How do you change the culture of a company? It’s a big challenge, because it takes an awful lot of time.
Sometimes companies actually write down core values that dictate the culture and sometimes they don’t, but they still exist. We were in a culture that was pretty ingrained. The first thing you’ve got to do is publish what your new culture is going to be. And once you publish that, as the CEO, you have to talk about it, and you have to practice it. You have to embody all those core values that you create as an organization.
If you publish core values and you never talk about them again, they’re not really worthwhile. It’s important that you communicate those and you talk them into existence.
Patience is an important virtue to have, and one that I’m not that great at. I don’t always take enough time to really reflect on how much progress we’ve made as a company.
I’m constantly driving for the next change, because I think if you don’t have that attitude, unless you’re in an industry that’s not going to change, you leave yourself susceptible to mediocrity.
Get input, but be decisive.
I’m a very inclusive manager. I don’t sit in a room and make decisions myself and put out some dictum that we’ve got to do X, Y or Z.
I typically include the people who would either be impacted by the decision or have great input into the decision before I make it. I’m a relatively communicative person, everything from formal or informal one-on-one meetings to formal, bi-weekly staff meetings where the purpose is to share information and drive to solve problems.
I also think I’m very decisive, and in a leadership role, you’ve got to be very decisive. At least make a decision. Waiting for other things to happen before making a decision can kill a business.
Invest in your employees.
When you hire somebody, it’s important to try to ferret out in the hiring process what is important to that person. I take a lot of pride in trying to understand the goals of everyone who works for me. And it’s not only my job, it’s my responsibility to help them achieve those goals.
You can either hire somebody with a ton of experience or you can hire somebody with a lot of talent. I’m a guy with a strong preference for hiring somebody with talent versus the experience.
If you hire somebody who’s got a lot of talent, you need to invest in that talent. So if they’re weak in the finance side, you invest time in them attending a seminar or something like that.
Other things I look for when hiring is conviction in their thoughts and ideas. I don’t want somebody who will work for me who is loyal to me and that’s it, who will just say yes to me. I’m looking for people who are convicted in their ideas, but at the end of the day, when we make a decision, that they are committed to that decision, as well.
Hire a high-powered team.
You’ve got to really invest in that team, personal investment, long-term investment all of those kinds of things that will enrich that person in their job. Once you have the solid team behind you, you’ve got to entrust those people to make the right decisions. And then let them make mistakes and let them make successes and create successes. Trust your people. That’s really the key to everything.
Be a flexible employer.
Companies are often faced with certain constraints they have to deal with. In terms of compensation, you have constraints; in terms of relocation, you have constraints.
One of the things I take a lot of pride in is that we are an extremely flexible employer. I can’t tell you how many different people have the ability to work out of their house. And I think it goes back to the old axiom: People just want to be treated fairly. If you trust people and you treat them fairly, you’ll get paid that back in spades.
Get everyone on the same page.
Execution against your direction is the most critical thing that can either direct your success or direct your failure.
I’ve had some great successes in a lot of different arenas. Right now, I have probably the best team I’ve ever had in my entire experience here. But that’s not always been the case.
I’ve had some people who had poor execution on their behalf and in pretty critical roles. Execution is the one thing that can either create success or create failure for a company.
Part of my management style is you sit down and agree to what the path is. You put together an action plan. You agree to what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it’s due.
And then you track that formally, and then you track, ‘Is it due, is it done or is it not complete?’ Adding some formality to that process helps you manage that process, and having it in writing makes sure everybody understands the same concept.
How to reach: Strategic Distribution Inc., www.sdi.com or (215) 633-1900