Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ric Campo Talks About People, Profitability, and Corporate Culture

I just left a very interesting forum, sponsored by executive recruiting firm, Austin Allen at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston.

Ric Campo, a founding partner of Camden Living, gave a powerful and informative presentation. His comments were filled with the very precepts Camden followed to become a Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For award winner in 2008, and, one of the finest multi-family real estate development and operation companies in America.

I took copious notes. Ric was singing my song.

Ric's management principles are not the common practice in today's world. Read and see why they should be.

Just to highlight a few of his salient points:

  • Camden has well defined, well communicated missions and values. These do not change with market conditions.
  • Camden believes that their front line employees are the most significant contributors to the company's success.
  • The Company's value isn't derived from a focus on their material assets. Ric said, "It's not about assets, it's about people. Our people are our assets."
  • Camden strives to hire the best and the brightest. Then, the company strives to give them responsibility and authority to deliver Camden's mission.
  • Camden recognizes success based on the creation of an increasing number of high-quality, long-lasting jobs. This is representative of their belief that people are their greatest asset.
  • Camden is very concerned and intentional in maintaining and developing their outstanding corporate culture.
  • In the Fortune Employee surveys, Camden had 92% of their workforce saying that Camden was truly a great place to work. The average among the Fortune top 100 was 89%.
  • Camden is a stickler for "best practices" in handling people. (This is why more companies really need to engage the services of a PEO.)

That might work for some companies, but not when things are tight, or tough.

Some might argue that this is all well and good for some high margin, fluff company. Don't kid yourself. Camden's business, in today's market, is anything but that. They must thrive in a tough, highly competitive, asset intense business. Camden's profitability challenges are as big as they come.

Employee Practices Turn-Around an Acquisition

I particularly enjoyed the story Ric told about one of his mergers. Camden had acquired a fairly large company with an east coast presence. The acquisition had everything it needed on paper to be functioning well, yet, at the point of the acquisition, was not doing so. They even verbally ascribed to the same management and cultural philosophies that worked so well with Camden.

However, on closer look, their talk didn't match their walk. The reason for poor performance could be tied to this divergence, a response to some very difficult, but temporary market conditions. It turns out that the company had frozen salaries, cut bonuses, and increased the employee contributions to their medical plan. Meanwhile, they hadn't cut the executive compensation.

Ric said that these actions upset the affected folks, which, in turn, affected their ability to perform. Needless to say, Camden corrected the situation, in accordance with their mission, and the situation righted itself quickly.

Happy People: Successful Enterprise

Camden demonstrates the true, but rarely followed axiom: The happier the people, the more engaged they will be, the more profitable the enterprise.

This validates the well researched message of Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette who wrote Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and the sequel, Contented Cows Moove Faster. Companies with well placed, well rewarded, well aligned, happy employees, are able to do more, make more money and have fewer problems.

It's kind of funny that most managers still can't see it.

They will, though. They'll need to to survive.

No comments: