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Leading the way Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
John Stagge says he took a few chances in the early days of Techniks Inc., and they didn’t all work out.

“We’ve had a few product lines that we’ve put some significant money into not be successful because of my own inexperience in that particular market,” Stagge says.

So Stagge made a commitment to get to know his customers and their needs. And while he’s out researching potential new markets, he relies on his management team to keep things running smoothly back at the home office.

“If I’ve developed those people correctly, it becomes very easy for me to trust the people that I have trained to train other people,” Stagge says. The manufacturer of machine tools and accessories has grown at an average annual rate of more than 30 percent since it opened in 1996, with 2006 revenue totaling $14.5 million.

Smart Business spoke with the company’s president and founder about finding the leaders in a business.

Q: How do you empower employees?

I give them a set of objectives and then measure those objectives as they do their job. If I catch them doing a good job, I tell them about it. If I catch them not doing a good job, I try to retrain them or I ask them to tell me why they did it that way. We continually adjust and tweak their actions based on their objectives.

When I take on a job, I go do it myself and figure out exactly what needs to be done to be successful. Once I have done that, I set up a particular set of parameters that I developed for that job description.

I sit down with each employee and say, ‘Here are your objectives. We’re going to continually update, whether it be one minute at a time, one hour at a time or one day at a time, to accomplish those particular objectives for that particular job description.’

Q: Who handles training when you’re away?

We handpick our managers. Before they were actually managers of other people, they were managed under us. We can figure out whether those people are management material based on the objectives we set out for them to accomplish.

If I’ve developed people correctly, as I think I have, it becomes very easy for me to trust the people that I have trained to train other people. My managers below me become responsible for the people below them.

I do monthly updates with each one of the managers making sure that they are doing their jobs, and they are hitting their numbers and they are accomplishing the objectives that we set out at the beginning of the year.

Q: How do you find those people?

We’ve always hired people that we have had a lot of experience with, whether they’ve been family, friends or colleagues we worked with in the past, staying involved in a lot of different activities, whether that be through church or any type of organizations that they might be part of. If someone has a willingness to work and a willingness to learn and they are fairly educated and they are just good overall people, I think I can train them to be successful.

Q: What skill will help any leader succeed?

No matter what type of corporation you are in, sales experience is an absolute perfect asset for a president to have. I don’t feel that you can really understand the business cycle without understanding the sales cycle.

Sales are the first line item on the financial statement. Everything is driven off of sales.

Without understanding the customers’ decision criteria and their buying criteria, it’s very hard to lead any type of organization. Under-standing the psychology of the customer and what it takes to actually sell an item to a customer to make a profit.

Spend about two months with your salespeople. Get out and see the customers and make calls with salespeople and understand why people don’t buy from you and do buy from you.

Q: What is one key to a healthy relationship with employees?

It’s the constant communication, the constant feedback of how they are doing that is very important on a continual basis so people know where they stand.

If you don’t continually measure and continue to give them positive or negative feedback, I think people get frustrated and don’t understand what their daily tasks are and how they are doing inside the corporation. Positive feedback, or any feedback, is a good thing for all employees.

Sometimes I just get up and walk around the office and shake hands and ask them how they are doing, just getting out in the office and letting them know you are there to support them to accomplish their objectives.

If you create a culture where everybody is hush-hush, that doesn’t lead itself into constant communication and feedback to try to improve.

HOW TO REACH: Techniks Inc., www.techniksusa.com or (800) 597-3921