Three strategies for staffing your company with happy, intelligent, moral, and supportive employees: First and foremost, you, the owner, must be happy, intelligent, moral, and supportive. It's imperative that you model the desired behavior.

Next, establish the baseline personality characteristics that you want every employee to have. Debra Moore of Custom Design/Build, Ann Arbor, Mich., did that and came up with these desired qualities for every member of her staff:

  • High energy, fast-paced, enthusiastic
  • Client- and service-focused
  • Creative, contributing, flexible
  • Works independently
  • Results-driven problem solver
  • Excellent communications skills, including writing and reading
  • Excellent computer/technology skills
  • Superb follow-through
  • Moore refers to this list of behavioral characteristics whenever she recruits and hires new employees, as well as when she evaluates current employees. Combined, these qualities are helping to shape her company's culture and work environment.

    Remodeling Family Values Third, define your company's top five core values, and put them in writing. Obviously, there are hundreds of admirable values from which to choose, including honesty, integrity, teamwork, and respect. Focus on those you feel are key to your company's successful operation.

    Jim Collins, co-author of Built to Last and author of Good to Great, defines core values as those you consider so fundamental that you would hold them regardless of whether or not they resulted in rewards. Typically, an entrepreneurial company assumes the values of the owner. Enlist your employees to help you define your top values, but be sure that you have the last word and are satisfied with the result.

    Besides defining your values, specify a couple of behaviors that typify each one. Then infuse these core values throughout your company: talk about them, use them, reward them, and live them.

    Patty McDaniels and her staff at Boardwalk Builders, Rehoboth Beach, Del., identified five core values that govern how the company does business both internally and externally: integrity and quality; education; safety; respect and teamwork; and profitability. The Boardwalk team defined each value and identified desired behaviors. For instance, profitability behaviors are to “plan effectively and conserve resources to ensure the long-term viability and growth of the company. Complete the job on time and on budget by having the right tools, materials, information, trade contractors, and education.”

    A Perfect Realization By clearly defining and modeling your company's desired behaviors and shared values, you will be more successful in conveying your company's work environment to prospective hires, and in hiring effectively. You'll be able to reward appropriate behaviors and discipline inappropriate behaviors. And you will do all of this in a manner that everyone agrees is principled and based on agreed-upon standards rather than an arbitrary personal decision.

    You will also help your employees move toward a more perfect realization of your company's values. For instance, imagine that one of your core values is “respect for the individual.” If an employee is disrespectful, you can immediately remind them that they are out of line with that agreed-upon guide. Similarly, an employee who feels that a client has been mistreated can bring forth his or her concern with greater assurance.

    Writing and living your core values demonstrates that you know how you want to play the game in your company. Values push us to stretch to perfect our behavior. And that's never a bad thing. —Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5620; Linda@;