Value-oriented Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2008

Fonda Hopkins models company values each day at Montesquieu by listening to her 112 employees and communicating with them.

“I communicate my work so they know what I’m working on and how I’m making the organization stronger and creating more opportunities for them and our clients,” the president and CEO of the imported and domestic wine distributor says. “The more connected they are to that, the easier it is for them to do their jobs.”

Creating values and a vision that everyone buys in to promotes teamwork and has helped Montesquieu reach 2006 revenue of $24.7 million.

Smart Business spoke with Hopkins about how to create a vision and values that employees buy in to and how to spread that to your clients.

Q. How do you set values and a vision?

We find people we can trust and whose aims and values are similar to our own. You have to do a lot of listening. Listen carefully to what is important to people, and you’ll understand what their goals are, what direction they’re interested in going and how they’ve gone about tackling goals in the past. It’s easy to see if you’re doing more listening than talking.

Give your full attention. It’s demanding in our workdays. Commit to giving your full attention to each one of the people who you’re talking to at that particular point in time.

As much as possible, you don’t want to dictate the goals, but you want people to be working for something that they believe in and are committed to. If you can align goals within your organization, it makes everything easier.

The more challenging the goal the better because employees will get behind it, and they will want to make a difference and impact that goal. If employees own the goal and feel supported and empowered, they’ll work hard to achieve it.

Q. How do you encourage and promote teamwork to achieve those goals?

Make sure they’re always supported. Any challenges that come up along the way, any opposition they’re having, give them support and help them learn to find the opportunities within those challenging situations. If they can overcome those, it makes them stronger and more dedicated to future achievements.

It’s important to recognize on a regular basis the contributions that each department or employee is bringing. As often as you can, make those recognitions available and show your appreciation. Let people within the organization know that every aspect of it is important and valued, and share that as frequently as you can.

Q. What are the benefits of employees working together and being aligned with the vision, values and goals?

You have less distractions, there’s more focus in your work-place, and there’s a commitment to one another and to the organization.

The benefits outweigh anything else. It’s important that people are happy when they come to work and [that] they’re eager to come to work.

Q. If an employee is not happy to come to work, how do you refocus that person?

The question would have to be posed, ‘What is it that they are expecting, and what do they want out of their career?’ It’s back to the basics of aligning goals.

Find something that the employee wants to achieve or shoot for. ... Once you clearly understand what is motivating and driving that employee, find a way that you can work with them mutually. It’s going to be far less expensive for you to find a way to re-engage that employee than to start from scratch and to retrain someone all over again.

Q. You also mentioned the importance of staying close to clients and forming relationships with them. How do you do that?

A personal business approach — talking with clients on a regular basis, getting as much feedback as you can and having a lot of dialogue. It’s not just sharing information with clients, but it’s getting the feedback, creating the dialogue and having open lines of communication.

Educate. Educate them as much as you can. The more your clients and employees know about your business, the more they know about your product and industry. The more informed they are, the more confident they are about their decisions to work with you and the choices that they’re making.

Q. How do you create dialogue and open communication with clients?

Visit salespeople as frequently as you can, and make sure that they understand that your goal is to educate the clients and keep the clients happy with the product. Make sure they feel supported, and the clients know that it’s in your best interest that they’re happy with the product because that’s what keeps them coming back.

HOW TO REACH: Montesquieu, (877) 705-5669 or www.thespiritofwine.com