On point Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

Extreme growth calls for extreme measures, says David Gilbert.

“Any time you’re in hypergrowth, people are usually asked to go above and beyond the call of duty,” says Gilbert, CEO of Five Point Capital, which provides equipment financing to small businesses. “Flexibility is crucial.”

And Gilbert understands growth. Since co-founding Five Point with president Dave Feder in 1999, the company’s revenue has grown to $12 million in 2005, a three-year growth rate of nearly 1,000 percent.

Smart Business spoke with Gilbert about learning from mistakes and why constantly improving can be as simple as knowing what needs to improve.

How do you communicate your vision to your staff?
We communicate monthly what the goals are for the next month. We communicate quarterly what the goals are for the next quarter. We have goal-setting at the beginning of the year as to what the goals are for the next year.

There’s constant measuring of goals throughout the organization. It could be simple stuff on the intranet to larger communications such as a quarterly meeting, and within the individual meetings, there’s a lot of communication as to what’s going on in terms of the vision of the organization.

We have an employee survey, and we found one of the top rankings at the organization was that the company felt that they understood the vision. That’s the result of constant reinforcement.

How did the employee survey benefit your company?
Our goal when we came up with the survey was to learn the good and the bad of the organization, and we wanted to make adjustments. The survey found a few shortcomings and couple of the key ones were benefits and training. It’s a fast-growing company.

When we started the company, we didn’t understand the value of benefits to the point that we should have. As our company became more dynamic, we needed to address those needs. With our hypergrowth, we didn’t support it with enough training. So we brought in a director of training to help support that.

Implementing training into this organization was our biggest growing pain. Because we’re growing so rapidly, we lacked the training that was needed to bring somebody to an all-star level. We didn’t focus on that enough.

We stretched too many people too thin. Training at all companies is really undervalued. People expect training to be done on a one-onone basis. People need to be better trained to do their job, and it needs to be continuous training. A lot of times, you do initial training and forget about the importance of continuous training.

How would you describe your leadership style?
We don’t want to micromanage here. We want people to feel that they should make and are capable of making a decision. If the decision turns out to be a bad one, justify why that decision was made.

If it all made logical sense and it was just a poor decision, that’s fine, but if there’s no basis and no rationale to make your decision, that’s another situation. Employees in general don’t like to be micromanaged.

They want to feel a sense of empowerment, entitlement and a sense that their opinion and what they do in their day-to-day activity matters, and it does matter and it’s reinforced all the time.

How do you learn from mistakes?
Usually if mistakes have occurred or we’re upset about a situation, we do a write-up as to what occurred. Why did we make the decision? What was the rationale behind the decision? Why did the performance not work? Was it a good or bad decision at the end of the day?

We reflect quite a bit to figure out what we could have done better. A lot of people don’t benchmark why they made that decision and what really occurred to get better in their decision-making. People learn from their experiences.

They learn from the good and the bad of what they do in their job on the leadership side and they constantly improve. That’s one of our core values.

How would you describe your company culture?
It’s a young, face-paced, innovative company, and when I say young, I mean young-hearted. The mindset is to constantly work on improving the organization. We have a really dedicated staff that understands part of our vision is to grow extremely rapidly.

In order to do that, it’s not your average person that’s going to work here. Certain people want stability and certain people want high-growth and that’s what they thrive on, so balancing the two is a tough challenge.

My partner and I started this company when we were 23 and 24, and we have an enormous vision to grow the company and we want our people to have that type of mindset. And without the leadership, it couldn’t occur. If you want a great company, it needs to start at the top.

HOW TO REACH: Five Point Capital, (800) 317-3404 or www.fivepointcapital.com