Keeping it all together Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Mike Mountford continually promotes his vision and culture throughout the facility at AllAmericanDirect.com, which is the DBA name of National Programming Service LLC. Sometimes, he even finds ways to promote the culture through the most ordinary of tasks.

“It’s kind of funny, but I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to get out and talk to people is on the way to and from the restroom,” he says. “I don’t have a restroom adjacent to my office, which is good, because it means I have to go down the hall, say hello and meet people.”

Mountford, the founder and CEO of the Internet-based electronics store — which generated $30 million in 2008 revenue — says the lesson is to treat every venture outside of your office as an opportunity to engage employees and promote your culture. Even walking the halls on mundane trips like coffee and restroom breaks presents an opportunity to get in front of your people.

Smart Business spoke with Mountford about how you can use everyday opportunities to promote your vision to employees.

Get out of the office. I try to make it a point to get out and mix with all the employees several times a day. It’s key that they see you out there. They like seeing you out there. I also do individual meetings with employees. I start hammering that home with our training classes for new employees. When I speak to them, I stress to them that if they ever want to meet with me, send me an e-mail and we’ll make a time. Even if they come knock on your door and you’re busy, tell them to send you an e-mail and make a time that works for both of you.

Developing that level of familiarity, that sort of business friendships, with employees is a matter of getting them on board with what you’re trying to do. It’s easier to sell the vision and sell the story. That’s the difference. It’s the ability to communicate the vision and the purpose a lot better when people know you’re there and they can work with you, associate with you.

Make the time. You need to be sure that you’re making the time to engage people on a more personal level. It’s just like anything else in the world of business. You just make up your mind that you’re going to do it and find a way to make it happen.

Every time you’re walking the halls, it’s a chance to talk. When I’m walking down the hall just doing my everyday tasks, a lot of times, someone will stop me and ask me a question.

On top of that, if I find that I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for too long, I start to feel like I need to get out of the office. I make a reason to go and talk to someone, mixing with people and saying hello along the way. There just is no substitute for walking among the cubicles once in a while. It’s not like you want to be looking over their shoulders all the time, but you want to show everyone that you’re there and supporting them as they do their jobs.

Believe in what you are communicating. Be true to yourself. That is the primary thing to remember. Be true to the vision. If your vision is not something you believe in, your employees will know. It’s really important that you live the vision every day, that it’s something that you are working toward every day. Your employees need to know that the vision is something to which you are committed, and they need to know that you are not just making a halfhearted attempt to achieve it.

Being true to your vision means that every day, you’re trying to get a little bit closer to your goal. Goals are not met all at once — certainly not big company goals. Our goal is to make $250 million in e-commerce in the next five years, and we know we’re not going to get there next year. But one of the pieces was bringing in an e-commerce manager. So, one day, you come in and say that you need to take this step, you size up how you’re going to take that step, what resources you need, and make that step happen. You put that piece of the puzzle in place. It’s really just keeping the goals of the company in mind over the long haul and tackling them step by step.

Foster unity. You set the vision and point toward it, and get everyone in the company understanding that we’re all working together toward the same purpose. For example, I talk to every training class as they come through, try to give them a little bit of the vision, try to get them to understand that we should be on the same page. The company is here to prosper, every person is here to prosper and we should be able to put those two things together. If those things aren’t going hand in hand, if the company goals aren’t meeting your goals, you need to find out where that is going wrong and see if you can reconcile that and get that corrected.

Everybody needs a sense of purpose. You can say in our organization that we take phone calls to sell a certain product but what does that mean? You’re selling five TVs, so what does that mean? You get a bonus if you sell 10 TVs in a month, but what does that mean in the larger picture? That extra $20 bonus for selling those 10 TVs means the company could go public in five years. You’re working for the profitability of the company, and that’s the mindset you need to instill in your people.

How to reach: National Programming Service LLC (DBA AllAmericanDirect.com), (800) 249-1063 or www.allamericandirect.com