Creative Leadership: Building Company Culture Through Collaboration
With an eye for talent and a talent for nurturing it, Quantum Shop founder Jeff Poss brings on good people and gives them the freedom to grow both themselves and the organization.
The result? An energetic, cooperative environment that delivers excellence, often under challenging, pressure-filled circumstances.
Quantum Shop Founder Jeff Poss may not have cared much for school, but he has always had a passion for business. He started his first company when he was just twenty years old. Now this inspiring entrepreneur is part of several exciting ventures. He’s also in a position to be the one doing some schooling now. After talking with Jeff, Stout has uncovered four of his #StoutStrategies for building company culture through collaboration.
Stout Strategy #1: Trust Your Passion
Honesty is the bedrock of building company culture that’s healthy. That starts at the top. Leaders need to ask themselves what they are good at and what they are trying to accomplish. Then they need to trust in it. Buy into their own ideas, and employees will, too – as long as those ideas are clearly communicated.
STOUT: What made you take the leap to heading up your own enterprise?
JP: I started my first business when I was 20; I think it’s just what makes sense to me.
STOUT: When did you realize that you wanted to do more than one thing?
JP: Pretty early, I used to joke about wanting to call the business “What Do You Need?”. It’s really only been over the past few years, though, that I’ve been able to get some legs under more than one thing. For most of the past 30 years, I’ve been doing either museum exhibits or movie sets and props.
STOUT: Is there a set of core statements of mission, vision, and values that reaches across all of your divisions?
JP: I’m working on it. For awhile, I had a negative reaction to anything I perceived as corporate, like mission statements, etc. I didn’t do well in school. I dropped in and out of college multiple times. I was into art and sculpture. I wanted to be an artist, not a businessman. I think I’ve found a nice balance, but that resistance to corporate language is still there. I say I’m working on it . . . now, because I see that a larger team needs something to fall back on when I’m not around.
Stout Strategy #2: Partner with the Right People
Building company culture that’s strong and lasting can’t be done by leadership alone. The people you bring in to build out an organization’s vision are the key to success or failure. For a collaborative culture to work, everyone must do their part. While talent is important, it’s attitude that’s key. Skills can be taught, but attitude can’t.
STOUT: What traits do you look for in new talent? How about new partnerships?
JP: When looking for new talent, I really just look for well-rounded, sharp people. I’m always always scouting for new talent; it’s the hardest thing to find and hold onto. Partnerships are tricky. I would prefer to build partnerships from within my team – planning for expansion with already-trusted team members – rather than being distracted by outside offers.
STOUT: What are the 3 most important things to you as a company leader?
JP: These are hard questions! The 3 most important things, to me . . . there’s so many . . . ok ,here’s three but there are way more: 1) people should make my life easier; 2)humility, I can’t stand braggers; and 3) treating people fairly.
STOUT: What are the traits of your most successful employees?
JP: They see solutions. They never bring me a problem, only solutions or options.
STOUT: What makes someone a rising star?
JP: Always positive, always eager to jump in, being honest, humble, seeing opportunity everywhere, laughing and smiling. These are more important than anything you can learn in school.
“I want people to be inspired by each other and themselves. I want them to leap out of bed and rush to work. I want them to feel like this is the best job they’ve ever had and push themselves. ”
Stout Strategy #3: Tear Down Walls
Building company culture through collaboration means minimizing the barriers between people/departments and leadership. This can take the form of granting autonomy and trust that foster intiative, including employees in company decision-making, and growing talent from within.
STOUT: What is your management style?
JP: Find good people, give them the tools and opportunity to lead, see what happens . . .
STOUT: As a leader, do you seek employee input for new initiatives, including strategy?
JP: Yes, I want everyone to feel they have a voice. We do lots of meetings – way more than I would have thought I’d allow a few years ago. But I think it’s important for there to be face time with groups of people, and for them to feel comfortable speaking openly in a group setting. Everyone always wants a private moment with me, but if it needs to be private, then it’s usually not in the best interest of the entire team or business.
STOUT: Do you fill leadership roles in your enterprises with individuals who have been promoted from within?
JP: Yes, but not as much as I want there to be. When we decided to start this [Quantum Shop] up, I really wanted it to be run by the craftsman, at all levels. I wanted the people who build and make stuff to be the ones to run everything. But I’ve found that a lot of them don’t want to lead or manage – and you can’t make them.
STOUT: How do you make big decisions? What’s the process? Who’s involved?
JP: We have a great team, and we come together and present the issues. Many times we just work through them together. Other times we all do our evaluations and come back together later to review. The big decisions ultimately come down to me, so that if it ends up being wrong, I can’t blame anyone else.
STOUT: Does Quantum Shop encourage cross-functional collaboration between divisions?
JP: Our team has to rely on each other. There is a lot of reaching out across the table for brainstorming and problem-solving.
Stout Strategy #4: Embrace Challenge
Successfully overcoming challenges can strengthen an organization’s bonds. People learn to dig deep, and come away with an enhanced sense of accomplishment and comraderie. Even challenges that are unsuccessful offer an opportunity for building company culture. An attitude of winning together and losing together – rather than pointing fingers or ducking responsibility when things don’t work out – increases the ownership and emotional investment of every team member.
STOUT: What is the toughest challenge of managing multiple divisions? The most rewarding thing?
JP: The toughest challenge for me is time management. I want to spend time with everyone, and it’s disappointing when I realize I haven’t. The most rewarding events are moments of creation, whether they be a visual idea that becomes a new museum exhibit, or even a conversation where you both get excited and are genuinely sharing back and forth.
STOUT: Can you give an example of when the members of your team came together to do something remarkable?
JP: We do tough projects, custom stuff. In every project, there comes a time when people have to dig deep. I can sense it way before they can, because this is all I’ve ever done. I patiently watch, and offer support as things unfold. This is when you really see what people are made of. Some fall out, most don’t. Finishing any and every huge custom project is remarkable. Watching people evolve and grow is even more remarkable.
Stout asked Jeff Poss one final question, “How do you celebrate company success?”. His reply? “Well, this is Texas, so beer and BBQ is a standard practice. Well played, Mr. Poss – that may need to be considered Stout Strategy #5 for building company culture, because who can resist Texas BBQ and beer?
For more takes on building company culture, see Stout’s article, Does Your Company Meet the Nine Key Benchmarks for Healthy Company Culture? And for more about Quantum Shop, check out our profile on fabricator Sarah King, or visit Quantum online.