By: Brian Sullivan
A process called the Entrepreneurial Operating System has enabled us to establish a new leadership structure and develop strategies and procedures that will allow us to successfully grow without losing our unique strengths as a team. One of the first steps in the EOS process is to identify our core values. In 2015, with the help of our business coach Mark O’Donnell (link to his webpage), our four-person leadership team did exactly that.
First we identified the values we admired in individuals we knew or worked with in the past. From that long list, we removed any “permission to play” values. These are defined as values that meet of our competitors share (e.g. intelligent, thorough, etc.). After further narrowing down the list through a process called “Kill, Keep or Combine,” we were left with a list six core values. Lastly, we assessed each other and determined that we, in fact, exhibited these values. We were confident that we had accurately identified the right core values: Empower People, Team First, Work Ethic, Honesty & Integrity, Humbly Confident and Forward Thinking
Our leadership team now employs these values as a measuring stick for making business decisions, including: hiring new team members, evaluating existing team members, recommending contractors, and choosing clients we want to work with. Realizing our core values has significantly improved our hiring process, provided better employee evaluation, increased our efficiency, assisted us in making difficult decisions, and helped us recognize and seize new opportunities.
Our six core values:
We believe in empowering our clients to have the ability to make informed decisions on how to best maintain their building and prepare budgets accordingly. Additionally, we empower each other by requiring continuous education throughout the organization for professional and personal growth.
We immediately delegate work to new team members to allow them to take full ownership and responsibility for tasks, and accelerate their development. One of our common themes is that our team members take on additional challenges with the goal of making our supervisor feel useless.
As a family-oriented group that enjoys working together, we intuitively help out whenever it’s needed, without being asked. Like all great teams, we succeed and fail as a team. We celebrate successes collectively and work together to resolve and learn from mistakes.
We have a no gossip policy in place, similar to the one enforced by Dave Ramsey (httpss://www.entreleadership.com/articles/how-to-implement-a-no-gossip-policy-at-w) throughout his organization, and discussed in his book Entreleadership. Fortunately, due to the character of our team members, we have never had to enforce this policy,.
As an organization, and individually, we always do whatever’s necessary to get the job done right. Meeting a commitment sometimes means long workdays and weekend work. We would rather deal with the short term impact of long hours than the long term consequences of falling short of meeting our deadlines, fulfilling our commitments or providing the highest standard of service.
Honesty & Integrity
At Sullivan Engineering, we always do what is right regardless of the consequences.
As soon as we recognize that we have made a mistake, we point it out to our client. Under no circumstances, do we attempt to hide it. As just one example, I inadvertently identified mortar pointing outside the wrong window during a leak investigation I performed several years ago. Upon inspection of the work in progress, I recognized this error and immediately instructed the contractor to perform the work in the proper location. Before leaving the site, I met with the Owner, informed him of the error, and issued a credit on our next invoice for the cost of the additional pointing.
While mistakes made out of carelessness or laziness are unacceptable, we encourage the open discussion of mistakes resulting from a team member’s attempt at making the extra effort or stepping out of his or her comfort zone. Discussing our mistakes every month helps us learn from each other and avoid repeating our mistakes. We even have an annual Best Mistake Award in our office. We vote among the funnier or more memorable nominations and announce the winner at our annual retreat. In case you’re wondering, I won the award in 2014 and was the runner up in 2015. Dictating the name “Olivia” into an email to a new client, and having my iPhone auto correct it to “I love you” garnered me that very close second place finish.
As previously noted, we are fallible. We acknowledge that we are great at what we do. However, we are well aware that as human beings we are far from perfect. We have zero tolerance for arrogance on our team.
We believe in showing our clients exactly how good our team is. We want them to see for themselves the value we bring to the table. If we have to tell someone we’re great, then we are not. We are also very relatable, almost the antithesis of the stereotypical engineer featured in a show like The Bing Bang Theory. We never speak above nor down to anyone.
We begin all projects with the end in mind, never loosing focus of the client’s main objective(s). We carefully analyze the project schedule, and try to proactively identify and mitigate any potential issues that the contractor, owner or building occupants might encounter. As stated by many of our clients and contractors, we are “common sense” practical problem solvers.
We are extremely goal oriented. While sitting at a desk in the Wayne Public Library, before moving into our first physical office, we established a 40 year vision for the firm. We regularly revisit that vision, made so much more substantial thanks to Mark O’Donnell and the EOS process. We develop quarterly company goals that must be accomplished to meet our 10 year target. We review these goals with our team every month, along with reviewing our personal/individual goals at least twice a year.