There are two major benefits to having employees deeply involved in company operations: They have fresh ideas that have been developed from their own experiences and this involvement can breed a sense of ownership and loyalty.

SilverMark Inc. Design & Build, in Minneapolis, a successful, multimillion dollar company, is a case in point. Recently key employees Eric Finucane, estimator; Shari Johnson, production coordinator; and Erin Sunde, remodeling consultant, shared their thoughts about the open management structure that owners Terry Streich and Gary Welton have developed.

Shari: When I was hired nine years ago, Terry and Gary made it clear that they wanted our input. This culture is something that's been in place for some time.

Eric: We're involved in basically every major decision within the company — from setting client expectations to implementing a new dust protection system.

Erin: One way they pull us in is through regular brainstorming sessions. We start these meetings with a description of the problem or issue, then come up with ideas. The ideas are written on a flip chart and ranked.

Eric: [When] we saw the market softening, we held a brainstorming session on marketing. [That's Terry's area], and he could see that our leads were dropping. He brought us all in, and then we let loose with ideas.

Erin: We came up with ideas that would supplement our existing program. Then we volunteered to do the part of it for which we were best suited.

Shari: As production coordinator, I get to know our customers well, so it was a natural for me to volunteer to call past clients. I loved it and got immediate results.

Eric: I am comfortable talking to architects, so I reached out and networked with that group.

Erin: Because I'm an interior designer, my time was spent targeting those folks and working with the local ASID to do a presentation to the group.

TEAM POWER SilverMark's marketing program is benefiting from the infusion of new energy and expanded outreach. Other positive aspects of using the brainpower of the team:

Eric: If one of the top ideas is one I've contributed, I'm enthusiastic about volunteering to head it up and make it a success. I own it.

Erin: By participating, I can see that what I'm doing is contributing to the whole.

Eric: This type of management is one of the main reasons why I've stayed here for over seven years.

Shari: With a slowdown, it could be easy to let your spirits drop and feel hopeless or helpless. Because I'm able to be involved, I feel I'm doing my part and that I have a role to play in the creation of the success of the company. It's empowering.

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, helping remodelers build consistently profitable companies.; 301.490.5620.