Do you ever take the time to reflect on the history of your business, why and how it started, and the milestones you and the business have achieved? Here’s a deeper question. Do you ever reflect on the industry that provides your business its opportunity, how and why it started, and the milestones our industry has achieved? You might be surprised to learn that the staff you depend on to grow your business actually care about that history, and when it’s presented in context it can enable a sense of pride and ownership lacking in many of the younger generation.
Our business celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. That’s a major milestone by any standard. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, no one remains at our company from that early ’60s era. A couple of our leaders started in the mid ’70s and they have plenty of stories to tell. The challenge remains in making the time and creating the opportunity to tell those stories. I remember someone telling me early in my career that we are the sum of our experiences. I’m sure you will agree that your business reflects the sum of its history and values.
A few years ago our marketing partner identified that we had a rich corporate history whose story deserved to be told. But we had never documented that history, much less used it for marketing and employee development. With their help we took the time to write the story of our history. We gathered photographs. We documented the evolution of our customers, markets, and technology. We ended up with an actual booklet that we distributed to our staff.
That same marketing partner also challenged us to find deliberate ways to tell the story of our business to new hires. We started a monthly new hire luncheon. Every month we invite new hires to a private lunch with our CEO and myself; no immediate supervisors or managers are allowed to attend. The new hires get our undivided attention for one hour. After we share a meal, we ask everyone to share their personal story. They talk about their families, work history, hobbies, and interests. We get to hear some amazing stories. Everyone has one. Then we tell our story. They learn about our company history and a little about the history of our industry. We talk about our values and why they are the foundation of our business success. We share some personal stories while we laugh together, and then we get serious.
Most who attend these meetings have never been invited to a private lunch with the CEO, much less been asked to share and learn about what makes the business special. At first, some are skeptical. They assume we have an ulterior motive. But they come away with a sense of belonging, pride, and motivation to not screw it up. Most important they learn that they are associated with confident leaders with a history built on failures and success who don’t mind sharing, and who honestly care about the success of every employee.
Mike Bradley (mcbradley@safeguard. us) is president of Safeguard Security and Communications, a security and communication systems integrator in Phoenix, AZ. Bradley is a past president and director on the board of the NSCA with 25 years’ experience in sales and management in the low-voltage contracting industry.
On Their Shoulders
You and I are lucky to be part of a great industry—an industry built on failures and success. Most importantly, we’re an industry built on the shoulders of great men and women who had vision and sacrificed much to allow us a chance to succeed. Last December, we lost Randy Vaughan. He was a fine business and industry leader who I served with side by side for many years.
Last month we lost another industry giant. Don Hastings was also my friend and someone to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. Don was another industry giant who saw the potential of our cottage industry and built West Penn Wire around providing special wire and cabling products for the unique needs of our industry. He really cared about us. On two different occasions I was fortunate to be invited by Hastings to participate with a small group of peers in an advisory council. He flew us to an undisclosed destination where he and his partner, Lou Valente, picked our brains about what we needed, what our industry needed, and what ways they could contribute to our success and the industry at large. Hastings was a giver and magnanimous supporter of the NSCA and the industry it represents. He always let Lou do the glad-handing—you would generally find Hastings in the shadows, watching us with a smile on his face, taking pride in our success.
Hastings and Vaughan represent hundreds—probably thousands— of stories from our industry worth telling. Take a little time this fall to reflect on your story. Reflect on the industry that has been good to you. Ask yourself how you can give back, and commit to telling the story to your business family. They will appreciate the context it will provide as these two giants become part of that history.