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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The right employees; the right business

Look at the employee recruitment page for Hudson Construction in Davis, CA. Linking the employee hiring process to the client testimonials is inspiring -- and probably very effective -- in ensuring that people who wish to work for this company know the importance that satisfied clients are to their careers -- and that their work matters in supporting the business.

Yesterday, at the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association annual meeting, I had the opportunity to sit with a couple of people I have known for many years within the association. In both cases, they've held their jobs through successive corporate reorganizations, purchases, transformations, and the like.

One has always been at the big company, as it gobbled up other firms, and became even larger. The other, originally working with a large utility, found his job/environment shifted and changed as it evolved through different stages of deregulation; with new owners acquiring and changing the place -- and his 'place of employment' going through a seemingly schizoid number of name (and ownership) changes even as the essential business remained the same.

I was interested in hearing their attitudes to their employers and business in general -- having survived enough experiences to fill several life-times. Both are still at their work, competent, capable, and knowledgeable. I think they would be valuable at any business. (I'm obviously not naming them or their companies in this blog because obviously they didn't speak openly with me expecting an on-the-record interview!)

One person, who has lived in the corporate world all her life, said she noticed how some employees think like they own the world -- they are in their own space -- oblivious to the real market forces around them, only to come crashing to reality when the business changes or is reorganized.

She said however, she would always prefer the corporate world to the small business where the owner behaves as if he or she owns the world -- while not knowing what is really going on.
The other successful employee described how successive owners and managers failed to get it -- especially seeing the value of the actual business, and its opportunities. He described how he helped turn the business around with simple changes to make it more sensitive to the market and reduce internal 'process' bs. I told him it seems like he has the stuff to be an entrepreneur -- to own his own business. He agreed.

The point about these truly excellent employees is they combine confidence in themselves and a certain amount of healthy ego-pride with a realistic understanding that they only have their jobs, and their businesses only exist, within the real world of clients and the market -- and they resist -- in fact resent -- other employees, managers, and owners who don't get it.

Why is this discussion important for construction marketing? As I've outlined in previous posts, your brand is the sum total of all client interactions with your business -- and the front-line employees who work with your customers are going to leave the most important lasting impressions on them. Finding and retaining great employees in all aspects of your business -- not just the sales and marketing department -- then should be your highest priority. (Of course it is helpful that they do their respective tasks well, because marketing is indeed only one part of the picture.)

Listening to these successful long-time employees, I thought how sometimes we spend too much time listening to illustrious big-name business speakers, top executives, gurus, and consultants. Maybe, we should look at the qualities of our best employees; that is, the individuals who handle their specific responsibilities with exceptional competence, while connecting their work to the larger business picture. Taking these employees' perspectives in hand, you may find you change your branding and marketing strategy far more effectively than by following the conventional metrics.

Just a thought, maybe worth considering.

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