One of the most important elements determining a company’s success is the quality of the employees. In my 25+ years in the renovation industry, I’ve seen this business principle played out again and again. Those companies who place significant importance on the hiring, training and retention of great employees have happier clients, more loyal trade contractors, and a considerably higher profit margin.
Here is the story of a successful company and how they think about their employees.
Jackson Design and Remodeling
When we’re all working so hard, many remodeling company owners feel there is no time, energy nor money for what they may perceive as the “soft” side of the business – things like company parties, team building events, and internal networking activities.
Todd Jackson, president of Jackson Design and Remodeling, San Diego, Ca., president is just the opposite. He understands that what some might see as warm, fuzzy activities with no place in a real business actually deliver a strong competitive advantage.
Jackson, a primary sales person as well as business owner, found the perfect person to lead up the company’s team building efforts in the person of Stina Nielsen, Client Relations Manager. In addition to being a first contact for all prospective clients, Stina is also responsible for creating and implementing a variety of employee activities within the company.
“Building a sense of team and a strong culture are really important in this company,” Stina says. “And it’s not just talk. There is a budget dedicated to these activities that include my time and additional monies that I can use to meet our goals.”
- To eliminate the natural division of field vs. office;
- To encourage friendships among the staff members;
- To build an understanding that everyone is part of a bigger whole; and
- To give everyone a chance to take a break from the intense day-to-day work for some plain, old fun.
Stina says, “We are an amazingly tight knit group who really gets along. We’ve found that the more we get to know one another, the more we enjoy working together. The more we enjoy working together, the more loyalty we have to each other and to the company. When this happens, people want to stay at the company. This helps us build a great team of dedicated folks who learn and grow better all the time. This flows straight to our clients who see our culture demonstrated every day.”
Creativity and continual new ideas are the tools that Stina uses to stretch the team building budget that she’s been given. “One of our favorite activities is the monthly Pot Luck style lunch,” Stina comments. “It’s low cost, always interesting, and everyone looks forward to it.”
Each month, a different team of employees is responsible for bringing in the food, keeping each individual’s investment of time or money to a minimum while involving everyone. Stina works on themes, décor, games and prizes. “I noticed at the beginning that when people came in, they naturally separated into the office people at one table and the field people at another,” she says. “Since we wanted everyone to be one team, I began inserting games or other activities to encourage intermingling and assigned people to mixed department teams for some friendly competition.”
Birthdays are also celebrated at the monthly luncheons with cards or a cake.
Getting the program started took some tenacity. “We were having some difficulty encouraging the field folks to attend at first,” Stina says, “so I’ve been focusing on reaching out to them in a variety of different ways so that everyone attends. Plus, several of our field employees don’t speak fluent English so that’s been a bit of a hurdle.”
At first, Stina tried to call each employee to let him or her know about the upcoming luncheon. With a staff of over 30, this was time consuming and not terribly productive. Next, each Production Manager was tasked with handing out flyers and talking it up. That, too, was ineffective. Now, Stina creates a colorful flyer and mails it directly to each employees home where she is sure they will see it.
“We’ve discovered that by making the effort to consistently organize this simple, very inexpensive event, everyone feels appreciated and the strength of our team goes way, way up.”