Managers' Corner: Staying on Top
You can’t control the economy, but you can control your success. Learn three keys to creating a winning culture in your organizationby Chuck Miller | Published in September 2009 economy | management | managers' corner | Departments
You can’t control the economy, but you can control your success. Learn three keys to creating a winning culture in your organization
We have all been impacted by economic shifts over the past 18 months. During this time, each decision has come under more scrutiny, every customer and sale has been more cherished, each loss more pronounced. The realization that we are powerless to certain external forces should simply remind us that there are elements of our businesses that we can and must control.
The single most important of those elements are your employees. From our national headquarters in Southern California, we have kept an analytical eye on the changing world around us, all while retaining a stable, strategic workforce. Our most critical assets are our employees and organizational culture. The successes of each valued team member are a direct result of the hiring and retention practices we’ve intricately woven into our way of life. Here are some thoughts on how to best co-create a long-standing winning culture within your organization.
1. Take Your Time
The most important step in growing or maintaining a thriving company is hiring good people, especially in key positions. Managers frequently rush this delicate process, neglecting to ask difficult questions or spend enough time with their candidates. Successful hiring can be a process, and that’s OK as long as you let the candidate know that it may take some time.
In 2007, for example, we hired Biff Gentsch, now our national sales manager, as our East Coast director of operations. At the time, he owned his own rep group company, which represented one of our largest competitors, so we needed to ensure the move would be a perfect fit for all parties. I spent countless hours with him both on the phone and in person, and I asked other company leaders to spend time with him. The entire nearly-two-month process allowed me to intimately witness how he would interact within our existing culture. He was one of the finest hires we’ve made, and a big reason for that is the intricate — and sometimes painstaking — attention we paid to the hiring process. Being up front about your specific hiring goals and processes allows you to keep open and honest lines of communication, which are absolutely crucial for building a winning culture.
2. Give Them Room to Grow
Now that you’ve invested significant resources into the hiring process, you’re ready for the next step. Be sure to give your employees plenty of room for both personal and professional growth. Upward mobility and increased responsibility are perhaps the two most motivating factors for employees, both new and old. Reward them by promoting from within. The greatest leaders are those who have had the opportunity to work, grow and learn each facet of the business.
For example, Alex Kouzmanoff, who was recently appointed vice president, started with us at age 21. Even then, my hiring process was extensive, and as a result, we found someone dynamic enough to grow and change with our organization. Both leaders have evolved during their tenure with Aztec because we’ve given them the space to reach their capabilities and explore the heights of their potential.
3. Create Strength through Diversity
Diversity of experience and personality is essential for the growth of a successful organization. By fusing experienced veterans and energetic youthfulness, you create a balanced workplace, perfect for innovation, interpersonal cohesion, and impactful, strategic decision-making.
Kouzmanoff, for example, is a Los Angeles native who joined Aztec more than 10 years ago as an intern. Gentsch, on the other hand, joined us from Illinois with more than 25 years of tent industry experience under his belt. For the past two years, they have worked in concert to build the most talented and geographically diverse sales and operations team we have ever employed, including newly appointed managers who range in age and experience.
Ultimately, each organization must find its own approach to improving itself. Whether through rigorous hiring processes and aggressive internal promotions or external staff development, commit yourself to installing the finest personnel possible. The only way to endure these challenging times is to surround yourself and your business with others who are as dedicated to success as you are.