Every day when he wakes up, Lyndon Faulkner wants to create something that is the best it can be.
As president and CEO of Pelican Products Inc., Faulkner shares his relentless perfectionism with his 750 employees, all of whom are expected to strive to make Pelican’s high-impact, watertight cases and flashlights the best products in their class.
“When you’re an entrepreneur in a small business, it’s very much about the individual, and what you’re driving singly,” he says. “As you run bigger organizations, the effectiveness of the guy at the top is how well you drive other people to make them be effective in their different skill set areas.”
Faulkner’s efforts to help his employees do their jobs effectively have pushed the manufacturer to 2007 revenue of more than $150 million.
Smart Business spoke with Faulkner about the definition of empowerment and how to make sure everyone in your organization is moving in the same direction.
Surround yourself with go-getters. Certainly, you have to employ the right sort of people, which for me is people who really want to make a difference and go on and make a career for themselves — people who are very keen to get on. That’s the type of individual I surround myself with — go-getters. They want to be promoted; they want to go make a difference.
Nine times out of 10, if you have the right people, they’re going to go make things happen for you. Obviously, you have to lay a road map out as to what the business must look like, because you don’t want people running around in different directions. You’ve got to be very clear on your vision for the company and your vision for the organization. But once you’ve got that vision laid out, and that vision is also somewhat created by the people who work for you, driving people then is quite an easy thing to do, especially if you have self-motivated people.
Empower people, but keep a hand in things. Empowerment is building a road map and building that in association with groups of people who are responsible for a business area.
Empowerment for me isn’t saying to the guys, ‘Go off and do what you want. Come back in six months time, and hopefully, it’s a success.’ That is not empowerment.
What we do is sit down as a group between our sales and marketing expertise, and we talk about the markets, we talk about what we should be bringing to market and its effectiveness. How much should we be spending? How many people should we be employing?
Frankly, what we do then is build this collective road map.
We have this trust, where we have arguments and differences, but we certainly orchestrate what we’re going to be doing over the next one and three years with a one-year plan and a three-year plan. There’s obviously going to be flexibility built into it, because things change. But for the most part, when I sit down with sales and marketing, when we target a market with X amount of products, we build that into a road map. And at that point, that road map is invested in with millions of dollars of new products, with new resources.
For me, empowerment is an individual who has been involved in building that road map; then that individual or group of individuals are given the task of going to execute on that road map.
If you don’t get their buy-in, you won’t succeed. We get their buy-in right upfront. We construct where the company is going with the input of these people who know better than most. If you’ve been in the industry for 10 or 15 years, and you’ve got these relationships with customers, then you know what they want.
That way, you get empowerment and buy-in, and build that road map and strategy with them for any business discipline. Then you go off separately and you build a complementary road map with the people who might be making those products.
So the guy off selling them and marketing them knows when they’re going to come in and how they’re going to hit the market. It’s quite a complex group of wheels that have to work together, but if you empower them both individually and collectively, it works.
Spread the word. Communication is very much a requirement that I have for both my HR group and my marketing group, both internal and externally.
It means me getting in front of people; it means having management meetings. In a lot of cases, you’re building that road map with management. As it relates to their own area, communications are inherent in that. But very often, I’ll sit the different groups together and we evaluate how we’re doing against the plan. ...
We pride ourselves on making sure we communicate to everybody. That helps because when you have a lot of people speaking to customers, if they don’t all know the same message, you’ve got different messages going out to customers.
If you figure all the customers phoning into Pelican every day asking questions, those people answering those phones, it’s very important that they have a common knowledge of the business. So if they’re asked questions, there are common answers going out. That gives credibility to the company.
You can see why that communication happens in our environment and why we feel it’s so important that it happens.
HOW TO REACH: Pelican Products Inc., (310) 326-4700 or www.pelican.com