Tying it together

Matt Smith doesn’t care if his employees hang out together after work or play golf with each other on the weekends. But the president and chief operating officer at Shoes For Crews LLC does strive for a certain level of teamwork and camaraderie among his people when they are together on the job.

“You can’t force your employees to love each other,” he says. “But as long as they can work together and get the job done, that’s what you’re looking for.”

So as the company hit $100 million in sales, Smith felt like he had an organization of talented employees who were good at what they did for the company, but he began to see some ominous signs of cracks in the teamwork mindset.

“We started off as an entrepreneurial company that my father founded in 1984,” Smith says of the company, which provides slip-resistant footwear. “As you start to grow, you definitely have growing pains as you move to the next level.”

Smith felt as though the various departments in the company were becoming more and more isolated from each other.

“It seemed like each of the departments was operating in somewhat of a vacuum,” Smith says. “We were still doing well, but it seemed like a lot of the department heads were not aware of what the others were doing.”

These types of issues can easily get glossed over by solid growth figures, which may overshadow potential weaknesses in your organization.

“When you’re scrambling to grow your business, you can cover up a lot of these issues,” Smith says.

Despite steady growth, Smith felt like Shoes For Crews was poised for even greater success that was being stunted by this lack of collaborative spirit.

“You can’t calculate the financial impact, but we would have been more successful if everybody was working together as a team,” Smith says.

So he set out to bridge the gaps and develop a culture in which each of the department leaders clearly understood their own roles as well as the roles of their peers. By giving everyone a better sense of how his or her piece fit into the puzzle, Smith felt the company would be able to provide even better service to its customers and grow sales at an even faster rate.

Here’s how he did it.