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Bob's Recipe: Building a GREAT Company from the Ground Up

It’s a job seekers economy today. American jobs are in strong supply right now and candidates have more options for employment than at any point in recent history.

If you are starting and growing a small business, you will want to set yourself apart as a values-based organization that attracts the best employees from the very beginning. I’ve spent a lifetime creating jobs and in this fresh new year, I want to share a few thoughts on how I built a top employment franchising firm from the ground up and cultivated an environment to attract and retain loyal, energetic and productive employees.

Build a value-based foundation.

Future employees and partners typically seek an organization that aligns with their personal values, appreciates work-life balance and has an internal culture that exudes positivity. Incentivize those types of people to join you.

In the beginning, I recruited high-integrity individuals who could adopt our brand strategies, apply customer-focused goals and compliment the business’ foundational values. We then trained new employees with those values in mind.

Adopt a Base-Plus compensation system.

Through trial and error, we landed on a flexible and scale able compensation formula which works well for individuals at a base compensation level and for those driven, goal-oriented team members who push to succeed at an elevated level. Those highly driven employees require ‘plus’ pay-for-performance incentives on top of their base salary that usually take the form of commissions, incentives, tiered bonuses and perhaps stock options.

Measure company culture development.

Executives should have a way to measure how values align with culture, expectations and production. Review productivity and use regular meetings to determine if value platforms are inspiring employees to work hard, build client count, generate new ideas and surpass last year’s goals.

Celebrate ‘values in action’.

Create ‘think tanks’ to ideate what type of programs can showcase and celebrate values-based initiatives and accomplishments. In my 50+ years as a CEO we constantly looked for ways to give ‘shout outs’ for creative, risk taking measures resulting in delighted customers and extraordinary market outcomes.

Make sure you have a “chief people person”.

Strategically hire specialists to nurture your internal culture and connect with your external community. In our company the chief people person organized ‘lunch and learns’, emceed events, coordinated Angel Tree charity communications and supported the FUN committee. On the external side, they represented the organization on select non-profit boards, at community events, ground breakings and civic-minded initiatives.

Be a brand specialist.

I am a self-taught brand guy who believes there is no such thing as “over-communication”. Get your corporate story into the hands, hearts and minds of clients, prospective clients, employees and community leaders/legislators.

We launched an internal leadership simulcast to articulate and amplify our brand. The Express Clydesdales team was a strategic ‘brand ambassador’, making appearances at nationally-recognized parades, large-scale special events, major world competitions and in partnership with other brands such as Cancer Centers, Ronald McDonald House Charities and Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Final thoughts

Work-life balance is unheard of in small, start-up companies. Own up to it, embrace it and prepare to manage a small base of employees who will be working their tail off to advance the corporate mission and the collective yield benefiting risk-taking stakeholders. But be prepared to reward these early co-pioneers as the company begins delivering achieved revenues and profits.

Culture is a major differentiating factor in attracting and retaining great people, and companies can shape some intriguing employee perks around their business model. Learn from these platforms and find ways to inspire, reward and celebrate your base whether your entire company is 5 or 500 people. Be nimble, creative and sincere.

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