Show that you care
You need to do what you can to get to know your people beyond
the work that they produce for your company. It can make things
a lot easier when the outside world infringes on your employees’
ability to do their job.
“We had an employee whose wife had a baby two months premature,” Titus says. “He left the hospital to go pick up his other child,
went around the block and got in a car accident and totaled his car.
You have a wife and a baby in intensive care and you’ve got a car that
is totally wrecked. You’ve got a guy that’s not thinking too straight.
“If I don’t know what’s going on, I might say, ‘What the heck is
going on with you?’ and find fault with something.”
Instead, Titus was able to draw on his own experience dealing
with a premature birth and offer support to his employee.
“You just have to be open and have a relationship with your people and talk with them,” Titus says.
Developing closer relationships with your people will help you
be more aware of the circumstances when problems arise. But in
the scope of the business, it will also open new doors to feedback
and suggestions that could help the company.
“There are so many companies out there that tell people what
they want to accomplish, but they don’t go to the other side and
find out what the employees want,” Titus says.
Gathering this input may involve meeting for breakfast or lunch
or it could be a simple walk around the building.
“Most times, it’s just stopping by their office, knocking on the
door and saying, ‘How are you doing? What’s going on?’” Titus
says. “‘I heard about this, what’s going on with this? Is there something I can help you with?’ If you do more helping them instead of
pointing fingers, I think that helps a lot.”
The idea is to make a real effort to listen to what your people
have to say and understand the challenges that they face in doing
“There are times when I feel like I’m biting my tongue so hard it’s
going to come off,” Titus says. “I have to recognize they have the
same challenges, and in some cases, it’s much harder for them.
They may see things differently than I do. There’s never one way
to get something done; there are multiple ways. … Encourage them
to do what they feel is right. Pull out of them what they want to do
rather than tell them what I would do.”
When he’s out of his office talking to employees, he always asks
a lot of questions. One reason is to get his employees out of the
habit of telling him what they think he wants to hear and keeping
their concerns to themselves.
“If they don’t question it out loud, they are going to keep it in their
head, which is worse,” Titus says. “I’d rather have it come out of
their mouth than be in a situation where they are thinking it, but
they give you lip service.”
It comes back to the idea of empowering people and putting
them in a position to affect change in your organization.
“I might say, ‘Everything is great right now, but how are we positioning ourselves for 2010?’” Titus says. “‘What are we going to do
in 2009 if certain things don’t work the same way? Do you think we
might want to invest in a little better Web site or hire another person to organize this for the future so we can continue doing well?’
Try to get it to come out of their mouth.”
Several years ago, Titus was looking for a person with an international background to fill a key position in the company.
“We’re going through this whole placement process and spending money on advertising and looking for this person,” Titus says.
“Meanwhile, I have somebody in my company that lived in Mexico
for five years, speaks Spanish and would love the position. But I
don’t even know it.”
It was a lesson that has stuck with Titus, forcing him to realize
that you should never lose touch with your people.
“You always have hidden gems in there,” Titus says. “My dad
would always say, ‘If you want to find out about a school, you don’t
ask the principal. Ask the janitor.’ If you want to find out about an
organization, don’t ask the senior executives. Go ask the people
that are handling the facilities, the IT people. Go ask the people
that are handling the sale of equipment.”
By getting everyone involved in the operation of the company,
UFG has grown to 1,450 franchise locations in 50 countries. Titus
hopes to increase the number of locations to 2,000 by 2010.
For Titus, the key to success is actually very simple.
“Treat people the way you want to be treated,” Titus says. “That
goes a long way in running a successful company.”
When asked when he will be satisfied with his accomplishments
in the business world, Titus says it’s not going to happen.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished,” Titus says. “But why
would I want to just sit back and be satisfied? Save that for retirement.”
Titus embraces employees who show a little initiative or even a
desire to sit in his chair one day.
“Some people are threatened if someone says, ‘I want your job
someday,’” Titus says. “I’m not threatened at all; I’m happy. ‘You
want my job? Let’s see what kind of work you’re willing to do to
get it.’ I’d rather have somebody that wants to achieve more and
accomplish more and isn’t going to be just satisfied.”
HOW TO REACH: United Franchise Group, (888) 816-6749 or www.unitedfranchisegroup.com