All in the family Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2008

Larry A. Cress treats his employees as part of his family. He values what they do for New Tech Engineering LP, an engineering consulting firm, and rewards and recognizes those who help the company reach its goals.

The founder, president and CEO also stresses the importance of a work-life-family balance to his 80 employees. If employees want to attend a child’s baseball game or a school event, Cress lets them leave early; in return, they figure out a way to still get their work finished. He also makes sure employees use their vacation time because time away makes them more valuable to the company.

Making employees feel valued in their roles and rewarding them for their efforts makes them more loyal, Cress says, and also helps the company grow. This has helped New Tech grow from 2006 revenue of $75 million to 2007 revenue of $115 million.

Smart Business spoke with Cress about how to listen, trust and value your employees.

Don’t interrupt a conversation. Listening comes with maturity. When somebody’s trying to present something to you, don’t jump in their conversation, but let them finish their sentence.

Ideas that come from people instead of being given to people are things they will buy in to. If they’re trying to give you an idea, don’t jump in and just walk all over their idea. Instead, let them say, ‘I think this, this and this,’ and you say, ‘That is a great idea; we ought to go forward with that.’

Let them come up with the concepts, praise them, follow through that they did a good job, and then move forward on that concept.

Trust your employees. You know employees are going to make mistakes, and it’s about how you handle them. If you reply harshly, you’re going to demo-tivate them.

When somebody realizes that didn’t make sense, don’t jump in and say, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of; why did you say that?’ If you give somebody that negative response, it’s possible they will never step up and give you another answer or go out on a limb.

If you give them a response like, ‘Let’s look at that and see where that concept would lead us. Here are the problems with it; have you thought about this problem or that problem?’ Give them opportunities to think through their suggestions and solve their own critiques themselves.

If you don’t trust an employee, you need to look for somebody else. How are you going to let them get out in front of you and do things for your company? If you don’t trust their work, business and management ethics, then you’re wasting your time and their time, and they need to go down the road. If you can’t trust them, that is going to lead to micromanaging and them becoming drones. It comes back to your hiring practices. If you don’t trust your employees, then you need to look at your hiring practices.

Employees buy in to concepts if you trust them. They will work harder to try and guarantee the success of one of their ideas more than they will for an idea that you laid onto them that they don’t think will work.

Recognize employees for a job well done. You would be shocked at how walking down the hall, patting somebody on the back and saying, ‘I heard you made a sale yesterday,’ or, ‘You did a great job in solving that problem,’ motivates people.

Just simple feedback from the top level raises enthusiasm phenomenally. They know that if the president of the company has noticed something and cares enough to say, ‘Hey, I noticed you did this,’ or, ‘I appreciate the job you do,’ it’s important.

We also thank their spouses for the sacrifices they make every day in allowing them to come and work for us — because they bring their work home. If that spouse is not supportive at the house, they’re not going to be happy with their job, and if they’re not happy with their job, eventually they’re going to leave it. So it takes support on many levels.

Don’t micromanage. If you try to micromanage, you will literally turn your growth in the other direction. You might prevent failures, but you’re also going to prevent employees from thinking openly and trying concepts that might have worked.

If everything comes from your mind instead of a group of minds, you’re weakened significantly. You’re going to repress thoughts because everything they do is going to be reactions of what you’re telling them to do instead of your own thought process.

Create a balance and treat employees like family. If you treat people like family, their loyalty to you will be unsurpassed. When you have loyal people, you don’t have to worry about shenanigans because you’ve got loyal people looking over those people’s shoulders all the time.

Your employees truly believe that you care about them and are going to respond at times when the going gets tough, and they know they’ve got to rearrange their schedule to get something done because it’s crunch time, but when it’s not crunch time, their families are able to enjoy them at home.

A happy employee has to be happy not only at the office but at home, and if they’re not happy in either place, they’re not going to be a happy. Happy employees generate great work environments and typically are loyal and dedicated employees.

HOW TO REACH: New Tech Engineering LP, (281) 951-4330 or www.newtecheng.com