Paul Hering works daily to balance his work life and his personal life, and maintaining that balance is one of the core values on which he’s building Barney & Barney LLC.
As managing principal and CEO of the insurance company, Hering believes that balancing the two leads to happy, productive employees. So he focuses people on getting the job done, while emphasizing the importance of life outside of work, and he creates a positive work atmosphere with incentives such as a wellness program.
As Barney & Barney continues to grow its annual revenue, which hit $53 million in 2007, and add to its roster of 293 associates and 32 owners, the biggest challenge has been maintaining and communicating the company’s founding principles.
“Any time a company compromises on its ethics and core values, that certainly can be a problem,” Hering says. “That can be a downfall.”
Smart Business spoke with Hering about how to grow your company without sacrificing the organization’s culture and values.
Establish values you believe in. From a leadership perspective, I think it starts with being the real person, being authentic, knowing who you are as a leader and not trying to be something that you’re not.
You can seek feedback from your peers to make sure you’re being that way, but I think you know it or you don’t.
When you can establish that authenticity with people, I think they can relate to you much better. And the other things that you’re trying to accomplish organizationally, I think it’s easier for them to get behind.
If somebody really doesn’t believe in what they’re trying to hold out to everybody else in their company as a core value or a strategy, then it’s going to be very hard to get there.
Be a big-time advocate for it and a cheerleader to some extent, and make sure everybody in the organization understands where they’re coming from and why they feel that way.
Communicate and demonstrate your company’s values. We make a real effort to make sure that we’re constantly communicating who we are and what we’re about as a company.
We have our core values etched on the glass of our boardroom that are there for everybody in the company to see.
In some organizations, people probably create a mission statement and put their core values on a piece of paper and then that piece of paper gets shoved in a desk drawer somewhere and nobody could come close to reciting what it is. You really do have to make an effort to keep it out there and in front of people.
I literally meet with every new associate one on one that joins our company. It’s a chance to establish a connection with them and convey what we’re about as a company. I tell them all that I don’t want to see them working late on weekdays, I don’t want to see them working on the weekends.
While they need to get the job done, we want them to have a great life outside of Barney & Barney. That new associate meeting, that’s a chance for me to face-to-face convey that to them in total sincerity and have them look at me and say, ‘Wow, he really believes that.’
It has to start at the leadership levels within the company. If the leadership of the company doesn’t buy in to it conceptually, it’s just not going to work. It really starts with everybody agreeing (on) a key core value that we share as a company and modeling that behavior. Demonstrating to our associates that we value that, and that’s how we’re going to behave, and that’s how we want you to be.
We communicate that message and hopefully emulate that.
Resist compromise. The only way you can do it is by never compromising on your core values, having a clear sense of what those are.
There’s probably always a temptation to look for ways to grow your business and think only about the numbers and not necessarily is this the right thing for the company. Is it consistent with our mission and our vision of where we want to be?
I think you always have to step back and look at growth opportunities and say, ‘Are these opportunities consistent with who we are as a company?’
Question everything. Take your time to make a good decision and be thoughtful.
The other thing you have to do is you have to be careful about the people you bring in to your organization and make sure they share your values.
You’ve got to get the right talent in the organization.
We want to see evidence of strong values. We want to see people who are driven to be successful.
(While interviewing) there are questions you can ask people about how they would react in certain situations. You can probe about things that you see in their work or life experience and say, ‘Why did you do that? What motivated you?’
Be a good listener. People need to feel like I’m hearing them. I think for anybody who is working on being a good listener, you have to resist the urge to chime in. You have to really be quiet. You have to be an active listener and ask questions to confirm that you’re hearing and understanding what the person is saying. Give them feedback and say back to them, ‘This is what I’m hearing; am I right?’
For some people, it’s easy; for some, it’s hard. But I think it’s a skill you can develop.
HOW TO REACH: Barney & Barney LLC, (800) 321-4696 or www.barneyandbarney.com