People-based strategies

Do you have any of the following at your company?

  • Employees and managers who ask, ”Why would I ever want to work anywhere else?”
  • Rapid growth while maintaining margins in excess of the industry norm.
  • A respected leader.
  • A team of long-tenured employees who have taken true ownership of their jobs.
  • Some of the best talent in the industry continually inquiring about job opportunities with the company.
  • A strong financial and cash position while providing above average income opportunities to employees.

Many of those sound too good to be true, right? Not for one company I’ve been working with. It has the theory that with the right people strategies, there is no limit to what a company can achieve, and it has turned into a true success story.

I’ve always pushed my clients to hire the best people, provide them with an atmosphere and a culture where they can excel, then step back and give them the opportunity to create success for the company and for themselves. But as with anything, it helps to see the theory in action to reassure you that it is, in fact, as good as you always thought it was.

This company is in a very competitive industry selling a business-to-business commodity product. What sets it apart and has enabled it to grow and achieve financial success is not its product. It is its people strategy and philosophy, and how those translate into customer service and satisfaction. It has accomplished this throughout its organization of more than 200 people in six locations throughout the state.

I talked to managers and employees at all of its locations. There was a unique consistency in the message I received from each person at each location. They all emphasized their departmental and location autonomy and how the company promotes their entrepreneurial sprit. Their spin was that they are given enough rope to be successful, along with strong support when necessary.

Everyone said a two-way trust truly exists in the company. Ownership and top management trust employees to do their jobs, and they trust ownership to do what is in the best interest of the business and the employees. These people feel that their opinion matters, that they are listened to and that their ideas are taken very seriously.

They truly feel part of the company. They left me with a very strong feeling that they really care about the company as if it were their own. Isn’t that what we all want?

It would take most of the pages of SBN Magazine to detail every aspect of the people strategy at this company. There are, however, some facts that illustrate what makes the strategy work and the employees feel and act like they do.

  • More than 20 people in the company have a higher annual salary and bonus than the owner.
  • The owner’s office is no larger than the other managers’ offices, and he doesn’t have a window.
  • Every employee is involved in some type of incentive plan geared toward both the company’s performance and his or her own performance.
  • Random acts of kindness and a true feeling of family are the norm.

The primary factor in the success of the strategy, however, is the owner himself. Over the past 30-plus years, his actions have established the company’s strong employee-oriented culture. His honesty and ethics and his sincere belief in this strategy have enabled it to work and to achieve the extraordinary results that it has.

He knew that to reach his vision for growth and success, he needed the best team possible. He knew he would not be successful if he tried to do it alone or control every detail of the operation.

Most important, he realized what type of leadership and culture is required to attract the right team and for the team to excel.

Joel Strom is director of Joel Strom Associates LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.