Contractor's Corner: Aligning Business Growth with Effective Communication
Capozza Tile Company, based in Portland, Maine, is a commercial and residential flooring contractor that continues to add new services to grow our business. In 2016, we enhanced the company’s offerings with the addition of Capozza Concrete Services in Lewiston, Maine, which performs concrete repair, mitigation, self leveling, polished concrete and epoxy flooring. We also moved our specialty tile store to a state-of-the-art showroom in 2018. Along with the addition of new services, our volume and staff have almost doubled since. With this growth, communication that was once organic has become a challenge and has proven to be even more critical to continuing success. Verbal communication is one aspect, and with the advances in technology, the change to our organizational structure and the many formats we now have to communicate, there is great opportunity for success and failure.
Our largest volume of business is commercial flooring projects. The commercial projects division is made up of a sales and project management team, an operations team and a team of technicians who perform installations in the field. The actions of the three teams combined are what create our reputation and product to the customer. In order to maintain the level of expectations set by previous generations, we’ve implemented multiple changes in our organizational structure, and our ability to communicate effectively has been challenged throughout this process.
We are part of Fuse Alliance which is a great resource to network and talk with some of the larger members about their organizational structure. What I learned is that we are not alone in communication challenges among the different units that make up an organization. I also learned that the best way to make improvements is by taking a team approach and involving all who are affected.
Earlier this year, we brought in an outside facilitator to help us develop communication processes within the commercial projects division and installation teams. This was the first time we had ever done anything of this scale and the goal of this meeting was to unify everyone in the room and truly understand that we are one team not a group of individuals. We also were able to identify methods to effectively communicate within the new structure of the organization. As a result, we are examining how to refine our written, verbal and interpersonal communication methods. For our commercial projects division, this will be the focus of our internal improvement projects for 2019.
In order to address written communication, we have assembled a team that will examine and evolve the techniques used to communicate job information from the office to the field. We discovered that quite a bit of information is lost or misunderstood when direction is given through verbal communication. We’re improving our verbal communication by using goals and future-based questions when communicating. Instead of focusing on just the task at hand, the entire team starts with the goal and makes sure all involved in the conversation are clear on that goal before proceeding with the tasks to complete that goal. We also encourage asking future-based questions as it relates to specific tasks. This process causes conversations to really examine the big picture and not just focus on one point or task. When this communication process is successfully implemented throughout our organization, we will have a more fluid flow of information which will lead to more efficient projects, improved morale and highly satisfied customers.
As for interpersonal communication, we have introduced a companywide peer-to-peer recognition program called “You Floored Me”, which is a simple $10 gift card and a handwritten thank you note that allows any employee to reward another when they do something that is appreciated. A few sentences about the recognition are emailed to everyone in the company and the person is again recognized in the quarterly company news letter. We really want our entire team, and not just management, to be able to recognize a job well done and communicate that to their peers.
Improving communication at our new level of operation will be up to everyone. We are just at the beginning of this process. As the person in charge of the day-to-day operations, I am excited to make these methods part of our culture. Growth and change has been a challenge and this will help us to grow the right way. It is so important to me that our employees believe that they are appreciated by our management as well as each other. By getting communication right, we will create an aligned, communicative, engaged team, and our customers will continue to have a positive experience they have come to expect through years of service.