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Promoting smiles Featured

8:00pm EDT October 25, 2007
Patrick Henry likes to see people smile, especially when they are sitting in front of his desk with the hope of getting a job at Patrick Henry Creative Promotions Inc.

That’s because the founder, president and CEO of the food and beverage marketing agency believes that positive employees who are confident in their work help breed a positive culture at his company.

“Whether it’s criticism or it’s correcting them on something, I always put a positive twist to it,” Henry says. “The more critical you are of an employee, the more turned off they get. Most of the time, that’s when they go out and start interviewing somewhere else.”

Henry has used this philosophy to lead his 31-employee company to 2006 sales of $14 million.

Smart Business spoke with Henry about how being knocked down a notch or two really makes you appreciate the good days.

Q: How do you empower employees?

If anything goes haywire with a client or if anything happens that is not in the best interest of us or if we have anybody upset with us, I am the first one to pick up the phone and call them and tell them we will make it right. We will do the right thing, and I will back the employee 110 percent — good or bad.

They know if they are doing the right thing, we’re behind them 100 percent. They know if they make a mistake, we’re still behind them 100 percent. It gives them a much more confident level in their working ability.

It’s very easy to criticize. I know being the president and CEO of this company, anything I say, they will take to the bank. I’m very careful what I say to them. When you criticize somebody, you do it behind the doors, one on one. When you praise them, I firmly believe you do it front of the whole group.

Q: How do you encourage constructive criticism?

I eat lunch with them every day. I eat lunch in the office, and we’ll eat lunch together. You get to a comfortable level. It’s not a trust factor; I trust everybody in this company.

It’s a level that you get to with people — people that you know are going to do what is in the best interest of the company and not themselves or someone else. If you just say yes because you think that’s the right answer and the easy answer, then you’re not doing anyone any good. I’m my biggest critic. I tell them, ‘If I’m not doing what’s right for the company, if you don’t think this is a good decision, you need to tell me.’

Q: How do you deal with failure?

Failure makes you a better person, no matter what you do. I played sports when I was a kid. In sports, you fail a lot. I struck

out a bunch of times in baseball and dropped a lot of passes and missed a lot of basketball shots.

You might miss 10 shots at basketball, but you’ll remember the best shot you made that day. When it comes to failure, there is nothing wrong with that. It makes a better person. I’ve always told everybody, you’ve got to fail a few times. You have to be knocked down a notch or two to really appreciate the good days.

Q: Why are performance reviews important?

At our employee outing, we asked people, ‘What would you like to do to improve the company?’ It was overwhelming how everyone wanted a review and wanted to know where they stood.

We are now doing quarterly reviews. When we did them for the first time, we found that everybody was so appreciative. At the same time, we lost a couple people because their reviews were not good, and they were definitely offended by their reviews. They thought they had done a great job. Overall, they had done a good job.

Some people will take a review and run with it and do a better job performing for you and take it as positive criticism. And you’ve got people that are thin-skinned and can’t accept criticism. As much as you don’t want to lose them, you’re going to be better off.

Q: What is the key to a healthy client relationship?

The first thing we said the day before we left on the Fourth of July was, ‘Will you e-mail or call at least 10 of your clients and wish them a happy Fourth?’ Don’t even talk work. Don’t bring one thing up about work. I always preach here, ‘Don’t just call the client for work.’ Call the client every once in awhile and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ It just builds great relationships. It’s not all about work.

HOW TO REACH: Patrick Henry Creative Promotions Inc., (281) 983-5500 or www.phcp.com