Rob Meck likes to push people to see how they respond. When he arrived at Premiere Credit of North America LLC, that’s exactly what he set out to do.
“I came on board in July 2009 and was cast with the challenge of transitioning a mature, but small entrepreneurial accounts receivable management firm into a leading national accounts receivable management firm with the ability to grow both immediately and rapidly,” Meck says.
He began meeting with company leaders to gauge who could work well under the pressure of pursuing growth.
“Too many managers, especially during the turmoil we were going through, and it’s such a huge transition, automatically retreated and didn’t want to take a lot of risk,” says Meck, the 400-employee company’s president and CEO.
He wanted people who could step out of their comfort zone and grow with the business. So he engaged them in strategic projects that contained a certain element of risk and working side by side and made an assessment of their abilities.
“I try to be a mentor with all of them and one of the things I do with them is try to roll up my sleeves with them and work on projects,” Meck says. “I really had to pick who the keepers were, and we had a lot of people we wanted to maintain. We put those people in specific areas that we really wanted to build on, strong people that had loyalty to the company and adherence to our values. We also recognized there were a lot of people who weren’t going to stay.”
Testing people doesn’t have to be throwing them in the deep end to see if they can swim. Work with them closely to discover their talents and abilities. Make it clear that mistakes are OK, as long they are made in the pursuit of progress.
“Reaffirm with them that the failure of you trying something and taking that risk isn’t career ending,” Meck says. “You can learn from that mistake. You’re not going to get punished for trying something that was an educated risk. … In a competitive world, if you don’t take some risk, you’re never going to be the top-ranked performer in your industry.”
The fear of taking risks is what holds back many entrepreneurial businesses.
“A lot of them struggle with the fact that building the infrastructure is a fairly significant expense of non-revenue generating, nonprofit making individuals,” Meck says. “If you’re going to invest into it and do it right, it costs money and it could affect earnings.”
Meck was willing to take some of those risks and he found other leaders who also thrived under pressure. But there were some who didn’t fit his mold and that led to his move to bring more than 30 new managers from 20 competing companies to Premiere Credit.
“Bad turnover is when you lose one of your top performing, most compliant, loyal and dedicated employees,” Meck says. “Good turnover is when you lose some of your lower performing people who don’t buy into your values. We knew that if we did not adhere tightly to our core values and have everyone buy into them, the company would not be as strong as it could be.”
The ability to make those tough decisions and take a few chances along the way is often the difference between a company that grows and one that plateaus.
“A lot of entrepreneurs really have loyalty to the people who made them successful,” Meck says. “It’s hard to keep them on the payroll and hire someone else who has that higher skill set and still maintain your financial business model.”
Meck is confident the steps taken thus far have Premiere on a path to growth.
“Our performance on every one of our clients has improved dramatically in the last year with people buying in to our new cultural values,” Meck says.
Catch your breath
Rob Meck moved quickly to make changes at Premiere Credit of North America LLC. So quickly, in fact, that he had to institute daily wrap-up meetings to keep track of it all.
“I was afraid we were losing track of all that we were doing,” says Meck, president and CEO at the 400-employee accounts receivable management firm. “So I set up executive debriefs at 5:30 every night for the top four executives for what was hopefully 15 or 30 minutes max. It was just a brain dump of everything that happened today.”
Maybe you don’t need a meeting every day. But Meck says it’s crucial that you make sure everybody is running forward at the same pace.
“As fast as we were moving, within a day, we could have had two executives taking different projects that were in opposition to each other,” Meck says. “It also served as a team-building exercise. It was a great way to end the day so that we all knew we were on each other’s team.”
Even though the pace has slowed a bit, the meetings continue.
“It helps communication,” Meck says. “It’s such an important part of the communication every day with our senior management team.”
HOW TO REACH: Premiere Credit of North America LLC, (888) 403-1637 or www.premierecredit.com