By Michael A. Capasso
As the owner of CAC Industries, a large public works contracting company in New York City, I used to coordinate a lot of moving parts on a daily basis – both literally, ensuring we have people at all of our myriad job sites performing work up to our high standards, and figuratively, handling the operations for a large business and coordinating our work on roads, sewers, water mains, gas lines and more. While our company has continued to grow immensely over the years, I felt it was time to incorporate more structure and efficiency in how we work. In addition, we had an influx of new employees, and our long-standing culture just wasn’t sinking in with them.
That’s when we turned to Petra Coach, a business consulting firm that I met at entrepreneur and author Verne Harnish’s CEO Boot Camp. We wanted to bring in a business coach not only to oversee this process of learning and growing, but more importantly, to make sure it was done correctly, in a timely manner and in a way that was best for our company.
With Petra’s help, our management team implemented the Rockefeller Habits, the legendary strategies John D. Rockefeller used to grow his empire. They ensure that the team is aligned and that all members are held accountable for meeting organizational goals – which can make a large company like ours function much more efficiently.
We began implementing these “habits” in the last year, and we’re already noticing how much tighter our operations have become with only a few changes:
- Effectively communicating core values and core purpose
Our company had been in business for 25 years before we brought Petra Coach and the Rockefeller Habits into the mix. We already had a great family feel within the company, but as the business grew, it became harder to keep that intimate, caring culture, especially as new generations of workers joined the team. We needed to define and articulate our values.
Prior to starting the coaching process, we developed 27 of what we call “Fundamentals,” or the basic rules by which we live and work. They detail the CAC Industries Way with points such as, “Think Safe, Work Safe,” “Use Data to Make Decisions,” “Act Like It’s Your Own” and “Be Relentless About Improvement.” Now, every employee has those values on cards that they carry around at all times as a constant reminder of their commitment to carrying those out.
We also defined our core purpose – our motivation for doing what we do – and four core values – the foundational principles our company is built on. Once they were outlined, we had a “Rollout” event, where – over food, drinks and camaraderie – we revealed them to everyone in the company.
The event allowed us to celebrate our core purpose and core values and make them something exciting for everyone to be a part of – but it didn’t stop there. We want to make sure we’re living them out every day. We now have these five phrases printed on every single safety vest as a way of driving positive accountability. It serves as a constant reminder to the team – and makes it public to anyone passing our workers on the street – who we are, how we work and what we stand for.
- Holding myself and others accountable
I’ll be honest, it was not easy to take responsibility for the issues we were having. It isn’t for most leaders who are deeply and emotionally invested in what they do because it means admitting you’ve made mistakes and opening yourself to scrutiny. But it was a necessary step to begin this process of change.
To get a baseline of how we felt we were performing, we started by doing a talent assessment with the executive team in which each team member “graded” one another on his or her performance. It was an opportunity to be very frank with each other about what’s working and what’s not – myself included.
Once those concerns were voiced, each team member came away with an action plan to make those changes, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure when that goal has been reached and an accountability partner to make sure each person stays on the right track.
We plan to start doing these kind of assessments, and developing action plans, with all employees later this year, as it’s so important to get them in the habit of sharing their goals with others and understanding how their work affects both themselves and others – all of which is the basis for accountability.
- Ensuring everyone in the company is aligned and meeting goals
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that it’s very hard to steer a ship if nobody knows where we’re going. It takes the whole crew pitching in to move in the right direction. So, it became crucial to get everyone on the same page.
Part of the issue, I realized, was that I knew exactly what I wanted the company to accomplish, but having everything in my head was not helping anyone else understand. Once I started sharing my vision with the leadership team, and we turned them into specific goals, they were able to share those with others, which allowed everything to fall into line.
And we don’t just share those goals by word of mouth, we make it something tangible that can be measured and tracked. For example, we decided to make cash flow a priority, so now we track it for each job on a scoreboard that everyone can see. Often it’s very motivating to visually understand where we are with that goal and what we need to do to reach it.
As owner, I want to move more outside of the operations and get others to feel comfortable making decisions for themselves and for the company. Now that I’m sharing my perspective with them on a regular basis, I feel more confident that we’re all headed in the same direction.
Because of all the work we have done and the engagement that it has brought to our employees, the feel of the team has been much more positive. And we didn’t have to make any major overhauls, but we couldn’t have done it on our own. It required the outside perspective and guidance from our coach, and some open-mindedness on our part, but now we are seeing the transformation take place in our company. Now, what changes are you going to make?
Michael A. Capasso is the founding owner and President of C.A.C. Industries, Inc. He has over 20 years’ experience in the construction industry. Michael is dedicated to the personal growth and success of his employees, and his philosophy is simple: Lead by example, be a courageous risk taker, embrace conflict and show good judgment.