Being an effective CEO means recognizing that every once in awhile, you won’t have the best answer to a problem, says Fred Pratt, co-founder and CEO of DYONYX LP.
“I encourage these guys to interact and tell me what they’re thinking,” Pratt says. “I’ll go, ‘Man, that’s a funny look on your face. Tell me what you’re thinking. Don’t let us walk into this thing and get stung.’ In a professional way, a healthy debate over what’s the best way and the right way to do things is always encouraged.”
By encouraging employee input and looking to build relationships both within his company and with clients, Pratt led the IT and management consulting firm to 2006 revenue of $27.5 million, with 77 full-time employees.
Smart Business spoke with Pratt about how to empower employees and why he leads with his gut.
Q: How do you earn employee loyalty?
Just talk to people like they are human beings. Don’t talk to them like you’re the CEO or like you’re some guy who is in charge of something. I’ll meet them in the coffee bar. ‘How are you doing? How was church this weekend? Did you catch any fish?’ It’s a very personal relationship.
When they are doing their jobs right, it’s great. If something goes wrong, I can talk to them on a level of not going in to bust their chops but,‘Hey, what did we do wrong here? Is there something that I didn’t do to help you? Was it just a mistake?’
Establish that interpersonal connection with people. The guys I learn the most from are the guys who are on the front lines.
One of the practices that I do if I ever get a break during the day is I go around the office and sit in everyone’s office and just say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’
I hear more about what’s happening in the field and what’s happening with our customers and things that are going on. I use opportunities like that to really try to stay in touch with these guys
Q: How do you assess growth opportunities?
People are driven so much by revenue that they are not driven by goals and objectives any more. Their goals are, ‘I’ve got to turn X million dollars this year or else I’ll be in trouble.’ If our goal is ever to attain a certain amount of dollars, we’re on the wrong boat.
Have a goal of what’s the long-term vision of the company. What are you trying to attain? For us, we want to build a legacy.
If we look at new strategies, I’m not bashful about wading in there and breaking the ice with my shotgun to see what will work and what won’t. If you do something like that and you get it going and you find out that it is successful, that’s when you look back and you see that other people are following you. People want to follow success.
But you have to lead by example. I don’t think you can just say, ‘Go here, do this and go do that,’ and get things done. It doesn’t mean that I try to swing at pitches that are outside of the strike zone, either. It has to be balanced with the things that we can do well and that fit in to the overall vision and direction for us.
Q: How do you find the right people to help grow your business?
The skill parts change every day in this business. We can train that. It’s their commitment to excellence that’s going to make them go above and beyond and press hard and make it happen.
Empowering an employee is a little bit at a time every day, consistent pressure that this is what we do and this is how we do it. We trust you, now go do the right things. They build a level of confidence.
I trust these guys, and they trust me. I get out there, and I do my job. If I make a mistake, hey, everybody owns up to it, and we made a mistake. How do we keep from doing that again?
Q: What one thing will kill a business?
Inconsistent leadership will kill it faster than anything I know. People throw their hands up and go, ‘I don’t have a clue what these guys want.’
The way you treat the people, the way you lead the company and the way you treat a customer, you have to be consistent. There is no such thing as having a bad day in my book. I work really hard not to have a bad day. When I come in, I do whatever I have to do to make sure that I’m consistent.
HOW TO REACH: DYONYX LP, (713) 830-5900 or www.dyonyx.com