More Than Money

Dominant builders create a culture that attracts and retains talent and customers.

By Bob Piper, Principal, The Talon Group | August 31, 2004


Bob Piper, Principal, The Talon Group

One of our favorite clients built a wonderful company utilizing a very simple philosophy. "This is a simple business that requires good people who care about doing what's right for the customer, their co-workers and the company." This has served them well over the years, and the company is a true powerhouse today.

Its compensation programs are competitive, but the real edge is how they treat their people - ongoing involvement and acknowledgements. Not the typical command and control, top-down structure utilized by many builders.


In the early years, the owners always acknowledged a job well done, not with plaques or trophies but rather with a personalized thank you note. Usually, the note included a gift certificate to a popular restaurant and a $20 bill for the babysitter. Such compliments extended to employees, no matter their rank, and news of this corporate sensitivity spread like wildfire, resulting in a backlog of applicants that was only exceeded by their backlog of sales.

As the company grew to be a market leader, it began to utilize a defined recruitment and selection process. They are constantly on the look for the best and the brightest, always interviewing, always improving. Good people talk to more good people, regardless of active needs. As a result, rarely does the company find itself lacking for candidates when an opening arises.

Candidates are treated professionally and encouraged to talk with current employees to get an idea of the company's culture. After all, when a healthy culture exists, a company's employees are its best advertisement.

Candidates interview one-on-one with three to five interviewers. Then, the interviewers discuss how well each candidate aligns with the corporate culture and specs of the position. The manager who had the most frequent contact delivers the news to the candidate, not someone from the HR department. This approach delivers a message of mutual respect, and even those not chosen come away as positive disciples of the company.

The benefits of this culture extend beyond a ready stream of eager candidates. To this day this company realizes extraordinarily low employee turnover. Rarely does someone leave the organization, even when tempted with a higher income. Simply put, its employees are genuinely happy and proud to be members of the organization. Happy employees make for happy customers, and happy customers equate to strong referral sales and profitability. It should come as no surprise this company has held a dominant ranking in local market share and customer satisfaction for more than 10 years.

There are plenty of profitable builders out there with enviable bottom lines. But, do they make a concerted effort to build true, non-transactional relationships with their people?

It may be a good time to reassess your culture. Is a positive message being delivered inside the organization to your employees, and outside to the rest of the world? It's never too late to send a personalized note to some of your deserving associates. And when you do, don't forget the money for the babysitter.


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