Balanced lifting Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2008

Don’t ever think you’re better than anyone else, advises Dave Morse.

The president of Morse Moving & Storage Inc. says that as soon as you start to get the feeling that you, as a leader, are more important than your employees, bad things will happen.

“Whenever you start, ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ then, in turn, you can lose respect real quick from your team,” says Morse, who leads more than 200 employees at the company, which posted 2007 revenue of more than $15 million.

He says that employees will work hard if they see you working hard, which creates a fair environment.

Smart Business spoke with Morse about how to lead fairly and why if you can’t defend what you’re doing, maybe it’s not the right thing.

Q. What are the keys to being a good leader?

Being fair is a big part of it. Being fair with the people you are leading. Treat them the way you would want them to treat you.

Once you get to that point — especially in a family business where you have to make some tough decisions that sometimes affect family — when you are doing that, if you are doing them fairly, then the rest of the team realizes that, and it keeps your company strong as you’re moving forward.

Q. How do you ensure you’re being fair?

Before you make a decision, you think about it, and you think how it’s affecting people. You think whether you would think — if you were in their position — whether that decision was fair.

You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes as you are moving forward through it and be able to come and talk to them and tell them and communicate that to them that this is why you are doing it, this is why you think it is fair.

Q. Why do you think it’s important to allow people to express their opinions?

It brings a lot more ideas to the team. People are more open to make suggestions, bring ideas forward, etc. Whenever an employee feels what they say doesn’t really matter, they quit coming up with ideas. They quit wanting to put suggestions forward because nobody listens anyway. So it’s the combination of having [an] open door and, ‘I want to hear what you have to say.’

Q. What advice would you give another leader on how to be fair?

First of all, don’t try and hide things. Business is really about us working together and trying to get something to the bottom line, all making a living, working together, having an enjoyable time here while we’re working.

Each year, in each quarter, I take our financials up, and I’ll share them [with the] entire team, all the way down to the warehouse guys. They’ll see our business plan this year. So, ‘This is what we are planning on doing. Here’s how we plan on doing it.’

That starts opening the door. That starts opening it up for that communication process. If you have questions, when I e-mail it to the internal team, I say, ‘Hey, if you have questions on this, either ask me or ask one of my managers, and they’ll be able to explain because we have worked hard to put this plan together. And, here’s our budget for the year and here’s what we’re planning on doing.’

I think it starts there, and, as you move forward, and you keep from hiding things from employees and you work with them as a team, in turn, I think that opens up your whole company to where everybody is more comfortable in letting you know their opinions and feeling like they’re part of that, part of our common goal.

Q. Has being open ever hurt your business?

I don’t think so. Usually, when it’s a drawback is when you are trying to hide something. A prime example is an employee says, ‘It looks like you are making too much here or you are spending too much here.’

If I can’t explain it, maybe I am spending too much. Maybe I need to look at that. So, if you are open to be able to look at things like that — ‘Why are you driving that vehicle?’ I’ve even had that come up when you’re showing financials to people.

Hopefully, I can defend what I do and what I’m working on. I think I should be able to answer employees the same way I’d have to answer my board of directors and have a good understanding on why I’m doing it.

First, I have to be able to feel comfortable with it. Once I’m feeling comfortable with it, then I might need to sell it to a couple of people.

HOW TO REACH: Morse Moving & Storage Inc., (734) 484-1717 or www.morsemoving.com