The New Three Cs: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - Best Practices
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SECTION: Best Practices

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The New Three Cs: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

By Mary Sedor

Article Date: 03-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

At Modern Equipment Sales & Rental, the company prides itself on gaining feedback from employees and keeping everyone in the loop.

Sitting in an airport on the way back from AED's Annual Meeting & CONDEX, Modern Equipment Sales & Rental President Chris Pera contemplated the breakdowns in communication between his branch locations and their delivery drivers.

Modern, an equipment dealership based in King of Prussia, Pa., with locations in four states, had recently upgraded equipment and went from old and faded to shiny and pretty, and Pera knew that those drivers were not only the best source of information to him, but they are also his best salespeople and customer service representatives he has on the street. He wondered how he could get them all together; then it hit him - a Saturday morning breakfast.

The only people invited to the event were the truck drivers. They had no idea why they were called in - they thought perhaps there were there for Department of Transportation inspections or a company meeting.

In reality, the drivers were there for a communication-building event they would never forget.

"We rented a great big tent and served breakfast," said Pera. "No one had any idea what was going to happen."

The drivers were given awards for a variety of reasons - shortest driver, tallest driver, newest boots, longest tenure, shortest tenure, cleanest truck. All the drivers voted for each category, and they all left with $50 in their pockets.

"It was the complete opposite of what they anticipated," he said.

While the awards were fun and definitely morale-boosting, one of the most important aspects of this creative and spontaneous event was that the drivers were given the opportunity to write down any question they had about the company and have it answered in front of the entire group. During breakfast, Pera pulled their questions one by one and answered them all.

"The drivers have no idea the form of education they provided me while they were having a good time," he said. "It was communication driven, which is one of the key aspects of our company culture. Modern is 100 percent employee owned. We not only work with our employee counterparts but also our partners. Over-communicating is a habit and one that each member respects."

Knowledge is Power

Modern has a culture of communication and mutual respect that has sprung from the company's beliefs. They are:

  • Outstanding customer service
  • A dedication to high ethical and legal standards in all respects of conducting business
  • A dedication to teamwork and partnership with customers, suppliers and employees
  • A culture of continuous improvement and innovation
  • Respect for the individual, family and community
  • Growth through performance and acquisition of quality organizations that fit Modern's vision
The company has an open communication policy, and even hosts monthly meetings throughout the organization. They ensure the employees are supplied with plenty of information.

For example, each month Modern posts on a 4 foot by 6 foot board in the conference room of each branch location an actual P&L snapshot by month, year to date, budget to date and last year. It's written on the board in the conference rooms so employees have the information before them, and if they don't understand it management reviews it with them.

"We try to have our employees participate in business-minded ideas," said Pera. "They are part of the effort. We make it so simple everyone can understand. The best thing anyone can have working for any employer would be to have knowledge about what's going on in the company. Not knowing something is very frightening, and having knowledge arms you differently. That's what we try to provide."

Pera says he believes this culture is evident because Modern is an employee-owned company, which fosters mutual respect throughout the organization. Evidence of this is demonstrated at round table meetings hosted by Modern's CEO and CFO once each year at each location to talk about the stock investment of the ESOP plan, what's happening with the 401K, and whatever else might be on employees' minds at that time.

"Our employees save questions for these round tables," he said. "It's that important - our employees want the interaction. They want to be able to be heard."

The result of this open communication policy is incredible loyalty. The average tenure at Modern is around the 14-year mark. Modern Group has 585 employees, while Modern Equipment Sales & Rental has 200 employees.

"At the end of the day, the people we can count most on are the ones we're working next to," he said. "If you can build that kind of morale there is nothing that can support a company better than that. When you have folks out representing us on the street, they have to approach it from a position of respect for the customer and that starts with respect for the employee."

In other words, when the company treats the employee well, the employee treats the customer well. Pera notes that Modern only does business with vendors that they respect, and that have respect for them.

"Every single day, our company culture reflects on the customer," said Pera. "I'm not saying we're a soft touch. But how we are with our customers is a measure of how we are with one another. I hope that builds longevity."

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