made. If they don’t perform, (the meeting) is done discreetly. That’s not a public thing, although there are questions asked [publicly] on programs.

If things aren’t in line, that’s a little bit of pressure on them. The intent on those would not be to embarrass somebody; it’s more to know where we’re at. Every once in awhile, people feel the pressure, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Establish open communication. If I know something’s falling off target, I’ll go to them. It can be hallway discussion, it can be formal discussion, it can be in departmental meetings. In our culture, we want issues brought to the surface very quickly. You build it with communication.

In larger companies, I saw CEOs that were out of touch with the production floor. I don’t go in for just a brief visit. I go in and talk and try to build trust with our employees. I schedule, as much as I can, visitations to plants and one-on-one conversations.

It takes time to build the trust. As you walk the floor, if people raise issues to you and you do nothing about it, you lose all credibility very quickly. If there’s an issue that warrants being addressed, get it addressed immediately.

There is follow-up in writing on closure of some issues. A lot of things have become e-mail and texts. We rely on that to some point, but our most successful stuff is done with direct communication, face to face. We try to drive the majority of our things through that, on issue resolution in particular.

HOW TO REACH: US Farathane Corp., (586) 978-2800 or www.usfarathane.com