Finding potential Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

The secret behind any successful company is having the right people, says Tom Lipar. As founder and CEO of LGI Development, a land and home sales and developing company, Lipar says that he struggles with hiring and retaining quality employees.

You can implement an extensive interviewing process, which LGI has, but that’s just the start, says Lipar, who has 105 employees. Once you hire the right employees, you need to give them the tools to do their job. To create a healthy, successful work force, you have to give employees the tools to do their jobs, educate them and help them find ways to meet both personal and company goals.

LGI Development, which posted 2007 revenue of $118.3 million, has been successful largely because of its sales training program, which Lipar carried over from a previous job, where he was charged with creating a similar program.

Smart Business spoke with Lipar about ways to help employees maximize their potential and, in return, the potential of your company.

Involve employees in setting goals.
All of our people in our company do goal setting. It’s a true goal-planning process. It starts from the top down; it starts from the business plan. We do that on an annual basis for one-year goals. Then, every month, everybody in the company meets with their directs and goes through monthly business and personal goals so that we’re all on the same page with objectives that the company wants.

The employee doesn’t just write the goals down and bring them to the company. It’s a goal-planning session where the manager sits with the employee and they discuss what’s going on in the company, what the employees need to do to achieve his personal goals as well as the company goals.

When they’re discussed, if the employee sets it too high, then the manager should know enough and say, ‘I think you’re a little bit too aggressive; we need to probably pull it back because one thing we don’t want you to do is seek failure and not reach your goals.’ We try to be realistic.

The principles of goal setting are they have to be realistic. They have to be written, and if you don’t reach them, they should be changed.

It definitely works. No. 1, the people who work for you have to know what the job is. They have to know how to do the job, and they have to know what they can do to achieve results in the job.

You should have a mutual expectation between management and their directs, so the manager knows what’s expected from their employees and the direct knows what to expect from their manager. And they should know what the overall objective of the company is, what their financial goals are, what the production goals are. Then, the employee can determine how he can effect that objective — be effective on that objective — to achieve through his own goals.

They know what the company’s goals are, and they then have the opportunity to say, ‘Well, I’m going to be this part of that company goal; I’m going to do this much to achieve that overall company goal.’ In other words, ‘I’m going to reach my goals, which, in turn, will help the company reach their goals.’

Give employees the right training.
We’re constantly looking internally for people that we can teach our system to so when the opportunity or a project comes up, we have the people to do it.

There’s two parts to training. Education is where you sit somebody down and they read things, they listen to tapes, they listen to lectures, they learn about what the job is and how to do the job. Training for sales-people is 100 days ... 30 days of classroom training, lectures, tapes, myself, the president of the company, different people in different departments.

The second part of training, and the most critical, is when the salesperson goes out to the field. They’re not put right in front of a customer. Their manager does on-the-job training. They show them how to clothe. They show them how to do a presentation. As the salesperson gets better, they’re given more time with the customer.

Promote for the right reasons.
You have to hire the good people, the good employees, but also you’ve got to make sure you have the right people doing the right jobs. I think that’s where a lot of companies fail. They promote people into a job as a reward rather than promoting people that can really do the job.

A good manager has to have certain qualities. The most important one they have to have is the ability to promote, demote or fire people without emotion.

When you promote somebody into a different job or a new job, they have to be qualified for that job. They have to be the right fit for the job, they have to be the right person for the job, otherwise you’re doing both the company and yourself a disservice because if they are not the right person for the job, obviously, they’ll fail.

When you’re promoting somebody to a new job, it’s like hiring a new person. You’ve got to know them, you’ve got to make sure they’re the right personality for the job, you’ve got to make sure they know how to do the job and that they’ll be successful in the job. It’s not just a reward.

HOW TO REACH: LGI Development, (281) 362-8998 or