Swinging for the fences Featured

8:00pm EDT September 20, 2006
 The inside of C.I.K. Enterprises is more like a sports arena than an office. And that’s just the way co-founders Scott Hill, CEO, and Andy Medley, COO, like it at their holding company, which focuses on direct marketing and other print marketing needs nationwide, primarily with newspapers and auto dealers.

“Everything in here revolves around a team, a championship, and this is our stadium,” Hill says of the estimated 80-employee business. “We have signage in the building that makes it look like a stadium. Instead of having a printer room, we have a press box. Instead of a lunchroom, we have a player’s lounge.”

Outstanding workers are even rewarded with a championship trophy and belt.

That atmosphere has helped the company hit home runs, with 2005 revenue of $20.5 million, up from $10.5 million in 2005

Smart Business spoke with Hill about how to create a strong company culture, find motivated employees and work with a partner.

How has creating a unique work environment benefited the company?
The biggest thing I run into is people saying, ‘Our people don’t care about that stuff. They’re not going to care how the company is doing. They’re just looking for a job to come to from 9 to 5.’

Do you want those people working for you, or do you want people who are excited every day, who are trying to make a difference, or who are motivated to try to do great things so they do get a championship trophy and belt? A culture is going to develop whether you are in control of it or not.

If you want a culture that is apathetic and that doesn’t care, then who is going to fit into that culture when you go to hire the next person? It’s not going to be somebody that is ambitious and driven.

The person who is going to fit into that culture is going to be the same person who is just looking for a 9 to 5 job.

How do you create that team environment?
At a lot of companies, you see a lot of walls develop between departments because people are naturally competitive and naturally want drama. If you don’t give that to them, then they are going to create it. If you don’t give them somebody to beat, then their job and who they are trying to beat becomes the sales department.

(So) you want it to become the competitor that is outside the building. Every little piece revolves around the center component that we are playing a game here. We’re going to show you the score in the game. We’re going to let you see and have a benefit to what the score is going to be.

Every other benefit that has made us successful centers around, when somebody comes in here, they are able to see the impact they are having. They are able to be a part of it, and they are able to get a benefit from it. Everything else makes it fall into place.

Nobody in here is going to allow someone in the operations department to not help the sales staff just because the salesperson makes three times as much money as they do. How is that helping anybody?

The only way the operations department (will) make more money is from bonuses, which comes from helping the sales department become richer.

How do you develop a partnership?
A lot of partnerships fail because they take the other person for granted, and there are natural ego things that develop when success hits. Andy and I have had open conversations about these things and trying to keep that from happening.

One of the most misguided things when people judge a partner is they just jump into it because the opportunity seems great. You wouldn’t go into a marriage that way. This is really a marriage. You will be spending more time with this person than probably your spouse.

You need to be very careful who you judge as a partner. If you get the right person on board as a partner, it’s like a great marriage.

There’s not anything better than having a great teammate by your side at life. Communication, openness and trust — if you don’t have a partner who is willing to give you those three things, then one of you will end up having problems with the other person down the road.

How do you handle challenges?
It’s very easy to get disheartened or sidetracked by things that can develop. If you keep that overall goal in place, then the sidetracks or things that happen along the way are just little speed bumps along to where the overall goal is at.

If you don’t have that plan in place, those speed bumps can seem like huge mountains that are insurmountable. But if your prize and goal are big enough, then anything that comes along seems much smaller.

HOW TO REACH: C.I.K. Enterprises, (800) 873-3117 or www.cikenterprises.com