Mike Gauthier wants his employees to set high goals for themselves, even if their aim is so high it means they will leave his company.
Gauthier, founder and president of SAVE On Everything, explores the goals of his estimated 150 employees by asking direct questions.
“I believe in the walk-around theory, but not just walking around and saying, ‘How are you doing today?’ But to ask specific questions directed toward their division and what is working and not working, and get some opinions from them,” says the leader of the direct-mail coupon magazine company, which posted 2006 revenue of about $30 million.
Smart Business spoke with Gauthier about how he makes employees comfortable with change at a growing company and why you shouldn’t get into an unrelated business just for the sake of growth.
Q: What are the keys to being a good leader?
One of the things we struggle with as I continue to grow the company is for (employees) not to forget that their job is the second most important thing in their life, and family comes first. We try to make time for them to do family stuff.
What that shows is that we care as a company. We take vacations, like the Fourth of July, we give extra days off, paid. Between Christmas and New Year’s, we always take that time off, and give it to them paid and not a vacation. Making sure they understand we care about what happens to them.
Q: How do you make employees comfortable with change?
The biggest thing you can have is clear communication. I used to think clear communication was verbalizing it, but that is not communication at all.
You need to have that person that can communicate, all the way around the ranks, the purpose of the change a clear definition of what the change is and how it is going to affect them. If you can show what the advantages are and how it’s going to affect them and what they need to actually change in the day-to-day world, and it’s clearly outlined, they will do the best they can with change.
Most people resist change. One of the things I tell people when they are hired is if you don’t like change, then this isn’t a good
company for you. My belief system is you have to grow and stay in front of the competition.
Q: How do you handle failure?
I don’t look at failure as failure. As a salesperson, failure and rejection is part of your daily life, and that’s really where I came from. Someone said, ‘You only have to be right 51 percent of the time to be a success,’ and I think that is probably true.
I see failure more as a learning experience. I see failure as an opportunity to practice what I do and perfect my performances. It’s sort of like the Babe Ruth story. People don’t think of him as the strike-out king but the home-run king.
You aren’t judged by the number of times you fail, but you are judged by the number of times you succeed. That’s sort of in direct proportion to the number of times you actually fail and can keep trying.
People ask me what is the key to success, and I say perseverance. If you can keep going and learning, you can probably get there.
Q: What advice would you give business leaders trying to grow their companies?
Stay with your core competency. One of the worst things, and I see this, and I’ve done it, is a company their core competency is advertising and they want to get into another unrelated type of business just because what we like to do is grow.
I have a friend who has a window film company, for example, and he starts a company that replaces glass. You might think, ‘Jeez, he puts window film on glass, and he’s got glass; it’s the same thing.’
But, it’s another whole set of rules. It’s another whole set of customers. It’s something totally different. What happens is, it’s not that he couldn’t be successful with that, but he diverts his attention away from what he is supposed to be doing.
For example, we opened a magazine, and we have a direct-mail product. And we opened a magazine with editorial, and I said, ‘It’s still advertisers; it’s printing and subscriptions.’ A $2.5 million loss later, I said, ‘Maybe I don’t know what I am doing here so much.’
Not only did I lose the money there, but I lost the opportunity; I should have had another city open. The city we started in, Detroit, it hurt that whole market because our attention was diverted away.
So stay with the core competency. Figure out what you are the best at, and do that.
HOW TO REACH: SAVE On Everything, (248) 362-9119 or www.saveoneverything.com