When a situation arises at a Consolidated Contracting Services Inc. job site, Joe Troya doesn’t want his employees looking around for someone else to find a solution.
“If my laborer’s answer is, ‘I need to talk to my project manager or my superintendent,’ the reaction my client is going to have is, ‘This guy hasn’t been empowered. He doesn’t know what to do,’” says Troya, who co-owns the company with Tony Elias-Calles.
While a company’s leaders have the highest visibility, it is more often their employees with whom customers and clients interact. And if employees don’t know what to do when questions come up, it reflects back on you, Troya says.
By following this philosophy, Troya led the general contractor to 2006 revenue of $45 million with about 60 employees.
Smart Business spoke with Troya about how to get your employees to put their best foot forward.
Q. What’s the first step toward empowering employees?
Value their personal life. Value that they are human beings and that they have kids, and they have soccer games to go to, and they have personal issues.
Select the team for each project based on not only their ability but the challenges that they are having. You’re not going to take a guy that lives in San Diego that has three kids and a wife that works and have him go to a project in Los Angeles for the next two years.
You’re destroying the family life. Our personal lives are more important.
What you get back is the utmost loyalty. It has to be a two-way process. They are valued as human beings and as people, and that loyalty is reciprocated back to us.
You’ve gained that loyalty when people come into this office and they say, ‘I’ve got to go to Mexico to spend two weeks with my mom because my dad just passed away.’
You know what, that’s fine. The rest of us will pick up the pieces. You go.
You can say you’re all about your employees, and then situations come up and you’re kind of evaluating, ‘Well, let’s see, if I give him a day off and I’m still paying him, how much is that going to cost me?’ Money is secondary.
Q. How do you build bonds with your employees?
My manager used to stand at my door and say, ‘So, how are you doing?’ I would say, ‘I’m doing good.’ He would spend five minutes talking to me, and then he would walk away.
I like to know what’s going on through their head. If I’m going to ask a question, I’m going to sit down and I’m going to listen. I’m not going to, as soon as they start telling me a problem, say, ‘Let me get back to you on that.’ I like to listen.
We’re all guilty of trying to do 10,000 things at the same time. You have to force yourself to make that person priority one when they are in front of you. I put my screen down, I try to turn my phone off or at least put it on vibrate unless it’s a real, real important phone call.
Q. How do you encourage uncertain employees?
I do a lot of the business development for our company. Most of the project managers or engineers are people that roll up your sleeves and go to work. They don’t feel real comfortable with marketing and foo-foo stuff and meeting with clients and having lunch with the clients.
Some of them are intimidated by that. But if I’m by their cubicle talking about that kind of stuff and how I went to lunch with Tom and we had a great time and talked about the kids and this and that, they realize you can do outreach to your clients and you don’t have to be talking business all the time.
You can just talk family. You have kids; they have kids. You like dirt biking, surfing, skiing, you can talk about a thousand things. You don’t even need to talk about business. You want to get to know the person as a human being.
The mentoring may be a subconscious mentoring. You’re talking about how your lunch was with so and so, and they are listening to you, and they say, ‘Wow, I could actually do this. It’s something I don’t feel real comfortable with, but if that’s what Joe did and he’s successful at it, maybe I could do it.’
Q. How can you earn an employee’s trust?
If the guy is honest and tells you, ‘I really don’t know much about this,’ the first thing I tend to do is put him under my wing and say, ‘Come here, let me show you how it’s done.’ You automatically open your heart, and you take pride in that.
I tell my employees, ‘If you don’t know something, don’t pretend.’ You’ve got to put your pride aside and open yourself up to learning things.
HOW TO REACH: Consolidated Contracting Services Inc., (949) 498-7500 or www.consolidatedcontracting.com