Mike Welker | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mike Welker

Background:  

The Bogdahn Group is a full-service, employee-owned investment advisory firm that serves as a fiduciary to its clients. It receives 100 percent of revenue through fees for consulting services and provides institutional trustees with objective investment information.

The Mistake:

Not communicating why we wanted to reward the employees.

As an organization, we wanted to award some employees. We had donated a certain amount of money to a local charity, and they said, “Hey, send two of your people and we’re going to take a plane to this golf course in Pittsburg. It’s a phenomenal golf course. You get to play golf and it’s going to be wonderful.”

So haphazardly, we sent out this survey that asked, “Who are the No. 1 and 2 employees at the firm?” We said we want you to rank them, and when you do, we’re going to send these two people here and they’re going to get to do this. And we were really excited because we thought we had communicated something special for our biggest asset, which is our people. And [we expected that] they were going to say, “Hey look what our firm does!”

But the reality of it was the majority of the firm got really upset because of how we did the survey.

For each communication, I’ve got to explain what’s going on in my head.

The Lesson:

The point of it was that we did not communicate what we were supporting or why we wanted to reward the employees [or] how we were going to judge the employees. We just kind of did it very, very quickly. And the response was 100 percent the opposite of what we wanted to have happened.

It gets back to communication. It was like, put some parameters out there. We should have said, “Tell me [about] somebody you work with on a daily basis that really goes above and beyond and allows you to be better at your job – someone that makes you better at what you do because we care about that.” It’s a core value of the organization, and we want to reward those people that have the respect of their peers.

And [we realized] we’ve done that a thousand times, like telling employees, “Hey everybody, why don’t you take off? It’s Friday afternoon.” And they’re like, “Why are you doing this? Are you going on vacation? Is that why? Is that the only reason you’re doing this? Is it because you’re not going to be here?”

That’s human nature, right? People are quasi-cynical. That’s what they think. That’s not what we’re doing. But I didn’t effectively communicate; our team didn’t effectively communicate.

So now for each communication, I’ve got to explain what’s going on in my head. I’m still not a good communicator. I’m still working on it. But I appreciate communications so much more because of all that went wrong.

Now everything we do, we peer review it. We send it around and we say, "Are you reading this the way it was supposed to be sent? And 75 percent of the time they’re saying “no.” You’re trying to oversell this or you’re trying to undersell it. And I think it’s very effective if you can get it to that well-written piece of communication that everyone understands in exactly the way that you intended.

Follow The Bogdahn Group at @TheBogdahnGroup.

Photo courtesy of Mike Welker

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