Tim Belton likes to ask a lot of questions. And he says that the dumber he thinks an idea is, the more questions he’ll ask. But that doesn’t mean the president and CEO of The New Release|moviecube has a problem with new ideas or that he’s married to his own.
“I might be wrong,” says Belton, whose company increased revenue 300 percent from 2006 to 2007.
This approach has helped the 150-employee company grow to become the second-largest movie kiosk operator in the nation, with 2,200 kiosks in place and more than 400 new ones on the way.
Smart Business spoke with Belton about how to get your employees excited about your company’s growth.
Q. How do you get employees excited about what your company is doing?
Be engaged in the business and with the people. We have frequent employee meetings. Some people have the brown-bag lunch, but since we’re in the movie business, we have what’s called the ‘pop and talk.’
We get everybody together and we have a big movie-theater-size popcorn popper.
I didn’t come up with either the name ‘pop and talk’ or the format. I said, ‘Look, we’re going to start having these brown-bag lunches. But that’s not very creative. You guys come up with the format and the name, and you guys are going to be doing the presentation.’
You don’t have to be overly cute about it and overly design it. Just ask the employees how they want to package it. Validate that it’s important. Be present when they happen.
Be relevantly connected to those types of activities for it to really stick in the culture of the organization.
We pulled everybody out of the work environment, including people from our call center, which was a big deal. We pulled them all together and had each one of the executives tell them what they were doing but also explain why they are passionate about it.
Q. How do you encourage input?
Listen when people give suggestions. Adults are usually predisposed to improving their environment and doing a good job. What frustrates them the most is when they feel like they aren’t being given that opportunity at work.
When they make a suggestion, even if it’s totally inappropriate to implement, listen to them and dialogue with them about it and make them feel welcome to take the risk of putting their idea out there on the floor.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a janitor or CEO, you are probably a brother or sister or son or daughter or parent or running a household outside of work. If a bank is going to entrust you with a car loan or a house loan or whatever, you probably have enough responsibility to make a contribution on how to better run at least your corner of the company.
Q. Why do you ask employees so many questions?
Sometimes people try to put the monkey on your back by making a recommendation that they themselves would never take personal ownership over implementing. A really great way to test somebody’s commitment to an idea is asking them to put together an implementation plan.
Bring together some colleagues to vet it before it gets presented for allocating time or money to it. That’s always a good approach because you get more minds looking at it.
If somebody is willing to take personal ownership over it, even if it’s only a B-minus idea, you may wind up getting better results than having an A-plus idea that nobody is really willing to own and drive.
Q. How else can you help employees help you?
Design roles and responsibilities and manage performance. Either organizations don’t have job descriptions or they do and they are perfunctory and meaningless. We went through a process of really designing the job and identifying the professional competencies.
All of the job descriptions had a statement of the work environment, which addressed the reality of the transition we were going through and the human qualities we were expecting of people. The subtle point of it is if this doesn’t match up with what you want to do, don’t sign the document.
I have people sign the job description at the top so it’s not just a document in the file. They are personally committing to doing that role by signing it.
Q. How important is camaraderie?
Your shareholders and your customers don’t care whether you get together on the weekend and watch a football game. They care about whether or not you deliver on your promise to them.
The flip side is you’re more likely to deliver on that promise if you’re well run, your job requirements are clearly defined, your performance measurements are objective and reasonable, and employees feel like they are being paid fairly.
Every survey I have seen on why people leave a company, money is seldom in the top three. It’s usually I don’t feel respected by my boss, and I don’t feel like I’m being allowed to contribute.
HOW TO REACH: The New Release|moviecube, (800) 518-1574 or www.thenewrelease.com