Michael Thiel Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
His official title is president of IC INTRACOM US, but Michael Thiel’s business cards have something else written on them. The cards read “COR,” which stands for Chief Obstacle Remover. While he doesn’t remember where he got the idea for the title, Thiel tries to follow through on it, though not as much by intimidation as he previously did at IC INTRACOM US, which posted 2006 revenue of $120 million. Thiel says that as he got older, he realized managing through intimidation wasn’t always the most effective way to reach his goals. Today, he feels it’s also important to point out the positives, but believes that if you don’t bring up the negatives, the positive remarks won’t mean as much. Smart Business spoke with Thiel about how to conduct job interviews and how to protect your top performers.

Treat your employees the way you want to be treated. You treat your people right and carry them through times when they go through a low, and they will pay you back by sticking with the company at a time when the company may not be doing well. Loyalty to me is a very important thing.

Another thing is recognition, which to me becomes way before pay. We believe in paying fairly, but more important than that is recognition. Not artificial recognition, meaning, ‘I read somewhere I should recognize my employees, and therefore I do.’ They will look right through it.

I believe employees much more appreciate a positive word if they know you are a straight shooter and will tell them just as openly if you have something to criticize.

Appreciate good workers. You have to protect your high producers, your good workers, your good employees by either helping the not-so-good ones to improve, or, if that fails, to replace the ones that don’t produce so well.

If you don’t, the good producers will be thinking, rightfully so, that they have to carry the water for the ones that don’t do well. We make it a point to make sure every employee knows that he is needed, wanted and appreciated.

There’s no hierarchy. I sit 10 feet from my sales floor. If any employee has any issue, they’ll come to me. We’ll deal with it and get rid of it. You don’t have to go though all levels of formalities to have any issue addressed.

Almost every morning, I have a 15-minute presentation in front of employees. It could be a theme. More often than that not, it’s career issues, career advice or a motivational presentation.

Recognize employees. There’s not more than three hours where I am not walking through the company and walking up to someone and saying, ‘Hey Jim, that was a great job yesterday’ in front of people that work around him or her. Of course, there are a few that don’t really appreciate public recognition and you take that into consideration. A plaque, a little presentation in front of the entire company and shake their hand, and they get a $100 gift certificate. We have the employee of the month. It comes with a plaque and $100 gift certificate.

For Valentine’s Day, if we made our number, each employee can choose a gift basket or a bottle of red wine. We made the number, and I handed it out in person.

You get more done if people are excited and enthused about the company they work for. They wear their work shirts with the company logo with pride. They go out shopping still wearing it and are proud to show it. They identify with the company. You just get more done that way.

When people work late, we send flowers to the wife, if it’s the husband, and a thank you card. That’s a positive thing. How will I expect Jim to work late if he doesn’t see appreciation? Now, if Jim slacks and doesn’t come to work two days in a row without a legitimate excuse, you have to feel the opposite.

Make your employees find the answers. If people come to me with an issue they haven’t thought through, and they don’t present with any suggested solution, I will send them back. I’m not a psychiatrist. We have a business to run.

When there is a challenge, we need a solution, and we need it fast. They know they can go to Michael and get an answer, but they also understand that they have to prepare. They have to have the facts down.

My next question is going to be, ‘How would you like to decide?’ They say, ‘I don’t know.’ That’s not good. I’m not here to do your job.

Go back and come back with a suggested solution to me and we will bounce it off my suggested solution. If it’s the same, we are cool. If not, we will talk some more. The goal is so the employees don’t have to come to me.

So, you have to train them toward independence. Which again, goes through the same issue of them feeling valued and appreciated. I push my people to make their own decisions.

Will I kick your butt if you make a wrong decision? Of course I will. It comes with the territory. Part of building a career is making your own independent decisions, taking risks. You will never be fired for taking a risk, unless you aren’t thinking things through.

Put interviewees at ease. When you interview somebody, that is the first and last time you see them in a suit. That’s not only the outward thing. That’s the whole behavior and whole appearance designed toward an interview situation.

I try to communicate in a way to that person so that they take that suit or attitude off. I try to find the real person. I put them at ease, and you talk about something that is not immediately jobrelated. I try to find what interests them or what hobbies they have. Then, ask them questions about their life, of course without crossing the lines or questions that are inappropriate. People like to talk about themselves, and we invite them to do that. The people we interview here are typical salespeople.

My theory is if you can’t sell yourself, then you cannot sell my products.

HOW TO REACH: IC INTRACOM, www.icintracom.com or (800) 881-7325