Creating freedom Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2010

Burt Kunik wants a culture of employees who think freely and view themselves as entrepreneurs. Kunik, founder, chairman and CEO, of Sharps Compliance Corp., which posted $20 million in fiscal 2009 revenue, has to spread that message throughout the medical waste company.

“The leadership of a company needs to speak at all times relative to the culture that you believe it is — that creates a success that you want in your company,” he says.

Along with an individual message, your company needs to know the mission and vision of the organization. The more employees feel a part of setting and reaching organizational goals, the more successful you will be.

“Everybody needs to feel a part of where you’re going and to be a part of your vision,” he says. “When we have a staff meeting, people all show up and they are very excited to talk about where we are, what we’re doing and the role they can play in it.”

Smart Business spoke with Kunik about how to create an entrepreneurial culture.

Be inviting. You have to invite an openness amongst your employees to make them feel comfortable, always. The big word in the culture that I’ve created is creative entrepreneurship. I think that everybody in the company needs to feel they are part of a creative entrepreneurship. In that regard, I invite people to come in, (and I say), ‘What are your new ideas?’ It just can’t be wrong. The only thing that is wrong is not having ideas and not being able to discuss how we can be a better company. That to me is a big part.

You see that in a lot of companies that are getting started because large corporations have created a lot of people working in silos that aren’t really a part of a creative entrepreneurship. When you are in a company that is a smaller size, you make people feel a part of what you are doing. It’s pretty easy. You just have to want to do that every day.

Be consistent. If you want your people to feel like they are a part of your vision, you have to work on that every day. It’s in contrast to showing up at a meeting, making a statement and then going to do something else. That has to be part of your every day — [from] when you walk into the office to the time that you walk out of the office — that you stand for what you believe in, (which) is the culture of the company.

You have to visit with your staff members. You have to discuss issues with them, you have to make them feel important and part of your creative entrepreneurship there. You have to have frequent meetings where you can have discussions and sharing.

Use ideas. I always take (an idea) in, and I try to incorporate it the best that I can, even though I don’t think it’s a good idea, and try to figure out how I can make it a part of what we are doing some way. So, I can respect and care about the fact that they brought me something new. You have to respect the person for the fact that they really thought it was important to bring you something.

People care that you care, and once you show them that you care, they feel proud of the fact that they did care enough to bring a new idea to the company. Then, you can even mention it along the way at the staff meeting that, ‘Carol brought in an idea today, and we are trying to work with it.’ Just try to respect the person for the fact that they brought something to you.

Don’t handle managers’ issues. If your senior managers are good people, then that should rarely happen. It’s when people come to me to discuss that, I try to listen to what they are saying and then I say, ‘This is something really you need to talk (about) with your direct report.’ So, I probably will follow up to talk with the direct report to relay the conversation and just make sure that gets managed by whomever they directly report to.

Very good senior managers understand the value the employee brings to the table. If that employee really brings everything to the table, I think they will understand that they just missed it and should accept it in the right vein and move on.

Wait for employees to adjust. If somebody is dishonest, I like them to leave right away. If somebody is trying to find their way into the culture, I think you need to work with them, give them time and give them an opportunity to become a part of it because a lot of people have not come from a creative entrepreneurship background, and coming in is a new experience. Sometimes they have tremendous talent that’s just never been shown before, and you give them the opportunity and, all of a sudden, you have a wonderful employee there who is part of your culture.

It’s the leader that has to speak to it at all times because otherwise the managers don’t feel reinforced to begin with because everyone has their fires to put out every day. So, I reinforce that with managers, and then I reinforce it with staff meetings at least once a month.

Check your ego. For me, as a leader, I have always said, ‘Don’t ever look to respect me because of my title or the fact that I have anything to do with your paycheck. Respect me because of what I bring to the table.’ Our future is based on our creativity and it’s all up to us. We have what it takes. We don’t have any debt, we’ve got plenty of cash, and we have a great future in our company. What our success will depend upon is our ability to be creative and execute.

How to reach: Sharps Compliance Corp., (713) 432-0300 or