Want to know the secret to promoting a vibrant, growth-oriented company culture? Forget about the pingpong table in the breakroom. Bill Condron, CEO of Boston-based The Granite Group, says it starts with doing right by your associates and customers–even when no one’s watching. Jason chats with Bill about his approach to bottom-up employee engagement, his company’s aggressive expansion strategy, and striking the balance between healthy growth and sound culture.
Bill doesn’t skip a beat when asked what’s the most important position on his company’s org chart. Branch manager, he emphatically replies. With over 40 locations blanketing the Northeast, it’s easy to understand his enthusiasm for the role, having worn the hat himself at one time as he ascended the ranks to eventually become head of the plumbing and heating supply company that his father and grandfather built. At the end of the day, the further you get away from the counter, the less valuable you are, Bill says, adding, In theory, I’m the least valuable person in the organization.
That irreverence speaks to Bill’s broader belief that Granite’s enviable reputation as a service- and innovation-oriented supplier is shaped by the staffers who typically get relegated to the middle or bottom of org charts at other companies: pickers, branch managers, and truck drivers. The truck drivers are the most valuable, right, because they see customers more than anyone. Who’s managing that truck driver? It’s the branch manager.
Maintaining Granite’s culture isn’t a hands-off endeavor. The company’s yearly calendar boasts quarterly meetings, branch dinners, and town halls. That communication feedback loop is super important. Doing things like that, and then living that inverted org chart, Bill says, lets people know who you are as an organization and where your values are good days, bad days, all days.
The company has done an excellent job amplifying its culture to attract top talent, back-fill positions vacated by promotion and appeal to a demographic that this industry has traditionally ignored: women. It’s not perceived [as] welcoming or open or a place where women can be successful. That’s absolutely false, says Bill. But you’re fighting that perception, so you need to be even more intentional about how you look to attract women to your team. Granite boasts a finance team led by women and women-led branches as well. If you’re able to do that, you’re going to up your success by a factor of many.
There’s many, many successful companies where every location looks the same, and it feels the same. Ours isn’t that way, and we’re kind of proud of that.
We know an initiative or communication or whatever it is has fully gotten through the organization when it can pass the truck-driver test. And that means you can walk into the location, ask the truck driver, ‘Hey. Have you heard about this? And if they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I know about that, then we’re good; we’ve got it through the organization.
You hope that you kind of build that repository within your organization that, you know, you’re going to do the right thing, and if by mistake you didn’t do the right thing, you’re going to fix it and make sure you do the right thing moving forward.
The minute you take their head off for making a mistake, they’ll never try again–and then we lose the entrepreneurial spirit.
If we’re an industry that’s only attractive to 49% of the population based on gender, we are fighting with more than one arm tied behind our back.
To be a member of your industry association is powerful, and it’s a way of giving back to an industry that’s given an awful lot to me and my family.
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