Success through cyberspace

How everything clicks for Lisa Hickey at Online Stores Inc. By Brian Horn

For Lisa Hickey, the biggest challenge of managing her rapidly growing company is finding the right people for the job. Add up the time it takes to interview people, hire them and see if they are going to work out, and it becomes a time-consuming process.

“I go a lot with my gut feeling,” says Hickey, president of Online Stores Inc., which sells flags, tea, safety gear, hard hats and other items. “But you can only go with a gut feeling to a point. We definitely don’t like negativity in people.”

The company started about five years ago and employs 50 people plus 20 temporary workers, bringing in about $13 million in 2006 revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Hickey about how to find good managers and create a positive corporate culture.

Q: What are the keys to being a good leader?

Where we’ve been successful is choosing the correct managers and empowering them to run their own departments as they see fit under an umbrella of guidelines, to be able to manage the people and treat their staff as they would like to be treated. Having some experience in managing. Being a people person is important.

We have not really hired any managers who have not started at the ground level with our company. It’s important in our company that they know how the company runs. I don’t think it would work well at this point to hire a manager from the outside who doesn’t understand how our company runs from within.

Q: How did you know your current managers were management material?

The excitement they have for the company. They want to see the company succeed, and knowing if the company succeeded, they would be able to succeed within the company. Most of our managers


company, and they have seen the company grow from a small, family-owned company.

It’s still considered a small company, but we’ve gone in five years from two employees to employing nearly 70 people. They get excited about the growth, and they get excited every year they see that

the numbers come up and [with the] new opportunities they see for themselves.






When did you know it was time to delegate?

Probably a year ago. I realized then that I needed to let my managers handle what they needed to handle because trying to manage everyone in the company was too stressful. Owning your own company, it’s hard to shut the door behind you and leave your business behind you.

You do take your business home but to have to take that stress home along with it was getting to be too much. It was very difficult to let go of the power. It was just sitting down one day in a meeting with the managers and saying, ‘I can’t do this myself all the time. I need you managers to handle the day-to-day workings within your own departments, and this is how I need you to do it.’

They took it and ran with it, and I think they are better managers because of it, because they know they have that control, and I am behind them 100 percent.

Q: How much emphasis do you put on a potential employee’s resume?

Depends on the position. I believe you don’t need the educational background. If we had a certain position, if it’s something we think that can be taught easily, we don’t necessarily need to see a business degree.

It’s nice to see a person has a degree, but just because a person has a degree doesn’t mean they are qualified for the position. You can take someone right out of college with a four-year business degree versus somebody that had 10 years’ experience. I would rather hire the person with the experience than the person right out of college.

It depends a lot on their drive and their enthusiasm for the position.

Q: How do you create a positive corporate culture?

We have a summer picnic every year, just so they can be relaxed, be themselves and not have to worry about meeting a deadline that day or making sure everything is done. It’s a nice thing to do for the employees, just to get everyone together outside of the work atmosphere.

You’ll have some people that just love that idea and will bring their families and their children. Then you’ll have the others who have never been to one and don’t want to be bothered.

A couple of times during the year, we’ll have a cookout in the summer and everyone will eat together, but there are some who don’t want to do that. They just want their time to be their own time.

If they’re not interested, that’s totally up to them. They’re not made to feel like they have to be involved with the extra activities.

HOW TO REACH: Online Stores Inc., (877) 734-2458 or