Building balance Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

When there are four opinions on everything, things can get a little crazy.

Yet Steve Soule enjoys the push and pull he has with the three other managing members at CMR Construction and Roofing LLC. Soule and Ross Hail were the initial partners of the 100-employee company, and were later joined by Bryan Jones and John Brown. Soule, the CEO, views the partnership as a way of forming a good balance within the company.

“Ross comes up with some wild ideas, and I do, too. But he’s kind of the protagonist, and I’m kind of the antagonist,” Soule says. “He comes up with 50 ideas, and I shoot down 30 of them. A lot of the time my response is, ‘That’s a great idea, but how are we going to do that? Is that a realistic goal?’”

In 2005, CMR generated $8 million in revenue, up from $4.5 million in 2004 and $2.8 million in 2003.

Smart Business spoke with Soule about how to find employees, make decisions and grow a company.

Q: How much input do you get when making decisions?

If there’s a decision to be made, or something of that nature, then I make the decision and explain to the people why the decision was made, and then we move forward with it.

I believe in not asking somebody to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. That helps get people on board because they see the confidence you have in your own decision.

There are other decisions you want to discuss. In every decision we make, we put a lot of time and thought on how people are going to handle and react to that decision. Especially on the major ones.

A lot of the time, I discuss an idea or concept with different people just to see what their reaction is to it and if they have any improvements or any additional ideas that can make the concept a better one.

Q: How do you deal with failure?

I take responsibility for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s my fault or not. If it’s a decision I signed off on, it’s my decision, and I take responsibility for it.

I may deal with that other person. If they were involved in it and it was something negligent on their part, I might handle that with them. But I will still ultimately take responsibility for that decision. You need people to step up and say, ‘Hey, let’s make this thing right.’

On a smaller level, if I made a decision about how to do a project, or if there was a salesman or a commission involved, I’ll stick up for the guy and take care of it if it wasn’t his fault. If it was with the customer, make it right with the customer. If I have to rip it off and do it over again, I’ll rip it off and do it over again.

That’s one of the things I tell customers. I can’t sit here and promise you everything is going to go perfectly. If I tell you that, then eventually, to somebody, I am going to be a liar. The only thing I can guarantee is that I will complete this contract, and when it is done, it will be done right.

Any problems arise, I will correct them. I carry that same philosophy in the office as well.

Q: What do you look for in employees?

We shifted our focus away from hiring experienced salesmen to focusing more on recent college graduates. I can offer a sales rep a lot more than what they would probably be making as a starting salary.

By being able to be at the upper echelon of what is being paid to these college graduates, I can hand-pick the ones I want, looking for that perfect blend of outgoing and social activities, good grades and extracurricular activities; the ability to handle a lot of things and to be self-motivated to go out and do more.

Instead of picking these guys up off of Monster or CareerBuilder, our next step is to actually go to the colleges and get these kids even before they graduate.

Q: How do you grow a company?

You have to figure what you are strong at and what you aren’t strong at, as far as your personal skills. I truly believe I have to have creativity to come up with new ideas.

You have to have a process in mind to be able to, if you have this idea, how are you going to be able to implement it? Then you have to have the ability to convey that idea to your employees and convince them of it. You have to understand who you are and what you are capable of, and be real about it.

HOW TO REACH: CMR Construction & Roofing LLC, (866) 424-5435 or www.cmrconstruction.com