“We got together and made the decision that we really would be well served by creating a strategic plan,” say Buenz, president of Advanced Aromatics. “We involved most of the employees in the company to look at our strengths and weaknesses. From that effort, we developed a strategic plan for the company.”
Advanced Aromatics has grown about 10 percent a year since the strategic plan was conceived in 1995. Revenue in 2005 totaled about $39 million at the naphthalene and naphthalene-derivatives manufacturer. Smart Business spoke with the company’s president about the importance of being a good communicator and enjoying your work.
Q: How do you find the right employees?
We want first to understand internally what we want that person to do. Do a lot of networking and a lot of listening.
It’s important that more than one person on the team is involved in the hiring process or the interview process. If it’s a key position, you’re going to want to have input from the sales and marketing and manufacturing, and as many different viewpoints as you can get or as time allows.
I like to understand a person’s goals and objectives. What have they enjoyed in prior work experiences? What have they considered successes? What are their longer-term goals?
Hopefully you have taken enough time to develop a relationship with this person before you enter into an employment arrangement.
Q: How do you develop a vision?
You can put something down on paper and you can talk about it, but it depends on doing a lot of talking and a lot of listening. We started back in the mid-1990s doing work across the company with all employees, doing a lot of interviewing and discussion, to work through the strengths and weaknesses that we had in the company.
Hopefully, a company is going to be mature enough that they will be able to examine their strengths and weaknesses. Examining what the marketplace is telling them at the time. Understanding your people are your strengths.
Go to your people and get input from them. Move from there to enunciating a strategy. It should take time to mature and develop that strategic statement.
Once you have developed that mission statement, you have to walk the talk and mold your business to fit the vision that you have. It’s not done overnight. You have to keep reinforcing that statement. It’s a continual process, and it has to be measured.
Q: How do you convey the vision to employees?
It’s not a one-time event. You have to do it, I won’t say on a daily basis, but as frequently as possible. Have face-to-face communication with your employees. Put things out in print form for your employees, but face-to-face communication is as important, if not more important.
The managers throughout our company have specific groups that they are responsible for. It might be R&D, it might be operations or it might be maintenance. Use the organizational structure to communicate downwards. It’s my personal style that I like to know all the employees in the company and use that opportunity to gauge whether the word is getting out.
Q: What are some keys to being a strong leader?
Try to enjoy something out of every day. Be able to make good, timely decisions. Be pretty comfortable with risk.
Any decision that you make has risks associated with it. The key is to have an innate sense of what risks are acceptable. What are the boundaries, both positive and negative? Be able to make a decision based on the information that is presented to you.
Give good, constructive feedback to employees. Give assignments, lay out plans and then give feedback to the individuals concerned as to how they have performed. If something is not working, it needs to be communicated as quickly as possible so they can make a correction. I want them at the end of their career to feel like they have accomplished most of the goals that they have set for themselves. Stay in touch with your customers. Even though I’m not the person that is taking the order or setting the price, I want to know how he or she feels about our company.
I want to meet and know as many of our customer contacts as is possible so that we do not simply have a paper relationship but a personal relationship. I want people to feel good about the endeavor that they are involved in with my company.
HOW TO REACH: Advanced Aromatics L.P., (713) 296-7505 or www.advancedaromatics.com