Cathy Baron Tamraz Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006
Cathy Baron Tamraz has spent 26 years with Business Wire, and she works hard to make it a place where her employees will want to spend a long time, too. Offering perks such as a company condo in Hawaii that employees can use creates an environment that people want to be part of. Tamraz figures that if she takes care of her 500 employees, they’ll take care of the $130 million commercial news distribution company. Smart Business spoke with Tamraz, president and CEO of Business Wire, about the secret to retaining employees. Understand people.
I’m all about the people that work here and that I deal with outside, as well. It’s a relationship business — they all are. Understanding psychology, that’s always helpful because knowing what motivates people and how to get them to work for you and feel good about the company, themselves — it all flows together.

Make work a home away from home.
A lot of what we do is about longevity, so it’s an encouragement to stay with the company.

Coming to our organization, we want you to find a home here, and we try to match skill sets and promote and reward. Obviously money is important. Beyond that, it’s feeling appreciated and noticed.

We don’t have a lot of layers here — we’ve got about 500 employees, so your work is recognized and acknowledged. It’s pretty simple: You work hard, you get rewarded, and if there’s other opportunities, we’ll look from within first to promote.

Hire employees with multiple skills.
There’s not one prototype, but you want someone who wants to stick around awhile and learn and is open. Well-rounded works better than someone who has a particularly strong skill set in one area.

We’re in a really fast-paced environment, so you’ve got to be on your toes and be able to multitask. You need good computer skills, good communication skills.

Rely on your managers.
I tend to want to control everything, and not in a bad way, but just know about everything, because ultimately, if the buck’s going to stop with me, I need to know about it. I’ve gotten better in trusting people because we’ve got so many talented people to own different segments of the business and get it done.

Select some key managers that have a particular skill set that can get it done. Empower them to make decisions and go out there and do the research and then execute.

It’s about the team. Nobody does this alone. You have to have a really great team around you and work closely together, and there’s that whole trust. Sure, one of us is going to stumble once in awhile, but we pick each other up and keep going.

Prioritize employees and watch the bottom line.
We’re a no-debt company. If we don’t have the money, we don’t do it.

Our motto was proven right in the tech-wreck. Many of those companies were trying to grow by press release, and they were overex-tended. We had a lot of technology companies that use Business Wire, and we felt a trickle-down effect, but we didn’t have any layoffs — not one — during that time.

We said, ‘These people we hired to be with us and grow with us, and we’re going to find something else for them to do until we recover,’ and we did. It speaks to the fact that we weren’t overextended.

The people that work here, that’s how they stay. We have good benefits, but more than that, there is that care. You spend a lot time with everybody in your office. They become like your family. If we take care of our people, they’re going to take care of us, of our clients, which is what it’s all about.

Address problems as they arise.
Sometimes you have to course-correct. We hate to do it, but there are requirements, and we’re an aggressive company, so we might have to change the manager or salesperson.

There might be a good reason for that. An industry might be lagging, so we might have to ride that for a while, and maybe they’ll have to look at some other ways of selling. They might need to be retrained in some area.

Most of the time, you’re going to find out you’ve got the wrong person in the job. Someone might be good at one thing, but they’re not that good at something else. They’d be better off in a different position. It’s matching up skill sets. They’re not happy, either. It’s kind of refreshing when the person says, ‘I’m feeling stressed out — this is a relief to hear.’ It’s identifying it early and communicating.

Learn from mistakes.
You’re always going to keep learning. I don’t think anyone should ever get so cocky to think you’ve got it all figured it out because nobody does.

It humbles you a little bit. Always keep a little grace for other people, and hopefully you’ll get the same when you need it.

Be tough.
I have a little newspaper clipping headline on my PC, and it says, ‘Nerves of steel.’ It’s stressful. Lots of things happen, and you have to be prepared, but you can’t anticipate everything that’s going to happen on a given day.

You’ve got to be flexible, and you need to be able to take that deep breath and think about it rationally before reacting. Then you address the issue head-on, you deal with it straight up, and you move on. The one thing I do is, we have a problem, immediately communicate. That takes a lot of the sting out of the problem.

You take your lumps and you fix your problems and you just move on. That kind of attitude serves everybody well.

Have strong values.
Keep it simple. It’s like the old values are the good values, and if you live your life that way in business and [in your] personal life, you pretty much can’t go wrong. Hard work and being focused and being passionate about what you do — if you don’t have that, I don’t think anything really happens.

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