November 1st, 2019


Happy Team, Happy Customers, Prosperous Company

Some things never change! No matter the industry, the year, the overall business climate, we are only as good as our team allows us to be. We have all heard the age-old saying “a team is only as good as its weakest link.” Well, let me tell you, those are words to live by.

How do we recruit and keep great talent, how do we motivate our people, how do we challenge them to grow personally and professionally?

It all starts and ends with the corporate culture you have created, if everyone is not on the same page, headed in the same direction, rowing at the same rhythm, sooner or later the “wheels will come off”.

It all starts with the little things, “God is in the details”

Too often we hear executives/managers say, “my employees” are the greatest, the “people that work for me” are the best, I personally cringe when I hear people being referred to as “employees,” needless to say “work for me” is equally as uninspiring in my view. While the terms may be technically correct by definition, they are not correct if you want to instill pride and loyalty in your people. I even go out of my way to correct a fellow worker when they say, “this is my boss” or “I work for so and so.” It just feels and sounds wrong to me. I do not want my people to distance themselves from the team mentality, I want them to embrace it.

I want to hear, “I work with so and so,” “we work together,” “we are part of the same team.” People have a choice where they contribute their time and effort, especially in today’s economy, unemployment is at a record low and finding good people is our biggest challenge. We must nurture and promote teamwork and a sense of belonging if we are going to keep top talent engaged and motivated. There is no greater resource than our people.

As executives and managers, we need to create a corporate atmosphere making “teamwork” the focus, your people must understand that their individual successes and failures have repercussions for the entire organization, that what they do and say reflects on the entire team. It does not matter if it is warehouse personnel or the chief executive officer, we must all be responsible and accountable to each other if we are to succeed. I come from a sports background and have always managed our people the way that I would like to be managed and motivated. Having clear and specific goals is the genesis of building a well-oiled team. Having a detailed plan on how to achieve those goals is crucial. Having clear rules and regulations (usually in the form of internal manuals) is indispensable. You can’t expect your team to flourish, if you as a manager, cannot communicate the how and why of where you are headed and what is the path to get there.

Not all team members are equal

You will have superstars, divas, cruisers and many more undefinable character traits you will need to identify and deal with within your organization. A good manager must excel at distinguishing among them. You must invest the time to know what motivates each individual if you are to get the best out of them and have them embrace the team mentality. Don’t hesitate to treat each person differently, a cruiser should not get the same leeway and perks a superstar does. Yet, superstars must also follow the same rules and regulations you have set for all team members, and if they truly are superstars they wont need to be reminded of that.

If we have done our job as managers, the team will sort out the weak links and apply the needed pressure to either straighten out the situation or the weak link will remove him/herself from the company/team. I am very proud of rarely having to dismiss someone that is a “weak link,” those people resign voluntarily since they cannot meet the standard the team has set for itself. When that happens, you know you have succeeded as a manager!

Team Building

Years ago, we created an internal campaign that we refer to as “the happiness campaign.” Team members get rewarded with a special “pin” whenever they go above and beyond the call of duty. A manager can notice the action, or a fellow team member can bring it to the attention of the manager, someone is always watching. The pins have 9 different slogans engraved on them, from “I sell happiness” to “I am TGI.” Upon accumulating a certain number of pins, team members can turn them in for paid days off, cash bonuses and even a paid vacation. Team members also get recognized internally by his/her peers and on the company’s social media feeds. As elemental as this program may sound, everyone loves recognition and peer approval, it is a simple and effective way to continually remind everyone why we do the little things.

Family Culture

It is paramount that you involve the team members family in the company culture. From company picnics, softball league, holiday party, to kids’ day at work, etc. The more interaction you can have with a team member’s family, the more they will understand why their loved one is so dedicated to their profession and to the company. Keep in mind that many of us spend as much time at the office as we do at home. It helps when your spouse and kids understand and are on board with why we do it.

Most of you may have heard of a company called “Hershey’s.” One of the largest chocolate manufactures in the world, founded in 1894 by Milton Hershey. Mr. Hershey understood the importance of having a dedicated team, so much so, that he built a whole city around his chocolate factory. Named in his honor, Hershey, Pennsylvania, insured that his team members and their families had a decent place to live, with good schools, healthcare, recreational facilities, etc.

Mr. Hershey was unique, in that he treated his people like family, when most tycoons of the era were only interested in maximizing their company’s profits. I am sure that his generosity and understanding of what motivated people was at the heart of Hershey’s success in becoming the best and most profitable company in its industry.

Commit to the culture

No matter where you stand on the corporate ladder, at the top looking down or at the bottom looking up, it’s all about culture. If the majority buys in, then you will have success. Be quick to cut loose anyone who is not rowing in the same direction, sooner rather than later, no matter who they are, the best salesman, the janitor, “one bad apple spoils the bunch.”

I cannot stress that enough, I would rather have a team player that is mediocre at his job than a superstar that is a lone wolf. Good luck in creating your TEAM! -Tony


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