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Flex performance Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

Ronia Kruse doesn’t care too much if her employees are in the office 40 hours a week.

Instead, the ultimate test for Kruse, president and CEO of OpTech LLC, is a set of metrics to ensure that the work is being done — and being done well. With that standard in place, it doesn’t matter much to Kruse if it gets done from a living room couch or an office desk, so long as it meets the standards for the $12 million technology consulting and business solutions firm.

Smart Business spoke with Kruse about being a motivator and letting employees keep a flexible schedule.

Q: How did you create a flexible schedule with your staff?

We set everybody up at GoToMyPC.com, and everybody has a wireless network from home, and they can log on from there. With that, they have all the tools they need at home to do their work.

A lot of our people actually are working moms that have children, so they often log on at 6 in the morning before the kids wake up and then come in until 2 p.m. when the kids get home from school, and then they’ll get back on during the night. This way it doesn’t matter if they have to be home because they’re sick or anything.

A lot of people say, ‘Aren’t you worried that they’re going to take your list of recruiters; aren’t you worried about security?’ There’s a trust factor, and I think that element is missing in most companies. There’s a loyalty and a trust that they have all the tools, and we trust them, and they have every means of being successful.

We’re trusting them to work from home, and they appreciate that.

Q: With that flexible schedule, how do you know you’re getting the most from employees?

We have a system where people are compensated based on their performance. The whole theory is, I don’t care who you are, what color you are, what sex you are; it’s all about performance.

You can come and go as you want, but you will be evaluated based on your performance. We have a very, very supportive culture, and we make sure to provide all of our people with the best tools. They have a flexible schedule, they can work from home, they can work from pretty much anywhere and come and go as they want, but the bottom line is performance.

We have a lot of metrics that we create on a monthly and quarterly basis. I know, for example, how many resumes were sent to clients. I know how many interviews and how many hires were made. And if they’re not hitting their mark, then I know that they’re not putting in the quality time.

My whole theory is I want quality, not quantity. What that means is, I don’t want people working 60 or 70 hours a week. I don’t care about that. If you can work 20 hours a week and hit your mark, that’s great. I don’t need them to be at work 40 hours then.

They know that we treat all of our people the same, but the difference is in their commission, and that’s where the incentive for performance comes in.

Q: What is the most important skill a leader should have?

You have to be a hell of a salesperson. You have to be a great motivator. You have to be a person that your people look up to. You have to set an example.

If you’re working hard, there are certain things that you’re doing to set the tone. You have to be a mentor; your people have to look up to you. You have to be somebody that they would aspire to become, and that will hopefully motivate them.

Q: What is your philosophy on hiring?

The most important thing is to surround yourself with good people. I’ve seen it in so many companies, where people say, ‘You know what, I’m going to bring in my friends,’ or, ‘I’m going to bring in someone who is a little less expensive, even though they don’t have the knowledge base’ because they want to save money, and what that ends up doing is, it kills the company. If you surround yourself with junk, you’re not going to get the performance out of them.

I don’t care what type of motivator or leader you are, you aren’t going to get performance from the wrong people. And that doesn’t mean you get people from Harvard.

I have people that don’t have degrees and I have people with very high degrees, but what I’m saying is, you have to look at the person and see if they have the drive to be successful.

Some people have it, and some people don’t.

HOW TO REACH: OpTech LLC, www.optechus.com or (313) 962-9000