Jim Mirando Jr.
Excel Interior Concepts & Construction
My first step was to fix my own morale by getting back to basics and improving my attitude. Second, we made a plan to adapt to the current environment, and we communicated the plan openly and honestly.
We are being more proactive, making the most of every opportunity, and truly appreciating every client.
The most important way to keep up morale — especially for the guys in the field — is to keep them informed about what the future holds, even if the news is not good.
People tend to imagine the worst. So we have regular weekly meetings with our field employees and we update them on work in the pipeline — including projects currently in design and the likelihood of their converting to construction contracts.
We also talk about projected downtime so that employees can plan ahead. They all say that they would rather know the bad news sooner than later.
In the office, we have been working on team-building for the last year and, as a result, everyone has committed to working together to get through these tough times.
At our weekly staff meetings we discuss ways to improve policies, procedures, and workflow. It has become much clearer to each person that everyone has a role to play in the company’s success.
All office employees, including me, have agreed to take a 25% pay cut for the first quarter of 2009. This will help bring overhead in line with our reduced revenue. It has also helped field employees feel that they do not have to bear the burden alone.
We have ramped up marketing and advertising spending and we communicate this to all employees, sending a message to the company that we are committed to actively pursuing new projects. It all contributes to the sense that we are in this together and, although it requires some personal sacrifices, we will survive together.
Almar Building and Remodeling
We have been up-front with our lead carpenters about the economic situation. We reiterate to all employees that there is work out there. We let them know they can be a great help by advocating Almar, asking for referrals, and looking out for possible additional work that a homeowner might want. We also work hard to stay in touch with past clients and those in our “circle of influence” and remind them to be advocates for us, as well.
Everyone is aware that there are fewer construction jobs out there, and employees have pulled together as a team to build Almar and a loyal following. By working together we help keep morale up. By sharing our thoughts, feelings, and fears we are able to keep one another positive.
We’re focusing on engaging our people and keeping a positive outlook, but it’s getting harder to keep morale up. We’re involving everyone here in the work of promoting our business and maintaining the health of the company.
Networking is important. At least one person from our company goes every week to events at various organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Club of Minneapolis, Rotary, and ASID [American Society of Interior Designers].
Then we all meet in the office once or twice a week to report back on who we met and what happened, and whether there are any extra steps we should be taking. This helps people feel that they have a stake in the company and some control over what happens.
At these meetings employees come up with ways to stay in touch with past clients and to continue providing value to them. They’ve generated some good ideas for seminars, for example.
One thing that wasn’t helpful for morale, despite the officewide discussion, was lowering everyone’s salary. Although employees understood that it was necessary, people did get down about it for awhile. We have benchmark points for getting back to regular pay, and that has helped staff adjust to it.
We’ll be doing some social activities soon, too. We need a break from the pressure — even if it’s just for an evening. We always have a good time socializing, and that will be good for morale.