A living example Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009
Stacy Hastie, Chairman and CEO, Environmental Operations Inc. Stacy Hastie, Chairman and CEO, Environmental Operations Inc.

The 10-year trek from manager to investor to owner hasn’t bloated Stacy Hastie’s ego. He knows he can get further by leading his team laterally than he can by charging ahead.

Since Hastie took control of Environmental Operations Inc. in 2002, he personalized the company’s mission. To him, “We do what we say we’ll do,” means he does what he asks employees to do.

He works side by side with employees to set an example at the company, which provides environmental consulting and contracting services as well as demolition and waste management.

“I walk in every day with a can-do attitude,” says the chairman and CEO. “That’s the only way to keep reminding them. You have to live it every day.”

The work force has grown to 150 people from 60 in 2002. And since 2004, revenue has rocketed from $7 million to more than $50 million.

Smart Business spoke with Hastie about setting an example for your company culture and bringing employees on board with passion.

Lead with passion. You all have to share in the same mission. If you don’t have buy-in from 100 percent, it’s next to impossible to grow a company. You need universal buy-in.

First of all, you’ve got to be able to sell it. And you can’t sell it by just speaking it. You have to live it, and they have to see you living it.

You have to lose a few, and they have to see you losing a few to really believe it. They’ve seen me lose a few where we lost pretty big dollars. But we still did what we said we would do. They need to see you in the bad times, too, not just the good times.

You need to stay positive. I’ve been calling the last few months, instead of an economic downturn, this is opportunity for us. So I’m kind of spinning it and they’re seeing it.

You don’t lose sight of your mission. You remain passionate and persistent. And you have to do that day in and day out. If you’re starting to second-guess yourself, it will start trickling down.

You can’t tell them you’re passionate. They have to sense and see you being passionate. You have to be sincere about it. They just see how excited I get when we come up with a good solution on a challenging project or how active our company is and I am in the community.

Work side by side. Secondly, you also have to do your best to train them and work side by side with them. Not just you and them one on one, but you and them with your client, maybe with the financial institution, with all parties involved in a transaction so they can see how you react in a meeting and how you read people and how you ask questions.

You need to know what the hot buttons are, and you need to understand how to ask the right questions to get the answers that you need so you can get that understanding. That just comes from experience. So I try to share my experience with everybody.

[You build trust] by not asking them to do something that you will not do. They see me working as hard as they do, if not harder, leading by example.

Our executive team, all of them have been in front of me with multiple clients. I call it baptism by fire. I make sure that they’re very active in the process. I don’t try to dominate it. You want to give them ownership. The first deal that they enhanced and facilitated, it’s a rewarding feeling for me because it’s very rewarding for them.

Gauge buy-in by attitude. Seeing is believing. They need to work side by side with you — at least on a few deals, I mean five, 10, 20 — and see how we approach the project. You can sit there and tell them what to do all day long, but the only way is to show them and let them experience it personally, sitting next to you. Then they see how it works, and it’s like a light bulb goes off all of a sudden.

It’s easy to tell by their performance, first of all, and it’s easy to tell if they have buy-in just by their overall attitude on a daily basis.

I evaluate the solutions that they’re bringing to me. You can tell a lot by those solutions.

If they’re coming in with a solution that is very expensive and it’s pretty obvious that there’s a less costly solution that may not make as much money for our company but it would save the client more money, they’re not bought in.

You can only work with them so long. If that type of performance continues, they don’t belong here. Do we kick them out the door the first time or two? No. You have to evaluate the person’s personality, their attitude, what you believe their capability is. That factors into how long you’re going to keep them here. Somebody you may give 90 days to buy in; somebody you may give three years to buy in.

Maybe they didn’t come up with the best solution but once you bring it up, they run with it gladly. You’re going to give that person a little more time. The person that fights you and doesn’t appreciate your critical analysis and doesn’t look at it as learning, that person’s going to be short-lived here.

Let them go. I don’t know how you can grow and micromanage. If you do grow and micromanage, I don’t know how you’re going to sustain growth or be successful.

You make sure they’re prepared before you release them. Once you release them, you’ve got to let them do it. You’ve got to let them make their own mistakes, and you’ve got to let them make their own successes.

Of course, if there’s a gross mistake going on, you need to bring it up and discuss it with your staff or the individual that’s working on it. But you’ve got to let them go with it, no matter how hard that is. Otherwise, you’re not going to continue to grow your entire organization.

How to reach: Environmental Operations Inc., (314) 241-0900 or www.environmentalops.com