Alex Simakas says a key to leadership is finding a way to get everybody pulling in the same direction, something he does by sharing information with his employees.
“I like to try to get them to think like they are the majority leader in the company, so every day, people are making decisions based on what are in the best interests of the company,” says Simakas, president of Interlocking Deck Systems International LLC. “As much as possible, everyone is working with the same information that I have.”
IDSI, which manufactures steel bridge decking and steel flooring products, employs 80 people and posted 2006 revenue of $10 million.
Smart Business spoke with Simakas about how to find employees with the right attitude and how to determine what information to share with them.
Q: How important is it to share information with employees, and how do you keep it in-house?
I assume any information I share is going to be public. So, even though I don’t think that is going to be the case, that’s the way I look at it. I’m fairly liberal with that. Some people would say you are an idiot for sharing that kind of information with people that could leave you tomorrow.
If somebody wanted to find out about our business enough, they could find out without information leaking out of here. The type of people that we hire, people are going to know what we are paying, what our other costs are, whether it’s workman’s compensation or health care.
It’s really how we perform day to day that is going to give us an advantage over another company versus how much information is out there about this company.
Q: What qualities do you look for in employees?
Early on, we would get really focused on a person’s qualifications, experience, etc. And, of course, that has led to some great hires, and it has led to some that haven’t worked out because they are too set in their ways. Or, they are one of those people who are not motivated to try to excel because they don’t buy in to what we are trying to do here.
Recently, we just hired somebody very young, but we were impressed with him and his attitude. Although he didn’t have a long working history, he showed he had the attitude and the desire to learn. So, we figured we’re not going to go out and hire experience, we are going to try to go hire an attitude and train the experience.
Q: What kind of attitude are you looking for in employees?
A ‘do what it takes’ attitude. We are still a small business. A lot of big businesses eventually get into, ‘This is my little area and this is what I do,’ versus someone, for instance, if the phone is ringing and the people that generally answer the phone are too busy, I will answer it.
I’m not big on face time. As long as you are getting done what has to be done, you don’t have to be here all hours of the night or early in the morning. If you are not overwhelmed, find something else to do. We try to get people that aren’t afraid to do something that’s maybe outside of their comfort zone.
Q: How do you know if people have the attitude that you want?
You never really know. There’s a lot of people out there that can talk the talk. Until you actually hire somebody and get them in, you are never going to know for sure.
The more you do it, the more you learn and pick up on certain things. For the most part, you get a good feeling about someone when you are talking with them, whether they are believing what they are saying. If you have a blueprint of when somebody is shooting straight or somebody is bending the truth, you are going to drive yourself crazy.
Q: What do you advise leaders not to do in business?
I would just advise against being complacent. You have to constantly be looking for new partnerships, joint ventures, opportunities, acquisitions. Constantly to be out and involved in your industry and community. Just keep your eye on the ball.
I certainly have seen companies where they get complacent, but, on the other hand, I’ve seen companies go outside of their comfort zone and try to get into areas where they aren’t familiar enough and get bitten there.
It’s a fine line between thinking outside the box and keeping your ear to the ground, as opposed to biting off something you aren’t ready to chew on.
HOW TO REACH: Interlocking Deck Systems International LLC, (412) 682-3041 or www.idsi.org