Networking to the top Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2008
Tim Schriner does the reverse of micromanaging at DANTOM Systems Inc. Instead of having his hands on everything, he uses a collaborative leadership style as president and CEO of the print and mail company. He stresses the importance of hiring a solid senior team, then trusts those people to execute on the vision he sets at DANTOM, which posted 2007 revenue of approximately $100 million and employs more than 80 people.

To build a solid team, Schriner uses the network he has built over his 25-plus years in the business. Schriner says it’s OK to use resumes and head-hunters but having knowledge of people through reference before you even interview them is beneficial in building an organization. Your success rate in hiring people you don’t know is much smaller than hiring employees that you have some prior knowledge of, either directly or through someone in your network, he says.

Smart Business spoke with Schriner about how you can find the best employees through networking and why it’s a bad day when you don’t acknowledge employee ideas.

Stay in touch with your network.It’s a dedicated time every day, every week to be talking to your network and staying in touch. It’s easy to lose touch, and it’s to your disadvantage to do that.

If I’m looking for a good sales guy or a senior vice president of sales, I may be talking to my former senior vice presidents because they know how I work.

So it’s not necessarily that I know them but there is a reference ability of someone that I have trusted in my past. That’s what I mean by networking — having trusted people out there that you can call upon.

It’s a vast network, so I trust my network. Resumes are just so hard to evaluate because everybody says they do a great job. You’ve got to have some reference ability, and by and large, I would say I’m in the 80 to 85 percent hit range of hiring people that are referenced from my network as opposed to using headhunters. And the good ones, it’s still a 50-50 crap-shoot, if that high.

Build an environment where employees are comfortable coming to you. You’ve got to make sure ideas can flow up and even create constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is treated the same way as a good idea, so that people can feel comfortable in the organization coming to you, coming to anyone in the company and saying, ‘This is what I think we should be doing.’

We reward our individuals for ideas that are used to benefit the company. There is a financial/monetary reward. That’s one way we got the whole thing started here just to get the ball rolling.

Part of what we do is go through publicly and recognize people. Recognition is key. Bring up, ‘Here’s what Johnny did today, or Susie did it. Here’s the idea they were using, here’s how we’re going to do it,’ and have them stand up and get applause.

Incentive is great, but the recognition, I find, people want the most. Once they start feeling that their ideas are being recognized and used and they’re getting recognized for it, that’s what really starts the ball rolling. Once you start creating that kind of an environment, it’s just natural. It happens every day.

When I walk through the facility every day, people are saying, ‘Hey, did you know this?’ Ideas just start flowing, and people feel comfortable talking to anyone, whether it’s myself, anyone in management, as opposed to just doing what they do every day and just staying within themselves. You’ve really got to create an environment where people really see the benefit. Honestly, the best ideas come from the people that are closest to our customers and execution of our daily tasks.

I can’t tell you, in a year’s time, in our monthly meetings, the increased amount of ideas people are generating.

Acknowledge employee ideas, even if you don’t use them. In any job, you get ideas, and they’re good ideas, but they might not work, or they might not make sense.

It’s just making sure when you get ideas, you thank them and say, ‘You know what, that was a great idea, and this is what we are going to do.’ Or, just be frank with them and say, ‘Hey, I really liked your creativity and your thought process, but, in our world and the way we work with our customer in this scenario, this probably isn’t going to work for us. But, this has given us an idea to do something else.’

So, making sure that even if you don’t use their idea —because you’re not going to use them all — you have to make sure they understand why you didn’t and that you are going to utilize it, and it might have made you think about a different idea you hadn’t even thought of. It’s the ones when you dismiss and you don’t say anything about it — a lot of companies have idea boxes and those types of things. When you don’t acknowledge anything, then that’s when people stop because then they’re going, ‘They didn’t say anything about that, so obviously, they don’t think I have that great of an idea. So I’m not going to do that anymore.’ You can’t do that. That’s a bad day.

HOW TO REACH: DANTOM Systems Inc., (866) 536-2376 or www.dantomsystems.com