Shawn McGorry survived the days of the Wild West-like dot-com boom when employees enjoyed free Mountain Dew, foosball tables in every office and nonexistent dress codes.
So when he was charged with incorporating the cultures of the dot-com boom and a more serious corporation at Expedient Communications, he knew just how to handle it.
“The role in that kind of transition, especially a traumatic transition, is to be a very competent and thick-skinned man in the middle,” says McGorry, president and COO. “I spend a lot of time assuring, comforting and explaining to the management group and the employees of Expedient that things are different and there’s a reason.”
Expedient Communications, a network of data centers and a provider of managed services, has successfully steered through acquisitions while continuing to thrive. With 150 employees and annual revenue just shy of $100 million, Expedient offers a culture that most companies can’t.
Smart Business spoke to McGorry about how he successfully united different company cultures with compromise and communication.
Be honest. I try to have a very open and honest culture in the organization and make sure that not only the managers that oversee the different departments and functional groups but also the employees themselves feel empowered, feel engaged and understand what accomplishing their objectives means to the growth and success of the overall organization.
We have a longstanding practice of having open, all-employee meetings every quarter. We’ll have a luncheon and spend half a day sharing with all of our employees our successes, our shortcomings, our challenges, down to the financial numbers and sales numbers. We open up the kimono and let everybody in the company feel like they’re privy to everything that’s going on, good and bad.
Don’t be afraid to discuss and address company business or concerns directly, factually and confront any rumor mill that might be purveying or brewing that may not exist. Honestly address any concerns or any information that might be out there, whether it’s factual or false. If it’s factual, even if it’s concerning your bad news, acknowledge it and outline what you and the management team are going to do about it and take it on as a challenge. If it’s false, acknowledge that you’re aware of it and explain the reasons why it’s not true. Present data that demonstrates why that’s not the case.
Be available. I’m more often than not disappointed when I hear employees say, ‘Well, they were afraid to come to you or they’re a little nervous about coming to you, or what do you expect, you’re the president, they’re not going to come to you.’ That makes the challenge a little stiffer because there is a cultural protocol that is built in to our society that has these walls that get more impenetrable as you move up the management title chain.
I’ve done a lot to soften those walls and knock them down where I can. You have to keep your door open. Be very visible. Get to know everyone’s names that you could possibly get to know. It’s important that you have at least a congenial, friendly, nonassuming relationship with every employee you encounter. Periodically invite yourself to lunch with some of the lunch groups that inevitably form in every organization. Take the time to spend five minutes to exchange pleasantries, whether it’s asking an employee how vacation was or how their kids are doing or just discussing sports events.
Compromise. You have to manage the cultural clash from both ends and ask both sides to make compromises. It didn’t work in all cases. Some people didn’t survive. We have had employee turnover where the employee said, ‘Forget this; it’s not worth it to me. I’d rather go work somewhere where I could do what I want.’ People feel like if they can go work for a more liberal company, they can have more freedom and that’s what they want.
You have to look at all of the things that go with the work experience and look at them in a big basket. That is really your compensation. It just doesn’t include the paycheck in that basket, it includes benefits, it includes the work experience, it includes the opportunity, it includes some of those freedoms, it includes the people you work with, the friendships you have at work and travel time to and from work. You compare what’s in that basket to what’s in the basket somewhere else. I think we have a pretty doggone good basket.
How to reach: Expedient Communications, www.expedient.com