Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
David Hayes, CEO of general contractor Skyline Construction, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
Skyline Construction is a general contractor that specializes in data centers, life science and clean-tech locations. We are one of the few employee-owned construction firms, and all of our workers, unionized laborers included, own shares under an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (or ESOP). Thanks to this set-up, management/employee relations are not as combative as most construction firms are, but more collaborative.
We also have an open book policy designed to allow everyone in the organization to see how the company is doing. I allow all my sales and project managers to select their own salaries from within a designated range. Those that select a lower salary can potentially earn more because their bonus potential is higher.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
Not having someone above you object to the time or expense required to run your company.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
Making sure that employees understand what is going on with the business so that they can contribute. To help with this, I now write a weekly blog so that when I am busy or traveling, everyone knows what I’m up to and what I’m thinking.
Name: David Hayes
Business: Skyline Construction, a general contractor.
Location: San Francisco
Year founded: 1996
Number of employees: 57
Web address: skylineconst.com
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
Before I took over the company in 2005, management governed according to the bottom line. That philosophy led to low employee motivation. Long-term relationships suffered and Skyline developed a mediocre reputation. With a lot of work, we have flipped completely and are now considered employee-friendly, customer-committed and fair.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Hiring a company president who had all the credentials to lead but refused to assimilate to our culture — going as far as to ask me to remove key employees and disassemble the ESOP. This created tremendous conflict and confrontations between this particular individual and employees at every level. To avoid making the same mistake twice, I now hire for cultural reasons first and experience second.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
Never listen to naysayers. Have a plan. Then, review and revise it constantly. Let employees tell you what you don’t know. Admit your mistakes and share what you learn from them. Last but not least, get off your chair and see your clients and employees in person.
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