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A fly on the wall Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

When Cameron Haughey visits the sales floor or stops at the desk of one of his employees at ICC Floors, he does it with a purpose. But that purpose is not to ask a string of questions or search for something that is being done wrong.

“I never want them to feel like I’m poking in on them,” Haughey says. “If they feel like someone is looking over their shoulder all the time, they are going to lose confidence in themselves. When you’re going to be in their face and all worried about what they are doing, they are going to pick up on that and start second-guessing their own decisions.”

Haughey, the co-owner, co-founder and president of ICC Floors, has watched the flooring provider’s business grow from its inception in 1998 to $13.5 million in sales for 2007, with 31 full-time employees.

Haughey says he and his partner, co-owner and co-founder Nathan Roberts, work to maintain a culture where employees can work autonomously.

And by setting a clear tone in their interview process, Haughey says employees have a good idea of what their job entails when they are hired.

Smart Business spoke with Haughey about how to stay in touch with your employees without badgering them.

Q. How do you show leadership?

You sometimes want to put your fingers in everything and micromanage everything. Until you can step back and hire great people and trust them to do their job, you’re going to be stuck in the mud.

Give them enough to run with. It’s OK for them to make a mistake. Those are the times when they grow as managers more than they have ever grown otherwise.

We’re very accessible. We’ll just stop in to talk to them for five minutes. Or they will come up to see us. It gives them a comfortable atmosphere to talk about something that’s bothering them.

Ask them questions. If they’re a personality type that’s not going to lay everything out there and I want to know something, I might ask a leading-type question that lets them take control and feel in control of that job.

I get the information I want to know without trying to beat it out of them. Let them feel in control.

Q. How do you find those people?

If they are full of it in the interview, then they are going to be full of it with customers and full of it with their co-workers. You’re going to get more of the same when they come on. I love the guys and gals that are more honest.

They say, ‘I’ve never done this, but I can do this and here’s why.’ I love people that come in and sell themselves.

We’ll start the first part of the interview with telling them our story with enthusiasm. They can see that we really love what we do. If they think, ‘Wow, this sounds like something I want to be a part of, and I’m excited about it,’ that starts coming out. If it doesn’t, that’s OK, too, but this may not be the right spot for them.

Q. How do you welcome new employees?

I love to see what people can do really early. Let them go.

‘Go out and do something new. What can come out of your brain that didn’t come out of mine? Show me something. What can you bring to the table that is new and creative?’

A lot of that creativity comes when you don’t just rope them in.

Q. How can you get the best from your employees?

As owners, sometimes you think, ‘I’ve got to get out there, especially out in the field, so customers can see me.’ That’s just the smallest part of it. The customers mainly are going to see your people.

For your people to have that kind of feeling to know that they are appreciated, they want to know that you’ve seen them in action. They love the fact that you saw it.

Not just to monitor and make sure they are doing the kind of quality you want to see done but, ultimately, probably the best thing is they get the recognition that you saw their work. It means a lot.

Q. How do you help employees continue to grow?

I don’t want anybody, really all the way down to the guys sweeping the floor at the end of the day in the back, not wanting to do better.

It’s personality. It’s a lot of just who you are. We’re positive, and we’ve got confidence in people. When you are putting that off and you honestly believe that, you get that in return. The more positive you are, people just react to it.

HOW TO REACH: ICC Floors, (317) 813-0931 or www.iccfloors.com