Lou Polisano says that the peaks his company reaches may not be very high, but during down times, the valleys are very shallow. That’s because the president and CEO of ISA Consulting Inc. stresses consistency in his company.
“To use a baseball analogy that we throw around here, we say every year we are going to bat .300,” he says. “We may not go to the All-Star game, but we’re certainly not going to sit on the pine. We are going to be playing, and we’re going to be a contending team for the playoffs year after year after year.”
Polisano especially wants consistency in the guiding principles of the company, which posted approximately $24 million in 2007 revenue.
Smart Business spoke with Polisano about how expressing your guiding principles out loud at every possible opportunity can help move your company forward.
Q. How do make sure you aren’t losing sight of your guiding principles?
Just recently, we just started to embark on some leadership stuff. I brought somebody in from the outside in the contract capacity, and we’re going off-site and having a lot of meetings with the management team, and we more clearly defined who we are as a company.
And we actually say the words. We say the words, ‘We are a group of hardworking overachievers who do the right thing by our company, our clients and our co-workers.’
So, we not only defined it, but we constantly say it. We say it in the interviews we conduct, we say it in company meetings, we say it in ... training sessions, in review sessions with individual consultants.
I think in our world, if you don’t stay consistent and continue to do the right thing, this is a very tight employment market, and you get punched in the nose in the form of turnover if you deviate from your guiding principles. I do value our employees tremendously, and we definitely do all that we can to help them meet their learning and career requirements.
Q. How do you find employees with the same guiding principles?
There are a couple different levels of folks. With one exception, we have not brought in a single person from the outside to immediately jump into the management team.
Nor have we brought in somebody to jump into a fairly senior level in the organization of an engagement manager, sales manger, etc. I believe in rewarding those for accomplishment from the inside.
One of the big things that you do in the interview process is you do have to say the words. So, we say the words in the interview process, and I personally am involved in every final-stage interview process. I don’t care if it’s a consultant, sales rep, administrator, whoever it is in the organization, I want to meet that person, and I want to ask them and quiz them on examples of their integrity and ethics in the past.
It’s important that they understand that they are going to be asked to do the right thing, so their core values need to align with ours. Functional and vertical skills are extremely important, but they are kind of baseline things.
I think the one thing that’s a little bit harder to put your finger on is the integrity and ethics standpoint, and we ask for a lot of examples real-world stories where you had a challenging decision that you had to make and how you arrived at the right decision. I also do find that in our processes, we try ... and shut up. We try to ask some questions, sit back and shut up.
We find that after five or six or seven people interview a person and we all triangu-late, we do come to the similar conclusion at the end. At some point, somebody’s going to trip up and say something that’s inconsistent if they don’t share in the same guiding principles.
Q. What is a pitfall to avoid when following guiding principles?
You don’t want to have too much pride. I’ve found that human nature is, people are forgiving forgiving of honest mistakes. They are not as forgiving of sneakiness.
My feeling is you are not expected to have all the answers. So, why pretend you do?
So, don’t have too much pride, be open, be honest, admit your mistakes if you make them or when you make them. Don’t fear going before your people and saying those things.
Human nature is, ‘Wow, Lou, I appreciate you saying that, and I like the solution that you’ve come up with to rally and move forward,’ and it works every single time. I have not had one single instance in the 10 years that I’ve run this place that, that approach has been met with complete antagonistic behavior.
HOW TO REACH: ISA Consulting Inc., (877) 646-8676 or www.isaconsulting.com