July 19, 2006

Excerpts: Smarter, Faster, Better by Karlin Sloan

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:40 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

This excerpt is from Karlin Sloan's book Smarter, Faster, Better. I'll let the intro speak for itself. Take it away Sloan: "I know you are already smart, fast, and good. Now it's time to become smarter, faster, and better. It's time to ask questions, slow down, and start focusing not on just your own self-development but on your contribution to your team, your organization, and the greater good." -- Sloan What can you do to add the -er to your current smart, fast and good (better) practices? This excerpt will get you started on how to energize your team by giving examples from Clif Bar and the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy.
Faster Together Energizing Your Team
We dont accomplish anything in this world alone...and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of ones life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.
When you think about energy, Gary Erickson should be at the top of your mind. An avid cyclist, rock climber, backpacker, skier, and chef, Gary needs all the energy he can getand did I mention hes also the founder of a company that has been on Inc. magazines list of the fastest-growing companies in the United States for four years running? Garys brainchild, Clif Bar Inc., has won numerous awards honoring the company for its treatment of employees, commitment to the environment, and support for important causes such as the fight against breast cancer. He is the author of Raising the Bar, which tells the story of the development of his company and of its climb to success after a last-moment decision not to sell out to one of the corporate giants. When I asked Gary about leading an energetic culture, he had this to say:
Understanding the kind of business we are and where we are going is inspiring for people. Our vision here is to work to live rather than live to work. Its more of a long-term vision. Were not in the fast lane trying to grow this thing as fast as possible. The people here work really hard, they give themselves over and theyre sharing in the profits when we meet our goals. We have different bottom lines than a traditional business does. We try to have several and theyre not all money. Inspiring and taking care of our people is critical. As the shareholders, my wife and I want that to be our return on our investment. We also have a lot of the other benefits other companies have: 401(K) plans, medical and dental and so on. On top of that we try to spice things up in the atmosphere itself. Our office is open, alive, not like a cubicle type of workplace. Were family-friendly and dog-friendly, so we have babies and dogs around. Every week we have an all-company meeting and we all eat together, very casualwe have bagels and fruit and we sit down in the auditorium and we all just meet there and we read letters from consumers, sometimes we review the financials, sometimes we just have fun and hang out together and learn whats going on in the company and the world outside. We make a healthy product and people feel energized by that. Once when we got off track and jumped on the low-carb thing, it was really demotivating. Sticking to our food philosophy is something that gives life and energy to our group. On the physical side, we have an on-site fitness center with yoga, spin, kickboxing, and so on. The gym is world class, with a separate dance studio, two full-time personal trainers, and instructors who have classes. We have some quirky things too: Thursdays we have a hair salon and a carwash. We have a washer-dryer here that people can use if they need to do their laundry. What were trying to do is to free people up when they get home to have more of a life. If we can do that, people get more done in a shorter amount of time. One other thing is, at 6 P.M. around here, its empty. We dont encourage people to work nights and weekends. We believe the way we plan and budget, and with how many people we have, that were able to get our work done in normal business hours. I know thats not the norm, particularly living in the Bay Area and watching the Silicon Valley boom when people were working eighty to a hundred hours a week. Our particular business is very competitive. We cant sit still, but we know this is the way to go to get the job done. Every day is like a half-marathon. We run really hard, we play really hard, and some years are better than others. Weve been in business since 1992, weve remained private, and were competing against Kraft and Nestl and Coke. Everyone is jumping into this category. Our story is compelling, and we need to keep doing things right. Were trying to do good business, and thats working for us. I dont take anything for granted. We work very hard, and were doing it the way we believe in.
How can you make your organization more like the energetic culture of Clif Bar?