Mario D. Apruzzese is a big fan of consistency. Yet, to him, being consistent doesn’t mean employees should use the same method for a certain task every time, just employ consistent values during the process of completing a task. The method has helped his company, employees only, a professional employer organization that posted 2006 revenue of $76 million, adapt as the business world has changed.
“Because, when you had the consistent values, it didn’t really matter if it was green or red or blue because whatever decision was made, in terms of how to do it, it always had the same solid foundation,” says the company’s head visionary and CEO. “So, we became less process-driven and more value-driven as an organization.”
Smart Business spoke with Apruzzese about how to maintain consistency in your organization.
Q. What advice would you give to a leader who wants to be consistent?
If you are running an organization and you are the man or woman that is at the pinnacle, if you will, you have to find a way to have somebody measure you. I don’t know if that’s a life coach or a business coach ... whether it’s your board.
I dealt with this family-owned business, and it was two brothers-in-law, and all they did was fight, and I was in the middle of it as a CFO. We developed an advisory board. It wasn’t a board of directors. They didn’t dictate where they went. But, they helped us formalize the communication.
And so, when John says, ‘We are going to do X,’ and Sally says, ‘We are going to do X,’ (the board members) were free to, one, challenge the objective both from a ‘Can it happen? Are you going to be accountable?’ and what have you.
So, you have to have a way to sort of measure yourself because it is like looking at a compass. You’re in a boat, and you’re out at open sea, and you’re fighting waves, and you’re fighting wind, and you’re fighting a lot of different factors on your boat. Well, how do you know you are being consistent? You can hold the wheel of your ship still, but that does-n’t mean you’re heading stays true.
So, [you need] that external compass, if you want to call it that. You’ve got to have something that you’re sort of measuring yourself against so that you can always make sure your headings are appropriate because business will move you one way, economics will move you, your personal life will move you, and all of those things need to be balanced, obviously. But, at the same time, you’ve got to understand your heading. Not necessarily your goal, but your heading.
And finding that true north you can’t do without some external reference point.
Q. How has consistency benefited your company?
The concept behind that is you put a system in place that’s repeatable. I think it’s really been a couple of advantages. No.1, it’s very easy as you grow your company to bring new team members to the forefront of what you do because everyone is marching to the same beat ... and nobody can fool you into those core values they have them or they don’t.
If you get someone who is unproductive, not because they are slow but because they have got negativity or some other baggage, you don’t have to wait for management to figure it out. The people on the team go, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, what are you doing? That’s not how we do it here.’ And so, it really takes a lot of pressure off of management to worry about everybody.
And it really gives people that are on your team the ability to sort of represent themselves. They don’t have to go to their support, a manager, whatever it is to say, ‘Oh, Johnny is not doing his job, or Sally’s not doing her job, or this isn’t the right person.’ They really feel compelled to say, ‘What are you doing? We are all about X, Y and Z here,’ and they can talk about it, and they can repeat it because that consistency is the underlying factor.
One of the other ones is, as management then acts in a consistent manner, you know what’s going to happen if A, B, C occurs. And again, it’s very liberating for people because they go, ‘I really don’t like that result, so I’m not going to do A, B, C.’
So, you really avoid a lot of what I might call the normal unpleasantries of being in the employer-employee relationship or in the co-worker relationship.
Everyone is, in a sense, speaking. It’s not like I tell them to go drink the Kool-Aid, and they go do it. They challenge authority. They challenge the policy because they are challenging it, not, ‘I don’t want to do it.’
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