Creating a High-Octane Culture

Contributed by David Mammano, the founder and CEO of Next Step Publishing, Inc., based in Victor, New York.

As an entrepreneur, my employees are my strongest investment. Ninety-nine percent of my company’s assets are out the door at 5 p.m. every day. Without this passionate and committed team, my business wouldn’t exist. That’s why it’s important for me to get people excited about their jobs; to create a high-octane culture that encourages growth and excitement. Here are five things I do to energize my employees:

  1. Plan an awesome orientation. It all starts with a warm welcome to the company. I make it a point to take every new hire out to lunch and talk about the history of my company; the growth; the good, the bad and the ugly, etc. This lets them connect to me and the company. New employees also spend the first two weeks getting to know everyone through one-on-one meetings, group lunches and a position-oriented “boot camp.”
  2. Celebrate accomplishments. Remember those school field trips? I brought them back. By combining learning with adventure, I ensure my employees are never bored. I’ve taken my team rock climbing, to museums, boat rides, wine tastings and more. It’s always a blast to mingle outside of the office. Plus, it shows my employees that I care about who they are and their role within the company.
  3. Get gifts for the kids. What’s the most important thing in your employees’ worlds? Their families! I go out of my way to find out my employees’ kids’ birthdays. I then send them movie passes, an iTunes gift certificate or something personal. I set a limit of US$25 per kid and watch as my company loyalty grows. It’s a fun, inexpensive way to make team members feel special. If the employee doesn’t have kids, I try and find out the birthday of their dog or cat.
  4. Make time to eat with the best. Many business owners spend time with employees who need improvement and not with their power players. I choose to spend more time with my power players, the people who are going to make my company more profitable. It is worth my time to make a great player outstanding rather than making a poor player just good. The poor players will eventually get fired or eject themselves anyway, so why waste the time?
  5. Review thyself. I used to only give performance reviews to my employees. Then I realized that nobody was reviewing me. So I asked all my employees to anonymously fill out a performance review for me. Beforehand, I encouraged (demanded) my managers to “bring it on.” I told them I would be upset if they held back or sugarcoated the feedback. They listened. The experience was the most enjoyable punch in the stomach I ever had. It was full of examples of what I do well and where I get in the way. It also showed me where to apply my strengths and where to back off. My employees appreciated the opportunity to give feedback, how I listened to it and how I made changes.

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