By Paul Winans My wife and I have run a residential remodeling company for 23 years. Because our business depends on employees, we're always trying to get better at working together to get the best from our team. Here are some things I've learned:
Know yourself. The most conspicuous person in your company is you. The owner is the company in the eyes of clients and employees. That's why I have high expectations. Our company is known for doing good work while leaving our clients feeling well-served. On the other hand, high expectations are sometimes unachievable. This can lead to frustration for me and our employees. In most cases, any frustration an owner experiences with an employee is not simply caused by the employee. Few owners understand how much they contribute to the problem or that it's part of a pattern. I've put a lot of effort into trying tounderstand what makes me tick. I still don't know the whole story and probably never will. However, what I've learned helps me, both at work and in other areas of my life.
Take responsibility for your own behavior and well-being. Consider activities that might help you slow down and reflect. I know a contractor who meditates every day. For me, getting rid of excess energy helps gain needed perspective. A brisk walk during the work day is great. I also jog. I feel much better after such an activity, even if I thought I was too tired to do it. Find what works for you and do it.
Lengthen the space between getting frustrated and your response to that frustration. Count to 10, or 50, or 100. The more space between the cause of the frustration and your response to it, the better you'll feel about the response.
Learn to take the long view. The same situation can be handled in many different ways. All that you can change is your response. Sure, you're frustrated. But what are your long-term goals for yourself, the employee, and your company? How do you want to be remembered? As a jerk with a short fuse or as a catalyst for positive change in someone's life?
Support and enrich your employees. One of my goals is that an employee will have a better life because he works at Winans Construction. Better doesn't mean easier. It means the employee will get the support and training to grow. Focusing on individual employees makes for a company that can do more. It develops a great referral base of loyal clients. Profits go up. At the same time each employee is learning and growing in ways that make his life outside of work better.
Give to get. We work with a business consultant who encourages us to share our long-term strategic plan with our employees. The more information you give to the people you are working with, the better they will serve the needs of the company. Review the current situation with your employees. Decide what the goals are -- you can even develop some of the goals together -- and what should happen short term. Then meet again to evaluate performance. If this sounds scary, start doing it on a per job basis. Give the lead the budget, provide job costing weekly or monthly, then review what went right or what could have gone better at the end of the job.
Find what works and give it a try. The benefits include happier employees and clients who are fans of your company. Oh, and you make more money and enjoy life more. Working with the best is what you deserve. Make it happen.
--Paul Winans is president of Winans Construction Co., Oakland, Calif.