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Heart and soul Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

If you’re an entrepreneur and you aren’t willing to invest your heart and soul in making your business a success, the chances are pretty good that you will fail, says Richard Miller.

“All you’ve got to do is work 100 hours a week and stuff happens,” says Miller, founder, president and CEO of Fineline Printing Group. “There has to be a reason why one goes into their own business. You’re going to pay a price.”

The key is to find that reason within the person and use it as hir or her driving force to make the company a success. For Miller, the key was the image of him and his father — both of whom had emigrated from Argentina — standing together in New York with only $100 between them.

By holding on to his dream, no matter what, Miller has led his 72-employee printing company to 2006 revenue of nearly $11 million.

Smart Business spoke with Miller about how to earn respect by getting to know your employees.

Q: How do you earn employee loyalty?

If they like you and respect you, you’re going to win. You earn it by doing social things with them, things that are not really expected. Having random chili cook-offs like we have here.

Last week, we had a back masseuse come in. Work with the people and talk to them from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. I ride with our truck driver, and it seems like that is unusual. You get to know them personally, you get to know their family, and you get to know about them and their dreams and aspirations and thoughts about the future.

It allows you a moment that it is strictly about them. It has a tendency to create a tad of passion. They look up to you, and because they know you, because they shared their life with you, they have more of a tendency to be more engaged in your business and want to be here.

I like serving the people, not just our customers but our employees. Serving is as simple as when we have a picnic for 150 people; I do the cooking. That’s one manner of serving. If there is trash to be taken out, I’ll take it out. If your car doesn’t start, you can take mine. What can I do for you? Be very accessible.

Don’t be afraid to come over and talk to me.

When a new person comes in and goes through orientation, the staff itself starts complimenting how you manage and what you do. By the time I found out about them, a lot of the homework has been done for me. In a sense, if you set it up, it just grows.

Q: How do you find the right people?

We go to a battery of tests for assessment on IQ and adaptability for positions. We are always looking; we all look for people all the time and keep a bank. As a position remotely close to our need comes open, we contact those people first.

It’s networking, just keeping our eyes peeled. If present employees are happy, they are the ones who suggest a former coworker or someone that touched their life somehow that it’s worth for us to talk to.

Q: How do you identify leaders?

They can quickly come in and tell you what they would do if it was them, if they had the opportunity. I’m one of those that will let you try it and not hope that you fail but hope that you make it. People that are not afraid to try and not afraid to fail.

It’s your department — understand it and bring to the plate how to make it better. You’re the knowledgeable individual in your department. We will listen and add to it and help you talk it out and spread it out to your staff.

Let them bring ideas to the table, implement them, and bring the next idea and stay out of their way. I want them to know that we do value everybody’s ideas.

I want them to understand and ask, ‘How hierarchal are we? Do we promote cross-functional development? Does our climate promote open and honest communication? What are our strategies? How are we performing? What makes us money? What costs us money?’

Q: How do you deal with mistakes?

I forgive, forget and go on. Don’t dwell on it. Make it right; move on. Somebody stiffs you for money — forgive, forget and move on. You can’t let it fester. It doesn’t create an example of anything.

We do have a system where people write a corrective action form. Where did the mistake come from? How can we avoid it in the future?

We catalog those and get together and implement another checkpoint for it. We see in the system where the failure occurred and address it at that location.

HOW TO REACH: Fineline Printing Group, (317) 872-4490 or www.finelink.com