For a while now, I’ve been on the lookout for great places to work in any part of the world. I decided to go out and interview companies that have a “Work Happy Now” type of atmosphere. I started in my home town of Austin. I’m doing this in order to help individuals and companies share creative ideas that will help them improve work happiness.
The easiest way to create a successful company is to find out what other companies are doing, adapt those ideas for your organization, and see if it works.
Work Happy Now’s highlighted company is Alamo Title Company. I found them in the Austin Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work in Austin, 2008.” They have 60 employees, and the most impressive statistic that they can hang their hat on is their retention rates. They retain an employee for an average of 8 years. That’s amazing!
I contacted the company and was forwarded to Taresa Hale’s voicemail. At first she thought I was trying to sell her one of my presentations, so she emailed me and told me that maybe she could bring me in later this year. After I explained that I was just trying to learn more about what great companies do to retain employees and create a happy atmosphere, she agreed to an interview.
I pulled into the parking lot and was impressed by the building. It had hard edges and white sandy exterior communicate professionalism.
I was greeted by a smiling receptionist and offered a myriad of drinks. I chose water; nothing is better than a cold water before an interview.
Taresa, a dark haired and energetic person, greeted me shortly after I arrived. She brought me to a conference room and we began the interview.
The Good Stuff that will Help Ya
Taresa began the interview by telling me that they believe in Fish Philosophy - click the link to get my take on it. I will say that I also endorse the Fish Philosophy because it empowers the individual to take charge of his/her outlook.
We chatted about the importance of choosing your attitude (one of the themes of Fish Philosophy). Then we got right into it.
Every company should celebrate their good times and bad. Yes, celebrating the bad times is important too. It means celebrating the fact that everyone is banding together to pull each other out of a rough patch.
Alamo Title does an excellent job of celebrating its people. They have a yearly company picnic and to save money it’s at the company President’s home. I love that the president invites everyone into her home. It encourages a family atmosphere and shows that she trusts her employees.
My favorite part of Alamo Title’s celebrations is their company song. This tradition started in 1993 and when the company name changed (when they sold the company) they came up with a new song in 1995. Ever since then they’ve created an annual competition between each department to create a new song and perform it.
The employees vote on their favorite song, and the winning team’s song is used throughout the year at the meetings to energize everyone. The employees love it. They laugh and share in a tradition that brings everyone closer together.
Check out 2008’s song click here to hear it.
Alamo Title recently had to lay off some of its employees. Of course it’s not what they wanted to do, but tough times call for a company to do what is best for the whole organization.
The positive side is that they had a team of people actually talk to each individual person who had to be let go, rather than sending out some impersonal email.
“Laying off employees isn’t easy, but doing it face to face is just the right way to do it.”
- Taresa Hale
When it comes to hiring, Alamo Title doesn’t have a magic formula that works for them. What they do have is an understanding of each department within the company and what type of personalities fit well in each position and department.
I like how Taresa broke down some of the different positions for me and explained how certain personalities fit in to those departments
Accounting – Hybrid of outgoing and internal type
Title – works well alone and has a more internal personality
Sales – Outgoing and great with people
Since she knows exactly what each department needs, she can conduct the interview so the new person she hires will fit in with the employees who already work in the department.
Everyone is like family at Alamo Title. They truly believe that all of their employees need to look out for each other. I asked Taresa for an example and she told me about one of her employees who was in a motorcycle accident.
Employees took shifts in order to stay with him while he was in intensive care. He didn’t have much family in the country, so they made sure that someone was always there to answer the doctor’s questions and console the family when they arrived.
The employee recovered just fine. It took a while, but I know that he must have felt very appreciative of the company’s willingness to be there for him.
Taresa explained how they have award ceremonies for top producers. Rewarding top producers in front of their peers is a must. People care about the money, but usually they care more about their co-workers’ respect.
In 2006 and 2007 they created a Fish Philosophy related competition. The person who got the most “thank you” notes from a client during the month received a blue wooden fish. At the end of the year, the person with the most “thank you” notes was awarded a trip to Seattle to see the fish market at Pike’s Place that started the whole Fish Philosophy movement.
Employees must feel like they are appreciated. If they don’t feel this way, they won’t stick around.
Wrap-up the Alamo Title Interview
Taresa was a very open interviewee. I want to thank her for sharing her best practices with me, so I can pass them on to you.
To wrap up the interview I asked Taresa to tell me “what makes her happy at work?” She did it in front of the video camera, but I messed it up. I didn’t have it on the right setting.
“The thing that makes me the happiest at work is to make other people successful. I like to help people succeed.
That’s a philosophy all managers should have.
So what do you think? Would your company ever go for a company song? I’m thinking we need a song here at Work Happy Now. Any musicians in the Work Happy Now Tribe?
I've cut back on the business blogs I read because it's a little overwhelming. One I keep coming back to is Dawud Miracle's blog because it always has sound advice for a budding entrepreneur like myself.
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- Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It – Interview with the Authors