In 1999, TWC Group LLC was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to other companies that were also growing. Companies were calling the recruitment and HR outsourcing company to help them beef up their staffs, leading TWC to open offices all over the country to accommodate them.
“We were hired left and right,” says president and CEO Terry Williams. “It was out of control. We were being overpaid to open offices. In retrospect, it was a big mistake because with the Internet bubble, what happened was you have these offices and nobody is hiring and the economy was in a state of flux.
“We had to circle the wagons and shut down those offices. We came back to the corporate headquarters, rode the storm and now are growing smarter.”
For Williams, growing smarter means opening one office at a time and not letting outside sources entice you to another location until you are ready to grow. The $10 million company of about 100 employees grew 45 percent from 2005 to 2006.
Smart Business spoke with Williams about how to create an environment where workers can excel.
Q: How do you become a good leader?
Drive strategy, develop culture and surround yourself with great people.
The goal or role of CEO is the strategy in terms of new markets, new locations and new verticals, and driving the culture you want.
One of the philosophies we preach is, you hire right the first time and provide them with the best training, development and tools, and then you empower. The empowerment piece allows the execution. If people have a fear of the ability to execute, things will not get done.
You don’t jump on them if they make a mistake. Fear of making a mistake will not provide any sort of ambition and will actually curb any ambition or drive. Some CEOs drive with the iron fist, and individuals on the staff are afraid to make mistakes.
Q: How do you handle an employee making a bad decision?
It’s more of a learning experience for that person. There is no fear of failure. If they do fail, we take the course of letting them make the decision, and they tell me what went wrong with it.
It’s not for me to tell them what went wrong. It’s a self-assessment process. The best way to get people to solve a problem is for them to tell you the solution.
I do the same thing with compensation reviews. The best way for me to work one’s compensation is for them to tell me what they did well and to tell me where they should be based on what they did well and what they did wrong.
Q: How do you develop a corporate culture?
Being visible as a CEO helps. Being able to communicate with all levels of staff and deal one-on-one with all levels of staff. The ability to be seen, and people can see how you act in public and in the corporate setting.
Culturally, the key for us is to make sure the top 10 to 15 percentile of our company are above par on the compensation package. You can always keep people in a nice culture and a nice environment, but we want to make sure that we’re going to do a top 10, bottom 10 approach. Like the GE approach. Really look at our top 10 performers and make sure we go over and beyond this year.
One thing that can really disrupt a culture is if you start losing a percentage of your top talent. We feel that if we don’t lose anyone within our top 10 percent and build around that staff and team, that will reinforce the culture because the mid-part of the group is certainly led by example.
Q: What are the some pitfalls CEOs need to avoid?
Do not hire your likeness but hire your weaknesses. A lot of the pitfalls people make are they hire people like themselves or people with the same strengths.
When you get into building an organization, it’s really important that I can get through a process and I know what my strengths are. I can bring in three other people that know they have different strengths and will reach the right solution.
Q: How do you find employees?
As CEO, I have a resource team involved in that process. The resource team is made up of a couple different parts within the company. We have a dedicated team that is solely responsible for sourcing and identifying skills for us.
It’s identifying profile skills, looking at the competition, calling in to the competition and corporations that aren’t our clients, and trying to establish and find the best talent possible. You have to be very proactive to find the best people.
HOW TO REACH: TWC Group LLC, (866) TWC-1500 or www.twcgroup.com