Education: Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, Calif., bachelor of arts in economics; University of Virginia Darden School of Business, MBA
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
Lou Gerstner. He was the guy that was brought into IBM at a very tumultuous time. IBM had lost its way. There were shareholders screaming to break the company up into various pieces. It was a company that had tremendous talent, an unbelievable asset base. It had all the elements that on the outside, you’d say, ‘Why can’t these guys be successful?’
What Gerstner did was, first of all, he quickly sized up the situation. He made a tough call at the very beginning and said he wasn’t going to break the company up. And boy, did he just get bashed about for that. But he had conviction, he had vision, and he went about communicating that to the team.
He went about rebuilding the greatness that had been lost. He did it in a way that was not flamboyant. I just admire the way he went about doing that.
What’s your favorite movie?
‘Star Wars’ I love movies that entertain. The entertainment factor on that was just off the charts. What was really interesting was how Lucas put that together. What forethought and vision he had. You didn’t realize when you were seeing that film was there was actually a whole series behind it.
It was fun to watch that whole series evolve. Even how they roll it out. Normally stories are told with a beginning chapter and you get to the end. Not that one.
Surging energy costs are directly impacting the real estate market. From the locations of manufacturing plants and distribution centers to zoning density regulations to the dwindling land values in outlying areas, the rise in fuel costs is influencing real estate’s fundamental underpinnings.
Higher energy costs are also having an impact on overseas shipping, as there is now an effort to get goods from the Far East closer to the end user.
“Instead of unloading in Los Angeles or Long Beach, some ships are going through the Panama Canal to the East Coast,” says Keith Zeff, director of research for Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. “By getting the goods closer by ship to the end user, there are less transportation costs by truck or other less efficient means.”
Smart Business spoke with Zeff about how rising energy costs are affecting development density, mass transit and transportation logistics.
What impact do higher energy costs have on development density?
The higher the density, the greater possibility there is to have a shorter commuting distance. Municipalities are relooking at zoning density and use mixtures because they want to intensify density in some close-in areas where travel distances are shorter and public transportation options are more plentiful.
The interesting fact about zoning is that it was created about 100 years ago in the United States to separate land uses so people didn’t have to have their house next to a smelly manufacturing plant. Little by little we’ve reversed that trend. For one thing, there are fewer manufacturing plants. And the ones that are around tend not to be smelly — they produce goods that don’t take a lot of the energy used in the past.
Also, people want to be closer to grocery stores, which used to be separated by zoning categories. Mixed use has become a popular phenomenon and has impacted shopping center designs. In fact ‘lifestyle centers’ is a shopping center category that has increased in the past five years. These are all issues largely related to energy use and how people plan their days between their work schedules, their consumer needs and home life.
How are exurbs (commuter towns) affected?
Land brokers have found it very difficult to sell residential land in the exurbs. Part of this is due to the housing crisis. Another factor is the increased interest in coming closer in than the outlying areas. There was a saying in residential sales that went, ‘Drive until you qualify,’ which means people would go farther and farther out until they could qualify for the loans of the houses they wanted to buy. This trend, however, is reversing because the energy costs offset the savings of the lower-priced housing. Outlying locations are definitely not as popular as before.
In what ways is mass transit impacted?
Most urban systems have seen ridership increase. There is also a trend towards development around transit stations. Transit oriented development is a concept the Urban Land Institute has been talking about for a long time, but now it is come to pass that land around the transit stations has become more valuable and higher-density development is a good use of that land.
The issue is coordinating the land use decisions with the transportation system decisions. In some cities, like Toronto, the same governing body that lays out the transit system makes zoning decisions. I visited Toronto over 25 years ago and you could tell from an aerial photograph where the transit stations were because the buildings were higher and denser around the transit stations. A high-density transportation system supports higher-density development and the higher-density development helps support the transportation system. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement when those two things can be coordinated.
How are energy costs affecting transportation logistics and where distribution facilities are located?
People have cited this as going in two different directions. On one hand, some people are saying that because of transportation costs they need to have the distribution centers closer to the end user. Backers of this argument say it’s best to have smaller distribution centers with more of them scattered around. Others say the opposite: because of deficiencies it’s best to have larger distribution centers. This can be justified by having the distribution centers run by a third-party logistics company that can realize savings by combining shipments of goods from multiple manufacturers.
Will the location of manufacturing facilities be influenced by transportation costs?
It already is. There have been some overseas manufacturing facilities that are now being questioned because of the distance goods must be shipped. In fact, even across borders, like Mexico, many manufacturers opened facilities to take advantage of lower labor costs. But given the distances the goods must travel from the manufacturing plant to the distribution center to the end user, the higher shipping costs may offset the savings from the lower labor costs.
KEITH ZEFF is director of research for Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 746-0353.
If you don’t have older people on staff, you could be losing out on a valuable way for your company to save money and improve competitiveness.
With people living much longer, retiring at 62 or 65 is no longer an attractive option for many. Many older people want and/or need to keep working. Over the next decade or so, this changing landscape in the work force will require new ways of thinking.
“Many companies are passing up a very valuable resource our older adults,” says Jerry M. Bladdick, a gerontology instructor and vice president for graduate and adult enrollment at Fontbonne University. “Older adults bring knowledge, experience, dedication and loyalty to the workplace that is often lacking in younger people today. There are many benefits to hiring older workers, and it can be a win-win for everyone.”
Smart Business spoke to Bladdick about what companies need to know about older workers and how they can begin to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.
Why are older people looking for work or to re-enter the work force after retiring?
Many older adults don’t want to retire in the first place but feel compelled to do so because it is the normal thing to do when one reaches 55, 62 or 65 years of age. Some older adults are even forced out of work, and some become semi-retired or what is also known as part-time retired.
Regardless of what you call it, there are as many reasons why older adults want to come out of retirement as there are older adults. Many seniors use part-time or even full-time employment as a form of socialization, others need additional income or benefits, and some simply just want to work, saying it keeps the mind, body and spirit from decaying.
We are living longer and healthier than ever before, and, for some, the thought of spending 20, 30 or even 40 years in a state of retirement is just not an acceptable alternative.
How do companies benefit by hiring older workers?
Older workers are in hot demand by companies that recognize their value. Many companies realize that paying a senior saves money because they don’t have to train new hires. Older workers have a history of being on time for work, take less sick days and, very often, don’t have to contend with the domestic matters that younger employees have to deal with. When compared to many younger workers, older workers are more productive, have a higher sense of pride and loyalty, and have outstanding customer service skills. Often their schedule is flexible. They don’t mind working early in the morning or on weekends.
How can companies attract older talent?
The best place for a company to find older employees who are most familiar with their line of work/business is to start in house. Look at who is getting ready to retire and invite them to stay. Second, contact former employees to see if they have any interest in coming back to work on a temporary, part-time or full-time basis.
Do older workers have any special needs?
Most of the time, older adults want a fair wage and some flexibility in regard to where they work, when they work and how much they work. And, in some cases, they may ask for benefits, summers off, no weekends or maybe they only want to work weekends. In order for this to be a win-win for the employer and employee, both will need to do some giving.
Can older workers give a company a competitive edge?
They sure can. First, many older workers have experience they want to share with their younger co-workers that knowledge base saves time and money. Second, having several generations in the work place makes for a diverse setting, and diversity increases competitiveness. Finally, contrary to what some might believe, older workers are not afraid of technology. When you tap existing knowledge and fuse it with today’s technology, can you imagine the possibilities?
Where do you see this trend heading in the future?
Some statistics state that as many as half of all individuals over 45 believe they will work well into their 70s, if not until they die, and four out of 10 seniors say the same thing. As we continue to live longer and run the chance of out-living our retirement savings and with inflation running wild these days, I see more and more older folks wanting to work. In addition, I want to believe that corporate America will welcome these very talented and hard workers and, when necessary, make special accommodations for them. I truly believe that companies that don’t embrace an older work force are just plain missing the boat.
JERRY M. BLADDICK is a gerontology instructor and vice president for graduate and adult enrollment at Fontbonne University. Reach him at (314) 719-3670 or email@example.com.
Born: St. Louis
Education: Saint Louis University, general business degree
What was your first job?
It was playing professional soccer. I played a couple years of professional soccer out in L.A., and then back in St. Louis in the Major Indoor Soccer League. My first paying job was picking tomatoes.
My parents helped establish core values, including honesty, integrity and respect. Sports helped drive the teamwork side of things and the work ethic. If you want to succeed as a team, you have to work together and play together as a team.
If you want to be successful in sports or business, you have to be prepared to work your tail off. Going through the process of playing sports at a number of different levels helped significantly build some of the values we have incorporated into our business.
What is the most important business lesson you have learned?
Making sure that whatever you say you’re going to do, that you do it. It’s not like it’s a revelation or an epiphany to anybody. A lot of times, you can find yourself in a position where you commit to a lot of things and you commit to people. You jeopardize your integrity. Whatever you say you’re going to do, do it. There’s a lot of respect that’s garnered from that, and I think people appreciate that.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
Jack Welch. He has a lot of experience and some very sound insight around management and leadership. If someone is looking to run a business, build a business or get in to business, the book by Jim Collins, ‘Good to Great,’ is a great baseline. It’s an easy read. But the challenge is executing what you hear and what you see in that book.
Mention methane gas to a farmer and you think of emissions from cows. Mention it to a miner and the first reaction is danger. But, what if methane gas was not only the source of a new industry of natural gas but also one of the greener sources of energy, as well?
“Up until about 25 years ago, coal bed methane (CBM) was considered to be more of a nuisance than an actual resource,” says William Schmitt, an officer of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C., whose practice includes representing clients in the coal, oil and gas industries. “It was considered unwanted, unusable and unsafe; a dangerous part of the mining process.”
Smart Business talked to Schmitt about how all of that has changed today as the country looks for additional sources of energy.
How has extracting methane gas from coal beds changed in the last 25 years?
CBM is a component of the coal itself. It is found in actual underground seams of coal as well as in the rooms and passageways of coal mines that have been mined out.
Due to the development of appropriate technologies, the actual recovery of this gas as an industry began primarily in the western states and has more recently emerged as a significant industry in the coalfields of the Midwest and the eastern United States. Of course, this coincides with the increasing demands for natural gas and the fact that natural gas is considered to be ‘greener.’
How much methane gas is used today as an energy source?
I think it’s safe to say that today more than 10 percent of the natural gas produced is methane gas. While there are other sources of methane gas, a substantial portion of that percentage is CBM gas.
What are some of the legal issues involved in extracting methane gas?
One of the initial and most important issues in extracting CBM has been the ownership of the gas. That is, who has the right to recover the gas or transfer that right of recovery to a third party?
For example, where the owner of the surface land has deeded or leased the right to mine the coal, and perhaps has conveyed the oil and gas rights to another party, who has the rights to the CBM? Both of these parties may claim the right to recover the gas. In addition, the surface owner may claim that he or she still owns the right to the CBM, as it was never intended to be deeded or leased to the other owners of the mineral rights.
Some courts have decided these issues by attempting to determine the intent of the parties at the time these mineral interests were deeded or leased. This is interesting because most of these deeds/leases are very old and the development of CBM is of relatively recent vintage so that the parties to these transactions probably never even contemplated the possibility of CBM.
There has been a tendency by the courts to hold that the right to recover the CBM belongs to the holder of the coal rights since methane is really part of the coal. However, the decisions of the courts have not been uniform from state to state.
What happens to the water used to extract CBM?
To release CBM from underground, first the pressure has to be reduced by removing the underground water so that during the drilling process both the gas and the water moves through the coal beds and eventually up the wells. And we are talking about a lot of water. Once this discharge is on the surface, it raises a variety of legal and environmental concerns.
This water often has a high salt content, which can affect soil and plant life, including agricultural crops. If it’s discharged into rivers and streams, there are arguments that it can pose a danger to fish and other aquatic life in the area.
In addition, since the removal of this underground water can reduce the amount of available groundwater, there have been claims by rural landowners that CBM recovery has reduced the water available to their wells, forcing them to drill deeper or find alternative sources of water.
Any other thoughts?
Perhaps as a result of CBM recovery, and as other technologies develop, there is an increasing interest in the question of who owns the voids created underground after the coal has been removed and the mine closed. Is the empty space owned by the coal operator or does it revert to the owner of the surface land? These voids could serve a valuable purpose as a storage container for usable materials or a permanent disposal site for environmentally undesirables such as carbon dioxide.
As is typical with any emerging industry or technology, identifying and resolving the legal issues lag behind the industry and technology themselves..
WILLIAM SCHMITT is an officer of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (618) 239-3610.
You won’t ever see Michael Zambrana flying by the seat of his pants.
For the founder, president and CEO of Pangea Inc., an environmental remediation and construction company that does business as Pangea Group, effective leadership always starts with a plan.
“Obviously, developing a plan gets people focused,” he says. “Then, communicating that plan, getting buy-in and checking progress is the key.”
Zambrana’s strategy has worked, as Pangea grew from revenue of $3 million in 1999 to revenue of $35.8 million in 2004 before intentionally leveling out its growth to remain in that revenue range.
Smart Business spoke with Zambrana about how to sort through all the input you receive from your employees to form a plan and how to break into new markets.
Q. How do you get employees to buy in to your plan?
Basically, if they’re part of creating it, that significantly enhances buy-in. So make sure they are part of the process.
If they weren’t part of the creation, then allowing them time to absorb the plan and comment to the plan and accept the plan after review is the other way to get buy-in. That works whether you’re planning a company plan or a project plan. It has to be clear enough that somebody from the outside would be able to make sense of the details.
Q. How do you decide whether to get employee input before or after the plan has been conceptualized?
When you’re going through the process, you observe people and their ability to contribute to the process. Soon, there are innovative ideas that come out of certain people, and when you get that kind of contribution, they are invited back. Some people are not.
Performance speaks very loud. Someone who can turn in a plan and perform that plan quietly, obviously gets greater consideration than someone who has a fabulous plan but it’s probably unachievable.
It has to fit within the capabilities of the company. We have to have the resources to execute it, and the market has to be there for it.
Q. How do you evaluate the proposed plans?
We do that in one of these ‘two or three times a year’ meetings we have. We get together as a group and we put the plan up and talk about it. We say, ‘This section of the plan, we said we weren’t going to pursue that.’ Or, ‘We have a niche in the power market, and you’re not addressing that niche.’
So we all take turns looking at each other’s plan up on the board and commenting to it. You find out at that point, people present their plans, and we all act as constructive critics to find out if it’s real, if it’s conservative and if it’s on point with our overall market goals.
People tend to trend to what’s familiar and easy, and what’s familiar and easy may not necessarily be what is strategically right.
We went through a strategic change a couple years ago. We used to do a lot of work for the federal government, then we redefined ourselves, identified our core competencies and found out which markets we should be pursuing in the private section in these regions we’ve committed to. Some of our people — all they knew was government business, and they felt very uncomfortable going outside of that cocoon.
Some people were able to make the transition, and some were not. Some left voluntarily because they were uncomfortable with that, and we had to hire people who would take us to those new markets.
Q. How did you handle that transition?
We had to look at ourselves through the view of our competitors and firms we would like to emulate. If we have these competencies and this firm in the marketplace has those competencies, we actually look at their marketing brochures and analyze how they’re doing business. Then, we take portions of that, that match our core competencies and see how to apply those.
Once we identify them, you find that you have to improve some of your offerings. You have to know what you don’t know now. That’s one of the things that we didn’t realize.
For example, we went into health care. We thought that our internal programs and procedures were first-rate. Well, they are first-rate, but they’re not first-rate for the health care industry.
We didn’t know that there are other issues regarding life safety and infection control that were not a part of our current procedures. So we had to learn what we didn’t know.
Q. How do you learn those things in a new market?
First, go out and talk to the customers. Of course, there is a large amount of health care infrastructure being built, so we went out and talked to a few clients about what their needs were. They were very happy to tell us what we would have to do to play in their world.
They guided us toward associations; we joined those associations and attended their meetings and updated. And finally, we did enough of that where a specific client committed to us and gave us a contract.
HOW TO REACH: Pangea Inc., (314) 333-0600 or www.pangea-group.com
Market research can help you effectively develop and launch new products and services. It can also tell you if you need to make changes to existing products and services and/or alter the way you are marketing them. Perhaps it will help you expand into new markets or identify new prospects based on age, income level, or location.
Research can be conducted in many ways: by mail, phone, online, in the form of surveys, interviews, focus groups and more. It can be qualitative and/or quantitative in nature, complicated or simple. Not only does it enable organizations to sell products, it also helps set policies, shape laws and promote ideas.
“As a society we are fascinated with marketing,” says Donald I. Shifter, a marketing professor in the department of business at Fontbonne University. “Almost every aspect of our lives what we eat, wear, find entertaining is influenced to some degree by marketing.”
Shifter defines marketing as the process of satisfying customer needs, adding that wants and needs are ever expanding with each generation no matter what country one lives in. The key to this, says Shifter, is to research who customers are and what their needs are.
Smart Business spoke to Shifter about what companies and organizations need to know before they begin the actual process of conducting market research.
What is the best strategy for getting started on the right foot?
Know the demographics of your customers and how your products will match their needs. Additionally, the geographic location of customers often dictates their needs. The research you are contemplating also must accurately take into account the current positioning of similar products, so you can adopt the right prices and places to sell your products.
Why is this knowledge so important?
It is important, if not vital, to know the customers’ needs because we live in a time when product options are expanding exponentially and customer preferences are also growing. Thanks to the Internet and all the information it provides, as well as social networking, there also is a growing tendency for more interaction on the customer’s part in making purchase decisions. Today’s customers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and their behavior can change quickly and/or be difficult to predict.
How can knowing your customers help improve results?
Marketers need to identify and understand the characteristics of their targeted customers to avoid developing products that have no chance of succeeding. For example, baby boomers might be interested in new types of vodka or wine offerings but probably won’t be interested in expanding their beer preferences. In the music field, most symphony companies are struggling as the younger generation is pursuing a wide variety of new kinds of music as well as the ways in which it is delivered to them (there are choices between using an iPod or purchasing recorded music and listening to it on a CD).
How does market research help the bottom line in the long run?
It can help in many ways. For example, it can help avoid costly manufacturing investments that won’t pay off. For example, say you’re determining whether to begin manufacturing a new model SUV automobile; however, your research shows smaller, higher mileage, environmentally friendly models would represent a more profitable investment. Or it could be that a competitive analysis would reveal that potential customers are already being satisfied and that there would be no competitive advantage for your company’s production of this specific product for the marketplace.
How has the Internet changed the face of market research, and to what benefit?
The Internet has revolutionized the way information is gathered, in scope, accuracy and even costs. The researcher must be skilled in the Internet’s use and in his or her ability to interpret the results for the action plans that ultimately must follow. The Internet has opened a very wide, global market, and the implications of data gathering are important, especially in basic goods (sneakers, jeans, cookware). One of the major benefits of the Internet’s application is that a much wider net is being cast for reaching customers as well as the relative low-cost to achieve and process customer orders. Wherever possible, the use of the Internet can benefit a company in risk reduction. The customers’ responses can be analyzed for future product inventory investments and the improved calculations for customer demand forecasts.
Why and when does ‘good research go bad’? How can you prevent this from happening?
This can happen when the product itself is not trending up or has run its course. Also, the funding to support focus groups and mailings along with online interviews could fall short, resulting in conclusions that do not yield actionable results.
DONALD I. SHIFTER is a marketing professor in the department of business at Fontbonne University. Reach him at (314) 889-4522 or email@example.com.
Born: Beckley, W.Va.
Education: Bachelor of science degree, general engineering, U.S. Air Force Academy; master’s degree in guidance and counseling, University of Northern Colorado
What is the best business lesson you’ve ever learned?
You’re not as smart as you think you are, and the other guy is smarter than you think he is. Be confident but not overconfident. Assume that your adversary is very good until he proves he is not.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
Warren Buffett. He’s done the most spectacular job of winning in a very tough environment; doing that spectacularly and regularly over a long period of time and managing to be a regular human being all along the way.
What was your first job ever?
Picking cantaloupes. I was 8. I grew up in Arizona. It taught me I didn’t want to pick cantaloupes for a living. I just did it during summer with my cousins to make spending money. It taught me an appreciation for hard work.
What is your favorite movie?
‘Forrest Gump.’ I’m not sure why; it just is.
It’s easy to imagine that the day after the first business in the world was founded, the company probably presented its first advertisement, and the art of branding was born.
Perhaps one of the biggest decisions a company can make is how it decides to brand itself. A catchy tune? Perhaps a play on words that reveals the true mission statement of the company?
“A trademark and a copyright can both identify the entity,” says Harvey Yusman, an attorney at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.
Smart Business asked Yusman about what makes a good trademark and how companies should use trademarks to their advantage.
How much of a difference is there between a trademark and a service mark?
The law is exactly the same between the two. Specific services, such as retail grocery, would use the service mark. A trademark is the exact same thing, except instead of promoting a service, you’re branding a specific product. And by doing so, you identify and distinguish your product from somebody else’s product. Think of Nike shoes, with Nike being the trademark and shoes being the generic product. When you see the ‘swoosh’ or the name on the box, you know Nike is distinguishing itself from, say, Adidas.
What can be used as a trademark?
Anything can be a trademark. The Nike swoosh and the Polo pony are very recognizable design trademarks. Words alone can be a trademark. Sound can even be a trademark, as well as slogans or colors. Numbers and letters used separately or at the same time can be a trademark. It can be almost anything that sets your goods or services apart from somebody else’s. That’s your company’s identity. It’s like a franchise. The name itself can be the most important part of the identity, such as McDonald’s. You should be able to go into a McDonald’s in Iowa and get the same kind of hamburger as you would from one in St. Louis, and you expect that because you recognize the name. It’s the very name ‘McDonald’s’ that sets the restaurant apart from the others.
How does copyright work?
Copyright is not as clear. It identifies a lot of things, but it concentrates on the visual aspects of a creation and not the actual brand. That usually includes your brochures, your marketing materials, that sort of thing. And, obviously, your marketing materials are different than anyone else’s, as is your Web site. And those things are identifiable intellectual properties that identify your company.
How do you pick a trademark and make it protectable?
In theory, there are four classifications to a trademark. If it’s being registered at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, if you’re defending it in court, if you’re prosecuting somebody else in court, the key is always the same.
The best class is called arbitrary/fanciful. An arbitrary mark is a random word that has no relationship to the product at all. Such as Camel to cigarettes or Apple to computers. Fanciful trademarks are made-up words like Rolex or Kodak.
The next best class is called a suggestive mark. A suggestive mark makes the mind go through two or three steps to make the connection to the product. An example is the trademark ‘uncola,’ which is used in connection with a noncola soft drink.
The third class is called descriptive, and this one should be avoided because it can only be registered with certain qualifications. You need to show the word(s) has a secondary meaning.
The last class can never be registered, and it is the generic mark. These are all specific names that have come to stand for the type of product, like automobiles. Xerox, for example, does a lot of advertising telling people not to use their mark generically. The more creative your mark, the easier it is to register and eventually to protect from other companies.
HARVEY YUSMAN is an attorney at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. Reach him at (314) 516-2630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Porter is CEO of FURminator Inc., but that’s not his only title.
According to his business cards, he’s also the company’s top dog.
Porter and his wife, Angie, developed FURminator’s unique pet grooming products, but another part of his job is to maintain an environment where employees can think outside of the box an atmosphere that he says is key to the success of FURminator.
“If Henry Ford would have listened to his customers, we’d all be riding horses,” he says.
The 24-employee company’s innovative tools and creative workplace have propelled it to a three-year growth rate of nearly 500 percent to post 2007 revenue of $25 million.
Smart Business spoke with Porter about how to create a culture where employees feel appreciated and why you have to act fast to weed out the bad apples in the bunch.
Q. What are the keys to being a good leader?
When you get a business to a certain size, you need to work on the business instead of in the business. People are absolutely critical. They need to know where you’re going.
Set your north up, as far as where you’re going. Then drive everything from the top down, whether it’s customer service or really going in and establishing that corporate culture.
Realize there is so much more to a job than a desk and a phone and a paycheck. There are certain things that really get a person to buy in to what makes a company great.
For instance, we’ve got a great environment. Every day is bring your pet to work day. We throw Lunch-a-Palooza every month, when we turn our conference table into a 14-foot shuffleboard table for fabulous prizes.
If you do things like that, you can really build the camaraderie. Instead of managing through fear, enable people to make decisions and get things done. Measure results and efforts; set their goals. There are a whole lot of things that go into leadership, but lead by example and let people support (you) to grow.
Q. How do you get your employees to buy in to your vision and your culture?
First of all, you have to empower them to let them know that they can make decisions on their own. It gets back to working on the business versus working in the business.
You’ve got to have some mutual trust and look at them like a person. You want them to set goals, not just business goals but personal goals. You want them to have that life balance so that they’re working to live and not living to work.
So be concerned about them, but still instill that everyone should have that sense of urgency of getting things done.
I get on my soapbox all the time at work and say, ‘FURminator is your nondysfunctional family. If you want dysfunction, come to my house for Thanksgiving. But if you’re the type of person who likes talking behind people’s backs or making cliques, it’s not going to fly here.’
This is where we’re going to be spending a lot of our lives. So we regularly have team-building activities, not only from our Zen lounge, which is our cool break room, but other things we do once a month. These are just things that build the FURminator family.
Q. How do you handle someone in the organization who is gossiping or forming cliques?
You’ve got to nip it in the bud. Just like raising children, you’ve got to move fast. If you look at it as finding the right people in the first place, you have less of a chance that you need to go through that process.
It’s that ‘hire slow, fire fast’ mentality. Really reinforce that. Let people know that this is how it is around here. You try to set an example and let everybody know what the rules are. Let them know they can flourish and have fun doing it.
Q. How do you establish a culture that makes employees want to stay?
A lot of it is how you treat people. There are a lot of managers out there who manage out of fear or intimidation. I think one of camaraderie and friendship is better accepted.
Everything from when you walk in the front door to their office furniture to lighting we’re in an industrial park, but I would say we probably have the nicest office in the industrial park. You come in and we have ceramic tile flooring and a nice-looking lobby. We don’t have a lot of walk-in customers. There are not a lot of people who walk in through our front door, other than insurance salesmen. But to have a nice conference room and nice employee lounge and having a built-in putting tee it’s all things that give that feel when you come in.
Also, we try to keep everyone in the loop, so we try not to have a lot of closed-door meetings. Every Monday, we get the whole company together in our Monday morning meeting and we throw everything out there. Good news, bad news, ugly news, we throw it out there.
HOW TO REACH: FURminator Inc., (636) 680-9387 or www.furminator.com