Geoffrey Gran and his business partner Bill Heuer started The Countertop Factory Midwest in 2005. They had no prior countertop fabrication experience – instead, they came into this business with a background in sales and marketing.
A lot of people told them they’d get crushed, but today, they have 162 employees and are the largest fabricator in Illinois. Their goal from the beginning was to be the best, and hiring great employees has been the key to achieving it.
Geoffrey shares how he’s been able to build and maintain great company culture during the coronavirus pandemic. Check out the video and transcript below!
Let Your Employees Be Great
Our #1 asset is our employees. That’s the most important thing for us. Our theory is if you go and hire great employees, then let them be great.
If I hired you because I think you’re a great person that does great things, I need to make sure you understand what I expect from you. l make sure you have the resources you need, and I’ll let you go be great!
What so many people do that don’t have management experience is they put their thumb on you and manage you to mediocrity, and then you leave because you’re not happy. You’re not challenged, and you can’t do the things you want to do.
I personally spend 50% of my time building culture in the company and making sure everyone is happy.
Now look, I get that it’s work. But at least we want to make it enjoyable. Part of that is making sure you understand what’s expected of you every day.
Give transparency and those employees will help you get to the promised land, which is making as much money as possible. That money goes back to my employees, the facility, equipment, taking care of my customers, marketing – all of those things.
How to Develop Culture Amidst COVID-19
Companies that didn’t have great culture prior to COVID-19 are struggling because their employees never really bought in. Our employees trust us because we’re transparent.
During COVID-19, we’re communicating more:
- Daily emails
- Zoom calls
- Picking up the phone and talking to people
Most employees are working from home, but we still have some guys out in the field. We’re constantly checking in how people are feeling and how their families are doing.
A few more things we’ve done:
- Giving PPE early on
- Practicing social distancing by setting up zones in the shop and making adjustments to the break room
- Taking temperatures in the morning and at night
- Have a strong sick leave policy
Anyone that has symptoms or has someone in their household that tested positive – we told them to stay home for 14 days. We continued to pay them, so there was no negative effect on anyone.
When employees see the management team doing all those things for them, it makes them feel good.
Dealing With High Unemployment Funding
There was some additional funding that went into unemployment. For a lot of people, they’re making more money on unemployment.
A lot of fab shops can’t get their employees back, and I think that’s a culture issue. This is a shock to a lot of owners – they thought had loyal employees.
If you treat your employees right, they want to come back. They know unemployment is a temporary fix.
We laid off about 25% of our staff and have since brought back 25% of those people. Every one of them came back and was excited to come back.
Refocus During COVID-19
We have 14 managers with an average tenure of about nine years. We went to every manager and asked them the top three things that cause your department not to be great.
Each manager filled out a form and shared those three things – they laid out the problem and what they needed to fix it. We then did a virtual meeting as a group. The rest of the team decides on the one thing your department should work on. Suddenly, things start getting done.
Every good company should be taking this opportunity to work on things they should be. Reset, refocus, and recalibrate. Come out of this bigger, better, and stronger.
That’s the idea.
Geoffrey Gran is the owner of The Countertop Factory Midwest, the largest fabricator in Illinois with over 160 employees. Gran helped create Fifth Gear Technology, the company behind SPEEDlabel, SPEEDdraw, as well as Hot Sauce Your Tops.