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Celebrate each victory.

Growing companies give rise to many events that great managers will take advantage of to create and shape the culture of the company itself.  Each new plateau in revenue growth, each time a month’s orders hit a record, each large order from the sales department, all of these and more give rise to opportunities to celebrate publicly.  Everyone in a stressful corporate environment loves to pause and relish the latest victory.

Each time our company would hit a new milestone, I would make a public announcement personally, then, with my payroll person in tow, walk the floors of the various company buildings handing out $50 or $100 bills to all employees as instant bonuses.  You wouldn’t believe how much people seemed to enjoy the boss’ visits.  The goodwill created and buzz that continued for days were well worth the small cost.  Everyone got the message: growth is great, and everyone is treated equally in celebrating.  Each distant or foreign office was included, although not often enough with personal delivery services.  This is different from “managing by walking around”, which requires no reason or structure other than the willingness to listen and learn from people on the line. 

Many companies have a bell hung somewhere in or near the sales bull pen, rung each time a sale is consummated.  Managers should encourage everyone within the hearing of the bell to stop long enough to applaud, reinforcing the unanimity of approval for each new sale.

[Email readers continue here…]  Victories that shape a company’s culture can take many forms.  Years ago, an emergency phone call was directed to my office from our distributor in Australia.  Their largest customer, Hamilton Island Resort, had just suffered a fire that destroyed the building containing their large minicomputer installation.  No-one was injured, and there was a backup from the night before stored in a safe location.  But there was no replacement machine in Australia, and each day that guests checked out without paying their bills amounted to a day where cash flow was at least temporarily reduced by at least $250,000, not a small amount as it accumulated.  Simultaneously, we had a new machine with identical specs on the shipping dock for a Florida installation at a property whose managers were pushing the company for an instant delivery.   I made the decision without pause to redirect the shipment to Australia that day.  Then I immediately called the CEO of the Florida customer to explain.  Not too happily, he acquiesced.   Everyone within the company knew of the problem and of our instant reaction to aid our customer, even in the light of pressure from the Florida customer now back in line for shipment.  We oversaw the successful installation in Australia the next day in a temporary building and our people helped key in data subsequent to the backup.  Everyone knew from management’s actions and their own efforts that the customer comes first, always.  This story has a second happy ending.  We engineered a rerouting of the Florida order a week later so that the computer to be shipped would be the 1,000th of its model.  Before packing it in its large shipping crate, we held a party in the shipping dock for all employees, with streamers and cake and the world’s largest greeting card – hundreds of sheets of continuous form computer paper, which every employee from software programmer to shipping clerk signed with a message of thanks and goodwill for the Florida customer’s sacrifice.  That week, we scored two great customer stories and more goodwill throughout the organization. 

Victories come in many shapes, sometimes when least expected.  Celebrate them all.

  • Bob Leisy

    Certainly the key to the effectiveness of your message is in the title “Celebrate every victory” and your note “…each time our company would hit a key milestone”. It has to be a real accomplishment.

    Some years ago I was with a company in difficulty. The President got everyone together and promised a significant cash bonus he would pay out of his own pocket if certain fairly reasonable objectives were achieved. It went over like a lead balloon. I walked out of the meeting with the President, and he asked why the tepid response — “I thought everyone would stand up and cheer.” I went out and talked to Walt, our shipping and receiving clerk, for the answer. Walt said “I know the company’s in trouble, just by adding up what going out and coming in. If Ward, the President, had said we are all going to have to work twice as hard, maybe even with a cut in pay, that’s something I would have cheered for”.

    Thanks again, Dave, for your sharing.

  • Dave,

    Could we clone you and make you the CEO of about 20,000 other companies?

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