In May 2005, Michael Boult took over as CEO of StarCite Inc. and made it a priority to get to know his employees. Employees saw him walking around the meetings management company getting to know the more than 400 workers, which helped them learn to trust him. “People will identify you and be open with you when there is trust,” says Boult, who also serves as president. “But, you can’t mandate trust. You have to create it. I’m not sitting in an office dispensing e-mail. I’m trying to be visible on the floor, talking with people. People get to witness that and then you get a waterfall of goodwill.”
Smart Business spoke with Boult about how to reward employees, conduct interviews and grow a company.
Q: How do you get employees to buy in to the company message?
We’re trying to reinforce over and over again that we pay for performance, that we recognize performance and celebrate it when we find it.
We have a ‘StarCite Spotlight’ every two weeks where we embarrass someone who does something exemplary. Last week, I think we sent someone noise-canceling headphones for something they did.
We do silly things and fun things. I’m a Brit, so the World Cup was pretty important to me this year. We did a huge World Cup pool. I think the winner got $500 bucks.
It was like an international catering day. So I assigned a team to Mexico and they were responsible for feeding the office a Mexican lunch. The employees voted on what was the best lunch.
Q: How do you find good employees?
If I can find the smartest people and the most passionate people together, that’s a rarity. If I can find the smartest people without the right attitude, I give them a pass. I’ll find the second smartest person with tremendous passion and a great attitude every day of the week. We’re looking in all sorts of different places. Our employees make recommendations of friends and families. Those types of endorsements are usually the best types of endorsements.
If someone knows someone really good and they want to bring them into the company, then that’s a pretty good endorsement for the company and of the person.
Q: How do you conduct interviews?
If it’s an executive position, the executive will have to meet essentially every one of their peers. They may have eight different hour conversations with their peers and the peers will meet and talk about the person.
If we schedule them again, then they will come back for another three or four hours. We want to make sure the chemistry is right. (For lower levels) they are going to meet with the hiring manager. Then on the hiring manager’s discretion, depending on position, they are going to have that person come again and meet with their peers.
We think of it as a two-step process. One is explaining the culture and values and benefits of working in the company.
We know the person is interviewing us as well and comparing us to different places in the market. We’re very much of the mindset that we are trying to convince this person that this is the right place to work.
In an interview process, which is typically a beauty pageant, we want the person to get a real sense of the business, what’s it really going to feel like and for them to have the ability to ask some tough questions.
If we want to extend an offer to a person, then we want to take some of the guesswork out of it and make sure that person is going to be absolutely focused on the business.
Q: How do you grow a company?
You just have to go through a checklist that begins with, ‘Do I have a product people are interested in?’ Getting the product right, not internally thinking, ‘This is the greatest thing in the world.’
Then having the right marketing around it. Then you have to have the right sales strategy and that’s about people. People only buy things from people they like to do business with.
Then you have the right market. We could go to Finland, Iceland and Russia as much as we want, but people wouldn’t buy our stuff so we don’t go there.
If you get the prices in place, sales are going to flow naturally. We like to start small. We aren’t going for the home run or the Hail Mary. We like to go for singles and the occasional double.
We’ll start small with the companies, a small contract, and build performance and build trust. Over time, we’ve found we can grow 10 to 20 times the original contract inside a company.
HOW TO REACH: StarCite Inc., (800) 628-1058 or www.starcite.com