Strength in numbers Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2008

Richard Hagerty says when you give good employees the opportunity to exceed your expectations, the results can be amazing.

As CEO and founder of IMPAQT, Hagerty creates opportunities for his 92 employees by focusing on them as the core strength of his business.

“You start with somebody who has no strength, other than they’re smart and passionate, and you keep adding and adding to that with training, experience and mentoring, and at the end of the day, they become somebody you can lean on,” he says.

Focusing on people has helped Hagerty grow the search engine marketing firm from 2006 revenue of $9.8 million to 2007 revenue of $14 million.

Smart Business spoke with Hagerty about how to maintain your focus on employees.

Q. How do you determine your core strengths?

It’s getting it down to that one or two things you know are going to make you successful. In our case, it’s good people. You can’t be all things, so just be able to find those strengths and refine them.

You don’t waste money and time. You keep your people, they become more experienced in your business, and they’re not spending time on something else.

Q. How do you motivate and empower employees to succeed?

Through training and mentoring. People want to see growth; they don’t want to come in just for a job. They want to see a path; they just don’t want to sit here and do the same thing. They want to see that they have the possibilities to grow, not only within the company but their future work experience.

We make it clear that the job they take in the beginning may not be the same one they have in six months. If they’re making progress, we move them up and give them other responsibilities.

Tell them the expectation of where you’re going to be and give them the ability to choose how to get there. The expectation is that they know how to get to the endgame and be successful at their job. Don’t look over their shoulder but periodically measure how they’re doing, look at the end results and review, and then it starts again with the next job or task.

If you’ve provided good training, you then have to provide trust. Hire good people, give them training, and then trust that they’re going to be able to do the jobs you’re going to give them.

Q. How do you develop training and mentoring programs?

It has to be structured and scheduled; just paying lip service to it does-n’t work. It has to be organized, you have to plan for every person, and it has to be custom per person to do it right.

Some people are further along, some people already know certain things, so it has to be tailored for each individual person, and it has to be organized and scheduled. Test and evaluate where they are in the skill sets they would need to be. Train them in the things they need and are lacking.

Q. How do you build trusting relationships with employees?

Communication, constant evaluations and discussion. It’s a constant review of a job and discussion and both, ‘Hey, that was great,’ or, ‘Hey, you might have to try this next time.’ Just constant evaluation.

Q. How do you create an environment of open discussion and communication?

It starts with the leader. They have to be able to communicate first, so the employee follows the leader’s example.

If the leader is a communicator, and they’re constantly checking, asking how you’re doing, giving feedback and working with everybody they can, the rest of the team and staff see that’s how it’s done. When new people come in, it becomes the way to do it because they see that’s already in place.

Q. How do you make sure you are setting the right example for your employees?

It’s back to that organization; you have to schedule it. It’s management by walking around, making sure you’re out and talking about it and know what’s happening with the staff, if they’re having any concerns, if there’s something going on in their lives.

It’s being in the know to be able to go and say something relevant to a staff member. You have to be prepared to do that, it just doesn’t happen naturally. I have conversations with the managers and get constant feedback on what’s happening with the staff.

Then you go out and spread the love a little bit.

Q. What are the benefits of having trusting relationships and open communication with employees?

It’s a better business — there are definitely a lot less headaches having that — and you don’t have silos of information. It’s being transparent. Everybody knows what’s going on at all times.

HOW TO REACH: IMPAQT, (412) 733-7100 or www.impaqt.com