Firehouse Blog

Monthly Archive: March 2013

Five Steps for a Better Corporate Culture

terryblogThe most successful businesses have the most engaged employees, but creating an atmosphere where employees are completely involved is no easy task.

Here is what employees want. First they want job security. Oh, they understand the reality of the marketplace, but if they know that the management decision making process is not arbitrary, that goes a long way to mitigating that concern of job security.

After job security, employees want a stake in the outcome of the business. For the most part, they can’t verbalize that because they don’t know how businesses work and make money. But given the information and a plan, they really want a stake in the outcome.

So, the short version is employees want thoughtful management decision making, job security and a part of the success of the business. Having all this creates a terrific culture in a business, and studies show it dramatically increases sales and, more importantly, profits.

The hard part is how to create a great culture in a business. It is not easy, and I can attest to seven years of practice at it.

Here is the short course on culture building.

FiveStepsForABetterCorporateCulture1. Every week we have an all-company meeting, with a written agenda, that is recorded on video and posted to a private Firehouse blog for out-of-town employees and second shift people. At the “huddle up” I explain the company finances, sales successes, equipment purchases, business successes and setbacks. Week after week all the employees of Firehouse hear the unvarnished truth about the business and its income statement and balance sheet. If you work at Firehouse, you know what is going on and you know it’s the truth. We also try to recognize special and general company achievements.

TeamEffort2. Everyone is taught the mantra that our success is a “team effort” and to “run to problems”, not away from them.

3. We have video screens in the plant that display daily, up-to-date sales, bonus information and other business metrics.

4. We have a bonus plan that pays over 20% of the after-tax profits to employees.

5. We do not allow negative people to work at Firehouse.

The result is a highly informed staff who know why we are doing what we are doing and how we make money. And they know how much of the bonus pool they stand to get paid.

It’s hard to do. It’s a never-ending job. We get it wrong sometimes.

None of us would have it any other way.


Terry Corman
Firehouse CEO

A Culture of Business People

terryblogIn every industry or segment of enterprise a careful reader can find both the leaders and the laggards in regards to sales and, most importantly, profit margins.

During his first fifteen years in the graphics arts business this small business owner spent hours reading and in conversation with other business owners to find that one key action that would turn our business into a true industry leader.

The answers came in all forms with all sorts of admonitions and to-do items. Write out your mission statement, have all sorts of meetings, do training, empower your employees. All of these pieces of advice were well meaning, and while our business got better year after year, the real industry leaders that I followed in the graphics arts business kept elusively ahead of where I thought we were.

GGOBlogo_BlueThen came the moment of epiphany. I attended my first gathering of the players of the Great Game of Business.

Since returning from that meeting we have more than tripled the size of the business, opened a facility in Europe and grown our pre-tax profit line, year over year over year!

And here is what I learned at that Great Game Gathering.

Meet with all employees every week and tell the whole story (and whole truth) about the business. Teach them that business is a game with rules and scoreboards, called the income statement and balance sheet, and open those scoreboards to all employees. Then pay those people a percentage of the ‘bottom line’, so that they have a real stake in the outcome of the business.

It’s not easy. It’s difficult. You have to tell them the bad stuff along with the good stuff. You have to trust and respect them and their opinions. But in the end you win their hearts as well as their hands. That propels any organization to new heights


Terry Corman
Firehouse CEO