Good Communications Is Key - From the Chairman
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SECTION: From the Chairman

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Good Communications Is Key

Written By; Walter Berry

Article Date: 09-01-2005
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

It won't get done unless you start with a plan.

How well is your company communicating with its employees? As an executive or manager in your company, how well do you communicate with your fellow employees? How well do you communicate with your supervisor?

At some level, we all know how important good communication is, but it doesn't always get done. The truth is there is very little risk of "over-communicating," and there is no end to the list of ways to share information with employees.

This month I want to share some of the ways our company tries to exchange information with our employees. We stole most of these ideas from someone else, and I hope you'll do the same. While we try hard to communicate well, we still don't communicate enough. Sometimes we're so busy we just don't think we have time for more meetings. And sometimes we can't remember whom we told what.

For the best results, it's important to start with a plan.

At the corporate level, we have about half a dozen ways we formally communicate with our employees and we plan them in advance. The list includes regularly scheduled staff meetings. We've only been doing that for the last couple of years - I don't know why we didn't do them before, we certainly should have been. They are a great way to learn what everyone is working on and to address key issues.

We also publish an employee newsletter four times a year. It includes the company's financial results, a brief economic outlook, employee news (new employees, employees that have changed jobs, and a list of employees who have reached certain milestones), customer stories, and anything else we think is important.

We also schedule branch manager and department manager meetings once a year, usually in the winter when business is a little slower. We find these meetings help build our corporate culture so we're all on the same track. We've also found our managers usually learn more from their peers who are in similar situations than they do from the "home office."

A fun and more informal way we communicate is through the birthday parties we have. At our corporate office, we have a birthday party for every employee. We have a rule that if you want a cake for your birthday, you get to bring one. We provide the card, and the "birthday celebrant" provides the refreshment. We use this time to have some fun, and if there's something important going on in our business, these little get-togethers are a great time to talk about it.

The last "scheduled" item we do is our annual employee meetings. We've been doing these meetings for at least 10 years. This year, we'll have 25 meetings at 22 locations in 30 days. At these meetings, we talk about our health insurance plan, our financial results for the previous year and the current year, our company's contribution to the retirement plan, and any other important subjects that are appropriate. These meetings are a lot of work to plan and accomplish, but we've found they really pay off. Our employees look forward to the face time with upper management.

Whether you are a big company with many locations or just one store, communication is imperative. But if you don't have a plan, it probably won't get done. Take a few minutes and write out a few ways you can better communicate. You won't regret it.

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