For Bryan Putt, growth is not a goal but the result of action. And his company, American International
Relocation Solutions, is anything but stagnant.
“Growth is absolutely vital, but it’s a result of doing the right things as opposed to being the goal in and of itself,” says Putt, president and CEO of AIReS, a provider of relocation services for corporate clients.
And the right thing for him is focusing on clients’ needs.
“Everything else will follow behind that,” he says.
So Putt attacks the hiring process with intensity to make sure his employees will be committed to serving. Then he drills the company goals into his 190 employees with repetition and consistency.
But he realizes that his words aren’t worth much if he doesn’t act to back them up. So from an employee’s first day through his or her retirement, and with all the client interactions in between, Putt maintains a consistent message at AIReS, which increased revenue from $50.6 million in 2004 to $82.5 million in 2007.
Smart Business spoke with Putt about how to live the message you’re giving employees.
Interview extensively. The first thing we look for is a can-do, customer-centric attitude. You can have the greatest skills in the world, but if you don’t have the right mentality, you won’t succeed.
The standard interview questions don’t get you there. It becomes a function of digging, asking people how they would deal with specific situations. Don’t accept that first level of answer. It goes to, ‘Oh, really? Tell me more about that.’
An interview process is a two-way street. As much as we’re looking at the candidate, the candidate is also looking at us. If people know what they’re stepping into, they’re much more likely to engage than if
they come in with illusions.
They’ll talk to three or four of our staff. For front-line people, have them do shadowing, spend an hour or two on the floor seeing what the staff is doing and how they do it. For the mid- to high-end staff, we’ll do dinners. Try to get them in a social environment, because people interact differently in that social environment than when you have them sitting in an office.
Bring people back around; don’t hire with a battery of three or four interviews in a day, and bang, you’re done. We’ll have them in here at least twice.
Keep delivering the vision. We will bring them to Pittsburgh from any of our offices for a two-week orientation after they’ve been in their job for three to six weeks. We talk about the culture of the company. They’re introduced to the departments of the organization, and everybody learns a little bit
about all the various jobs and aspects of the business.
Part of that orientation is a presentation I do called, ‘The AIReS Way.’ We’ve boiled down key traits that make an organization hum, [such as] recognizing it takes a great team to be a great company. We start to drill that language into people through the orientation, and then it never goes away. It’s a consistent message.
One of the most gratifying things I hear is when that verbiage is being used by other folks on the team. There’s key phraseology in that presentation, and people make fun of me for it. One of the things I tell people is: ‘You have to have a passion about what you do.’ They always give me a hard time: ‘Oh, are
you passionate about this?’ They give you a hard time, but in doing that, they’re acknowledging that they get it. There’s none of that, ‘This guy’s too important to be able to joke with.’
People don’t buy in to a vision having heard it once. It has to become part of the day-to-day communication. It becomes part of the vocabulary to the point where you don’t even want to hear it yourself.
When you get to the point where you can’t stand to hear yourself say it again, you’re probably just getting to the point where it’s registering and sinking in and becoming part of that day-to-day vocabulary for
everybody else. Taking that message from the day people are hired through their entire lifetime as part of the organization. It’s consistency in the message, it’s repeating that message, it’s living the message.
At all levels of the organization, create that mentality: We’re all in this together. If we can create that common language and get everybody saying it, it’s a heck of a lot more effective than me saying it.
Practice what you preach. We tell our people, ‘Don’t send an e-mail and just assume you’ve communicated. You pick up that phone, talk to those people, hear what their needs are.’
Once you have the phone conversation, follow up with the e-mail. Document what you’ve discussed.’
When you build that from the front line all the way up through the organization, that’s part of creating that mentality.
A good example: We’re changing our organizational structure to accommodate [recent growth]. We’ve communicated all the way through this process. ‘We’re looking at the organization. We’ve polled our midlevel management and heard from them.’
Part of reorganizing was listening to the staff, taking their input. Then we’re going take this out to the field and do that face-to-face explanation. That will all be followed up with the documentation to help people understand exactly what that verbal communication means. They can look at it, see it, touch it.
You can tell people all the time, ‘Pick up the phone. Talk to people.’ But if we then sent out a memo and didn’t get out in front of people, you’ve got that disconnect of what you say versus what you do.
HOW TO REACH: AIReS, (800) 245-1176 or www.aires.com