Joe Fuld is the President of The Campaign Workshop, a political and advocacy advertising agency in Washington D.C. that provides strategy, digital advertising, content, and direct mail services to nonprofit and political clients.
I am a lucky man. I have the privilege of working with people and on projects I love. I was recently at the wedding of my first employee and could not help but reflect on the past five years. This year was a hallmark year for my company, which has grown from one to 13 employees. I have truly grown to realize over my years being an employee, partner, and owner, how important the people in your business truly are. Corporate culture is something we talk a lot about as entrepreneurs, but which is created and driven by the people in the organization.
Corporate culture is not static; it grows and changes with the people in it. As a business owner, I like to think that the business has a lot to do with me, but I have realized it has just as much to do with the people who work with me and how they feel about the business.
We spend a lot of time before we hire getting to know prospective employees and making sure they fit the team. I also do employee surveys once a year to gauge where things are. I am far from being the perfect manager, so I am grateful to my employees who have taught me how to improve.
I ask employees what they like about their jobs, what they hate about their jobs, and what they think we should be doing differently. Many of my innovations come from employees' suggestions. But be careful not to ask a question that may yield an answer you will not be ready for.
The worst thing an employer can do is to ask for input but ignore it. If you feel like you have all the answers, don't ask any questions! I knew that I did not have the answers and my employees did. They understood the parts of my business that I never spent time on, and they knew its shortcomings.
I spend a lot of time listening to my employees; sometimes to the things they say and sometimes to the things they don't say. This can be body language, the behavior of a co-worker, or when an employee is just quiet. They will tell you things, but sometimes it is my job to figure the message out.
Also, be careful in how you ask questions: Don't just ask one employee something. Nobody wants to be seen as a rat or a mole, and you don't want to put your employees in that position.