A cohesive team Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

As a professional soccer player in Germany, Andreas Roell learned the importance of teamwork and how each player can use his skills to help the team succeed. Today, Roell uses those lessons to create a team environment among his 36 employees at Geary Interactive, an online marketing agency. Roell’s vision for pushing employees to succeed has helped the $11.6 million company grow revenue 303 percent in the past four years.

Smart Business spoke with the company’s president and CEO about how to develop a team that lives the corporate values.

Q: How do you create corporate values?

Clearly identify and establish those on Day One. Once you start bringing employees in, you want them to represent you and the company in the best way possible.

Create a setting where you identify what’s needed to fulfill the client’s needs, manufacture your product or create your service. Think about your culture. Put single words together, create a list of attributes, refine them, and put them into groups.

Narrow it down to five key words and define them. How do we think as a company? How do we behave? Also define what the consequences are for any violation against those values.

Q: How do you communicate values and culture to employees?

Use them in any form of communication. Make them visible and repeat them. It’s important not to just hand them out on a piece of paper and say, ‘These are our values,’ but that they are repeated and discussed.

If an employee is having a hard time with the values, you need to identify that early and face right into it versus letting the individual just hang in there. If the values are strong, the person almost becomes an outsider because he cannot fulfill the values. Address where there is a deviation of the values and provide a path of how that person can get back on.

If, after a period of time and discussion, it becomes clear that there is not an opportunity because the personality might not fit into those values, you need to cut that person loose as quickly as possible.

Q: How does a leader model the values and culture?

Live them yourself. You cannot be a leader that creates them and then has your own set of rules. Hold yourself accountable to those values, and if you violate them, publicly announce that and deal with any type of consequences.

Face reality and understand that a company is only as good as the entire staff versus the individual. There are elements that a single leader cannot fulfill, and the long-term success of the company is driven by teams.

Focus on the business and not yourself. Get an understanding that the company is the overriding principle versus your own career or benefit. Have a servant attitude instead of dominant. Think about how you can support the high goals for people instead of pulling them along the way.

Q: How do you nurture and empower employees who help the values thrive?

Recognition. Make it clear for everybody the people who are living the values and going beyond. Make it publicly known, not just to that individual but to the entire company. Make a big deal about it. Celebrate winnings.

Make them aware in communication channels, such as newsletters or company meetings. Create an environment where others are enticed to identify those who are living the values, like a referral program. When you start building this culture versus where the leader is the only one recognizing employees, everyone starts to recognize others.

Q: How do you prepare for change in your business?

Understand that everything is fluid and dynamic, so what you have put in place initially will not be what you end up with. Do not focus on your exit strategy.

Focus on building a business like it would run for two or three generations after you, and your strategy will come automatically. Have longer-term goals in place. Make decisions on how the company is progressing over the long term.

Every day is not the same. There are a lot of dynamics that will happen, so you need to be understanding and build meaningful relationships with everyone. Trust is a piece that you build over time. Prove it by being on time to meetings, providing resources and fulfilling promises. You then have staff members who will do anything and everything for you and the company.

Provide a sense of reality behind progress. It’s inevitable, and people have to live with it. Set an environment where people understand that change will happen, be it positive or negative, so they are prepared at all times.

Put it into their setting and make employees aware of the benefits of the change, even if it’s bad. Empower them and make them understand that they have choices to make and can move forward.

HOW TO REACH: Geary Interactive, (619) 239-5953 or www.gearyi.com