How To ‘Turnaround’ Your Business: Step 5

Step five: Let someone else know

In my article on step four, I advised how to take a moral inventory of yourself and your business. That step dealt with admitting inner truths to discover what is blocking you from your full potential and the full potential of your business. You and your business are “hand in glove.”

Step five goes further because it requires you to share this moral inventory with a trusted mentor. If you recall, the first step to “turnaround” your business is finding a trusted mentor.

This is not a negative exercise. It is quite the opposite, as it guides you to explore, in great detail, the strengths and weaknesses of your business and discover areas of improvement or possible new directions. This exercise helps reveal self-destructive behaviors. Yes, some businesses have created self-destructive or defeatist cultures.

The moral inventory should be in an easily understandable format and contain basic elements of who or what you are blaming for your personal or business failures. The “who” or “what” can be a person, place, thing or even an idea.

Before doing this exercise, I had a lot of absolutes in my mind, such as, “I absolutely won’t do business with certain people” or “We should absolutely go after this portion of the market and do it my way.” I confess now that was all wrong. I eventually saw that people doing things differently were gaining ground and becoming successful. I realized the positions I took were the wrong positions.

When assessing or owning the “cause” or “blame” behind problems, it usually involves a particular incident or moment like, “The banker wouldn’t give me the loan I needed, and that’s why my business suffered” or “Those clients did not pay and that’s the reason I’m in debt.” The list grows with the amount of time spent in business because, like the stock market, business is a “W.” This means it has its ups and downs; it is not a straight line from the bottom to the top. That’s why not everyone is cut out to start, own or manage a business.

One’s emotions related to the person, place, thing or idea should also be expressed on the list. The emotions are usually related to one of the following: self-esteem, pride, money, emotional security, ambitions or personal relationships. Each cause or incident should be categorized by selecting one of these emotions.

The last thing to do is complete the exercise by filling out the column that explores the question, “What was my part in this?” It is here that one comes to realize it isn’t always about who is to blame or what the cause of the problem is. The fact that you played a role in the problem can be quite revealing as well. For example, you might say, “I extended too much credit to the customer who failed to pay,” “I knew I shouldn’t have altered the terms of the deal” or “I thought I needed their business in order to succeed.” There can be any number of scenarios, but it is important we each explore our — or our company’s — role in the cause or incident and make changes accordingly.

Step five is probably the hardest step for turning your business around and keeping it on track, but this step is the most important because it takes insight and sharing. It involves owning up to your mistakes while also letting another person know about them. It all comes down to trust. Trust yourself enough to know and admit your mistakes (we all make them), and then trust someone else with that knowledge. If you choose the right mentor, that information will be used not as a weapon against you, but as a learning tool for yourself and your mentor.

It’s easy to seek the comfort of vic-timhood. Many do it all of their lives. Nothing is ever their fault. They had no role in the outcome. It was the authorities, their parents, the environment, friends, the government, the times, etc. But the freedom that can be found by taking personal responsibility for the decisions we make and the actions we take cannot be overstated — especially when it comes to finding success in life and business.

 

Also published in BIC magazine.

 

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How to ‘turnaround’ your business: Step 4

Step four: Knowing yourself

How To ‘Turnaround’ Your Business: Step 3

Step three: Open-mindedness

 

Willingness is the third step in my series of 12 suggestions on how to “turnaround” your business. These steps can also serve as reminders for business owners and their employees who want to make their businesses run more smoothly and successfully.

In step two (April 2020, pg. 89), I advised on finding a mentor – someone trustworthy and successful in business who can listen intently and provide positive suggestions for change. 

Seeking counsel with someone who can present a second opinion helps us realize we cannot always solve every problem, and it means we have surrendered our egos and are able to look outside of ourselves. In the 12 steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, this calls for appealing to a higher power. In business, it involves looking to a mentor or a group of mentors – a hand-picked advisory council of other business owners or consultants – to help find solutions.

To explain the open-mindedness this requires, I advised giving up the “my way or the highway” mentality. One of the biggest mistakes I see is owners spending more time working “in” the business rather than “on” the business. This is especially true of underfunded startup companies.

Step three is about admitting change is needed and implementing the heretofore “talked about” changes. Steps one and two require a change in long-held beliefs, but step three marks the point where one agrees to enact the needed changes. It involves the willingness to overcome our own egos and the human tendency to have control and start having faith in people other than ourselves.

When you are really honest with yourself, you realize that none of us has total control over much of anything. We cannot control the weather, the marketplace, the world economy or the universe. We are not immune from everything life throws at us, like accidents, viruses, terrorist attacks, competitors or anything else you can conjure up. But it is helpful to talk to trustworthy mentors or advisers who can give fair and impartial advice.

In a life crisis, one must have the willingness to change. Everyone can tell you that you need to make changes, but you will not be successful if you are not willing to change. In the business world, willingness can be explained as the readiness, desire or inclination to change. In order to change, we must be prepared to change and institute the changes we have sought counsel to make. We always value our employees’ willingness to learn new skills and to grow and change as our company grows and changes. It’s no different for the owner or administrators. Changing the way we bring our products or services to market, realizing and accepting new technologies, and utilizing those technologies as well as our employees’ skills and talents to generate optimum value are all important steps in our personal as well as corporate growth.

The other part of step three is listening to your heart instead of your head. The most dangerous place in the world is usually inside one’s own head. Fear and our own (often unfounded) projection of events keep us from working in the “here and now.” If you just wait, things will usually work out satisfactorily. This is better than getting in the middle of the storm and possibly making matters worse due to your own anxiety.

But how does one listen to one’s heart instead of one’s head? Prayer is one way, and even the most cynical business owner has probably prayed at some point. I have found meditation is an excellent way to begin the day. Envisioning the day ahead and the tasks that need to be accomplished can set the tone for the day. Even when chaos intervenes, remaining in a place of gratitude and guarding against ego-based decisions will help you accomplish more and smooth those inevitable bumps in the road.

For more information, visit www.towerforce.com, or contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or wstrickland@towerforce.com.

Also published in BIC magazine.

 

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How to ‘Turnaround’ your business: Step 2

Step two: Open-mindedness

 

This is the second in a series of 12 steps suggesting how to turn your business around. These steps can also serve as reminders for business owners and their employees who want to make their businesses run more smoothly and successfully.

Albert Einstein is attributed as coining the phrase, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Many of us have a tendency to do just that. You’ve probably had a divorced friend who, when they remarry, marries the same personality type as spouse No. 1.

Another example is when you buy the same style of clothes in the same colors for decades, even though the styles and your body shape have changed. It’s kind of like that old guy down the street who’s been a hippy since the 1960s. Habitual thinking inhibits our ability to be open-minded. That “it’s my way or the highway” attitude can get us into a lot of trouble. Being open-minded doesn’t mean tolerating bad behavior, becoming a wimp or even being politically correct. Open-mindedness means being more tolerant, fair-minded and receptive to new ideas. There are many stories of great ideas coming from people you may least expect, but more often, great ideas come from teams of people.

Many business owners believe if they work harder and spend more hours at work, the business will turn around and succeed. They also believe if they just add another product or service, the problem will be solved. They spend more time working “in” the business when they need to spend more time working “on” the business. Looking outside ourselves for solutions can reap rewards, and that is where listening comes into play as well.

A highly self-confident entrepreneur can find listening difficult, and I have found this to be tough for me, too. I now realize I can learn a great deal by, instead of constantly thinking about a problem, listening to others. Our Tower Force guys in the field have an insight and daily experience that those of us in the office do not have. They have brought problems to our attention and they have provided many solutions. We should also remember that the good and viable solutions offered by field workers, the sales team and the backroom service team are of no value unless management implements those solutions.

Open-mindedness makes way for innovation. Peter Drucker calls it “organized, systematic, rational work” when people see things differently and arrange their businesses accordingly. Open-mindedness can also mean delving more deeply into customer needs or empathizing with customers and anticipating their needs. What’s a business without customers?

I mentioned a quote from Albert Einstein earlier, and now I’ll close with a quote by the English scholar and poet, John Donne: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

To be open-minded is to let people in and be receptive without becoming a rubber stamp. To be open-minded, one must be humble and not conceited. Many say open-mindedness is a critical life skill, but I think it is critical to a business’ life as well.

For more information, visit www.towerforce.com, or contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or wstrickland@towerforce.com.

Also published in BIC Magazine.

 

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How To ‘Turnaround’ Your Business – Step 1

Step one: Honesty

 

While in my late twenties, I made a profound discovery. I had been to “Rock Bottom and Back™” as stated in the BIC Media Solutions book and DVD, and I progressed from “desperation to inspiration.” During my journey of recovery and discovery, I went through the famous 12-step program. It was at some point during that self-exploration and revelation period that I found one purpose of my life was to help others, but I was not proficient in helping people one-on-one. I was best at helping others by assisting their businesses to progress from startup to success. I was helping these business owners not only survive but thrive.

Climbing the ladder

 

A successful business has a long-reaching cumulative effect. It is called the domino effect, a metaphor to describe the chain reaction brought about by an organization’s success or failure. When a business succeeds, it not only brings financial success for the business owners and key personnel, but also provides opportunities for everyone throughout the organization. When people are employed and paid for their efforts, their families, friends and communities benefit, and the local economy is strengthened.

With that in mind, I would like to share what I have learned during my time in business and through my association with other business owners.

Be honest

I think an essential characteristic of successful people is honesty. I’m not talking about “cash register honesty.” I mean being honest with oneself.

Children will say they want to be a fireman, astronaut, movie star, musician or ballerina when they grow up. But they know little of what it takes to achieve success in any given field. Likewise, adults who dream of starting a business fail to be honest with themselves. It’s hard to start a bakery if you don’t know the first thing about making dough. You can hire a master baker, but you must also select a location, acquire financing, and know how to attract and retain your customers. You need contingency plans in case your baker becomes ill or leaves to work for a competitor. Most owners fail to plan or fully anticipate the amount of money, time, effort and skill it will take to succeed. They have not been honest with themselves.

Most businesses are cyclical in nature. There’s either more business than you can handle or not enough, or maybe now there are 10 competitors where there was once only one. Perhaps the bankers are knocking on the door and the employees are about to give up. What I usually see in a struggling business is one person’s dream swallowing it whole. That person is trying to control all of the outcomes and manage the business simply by using his or her own self-confidence or ego. The person is in denial about the future of the business and refuses to admit defeat.

Admit defeat

After becoming honest with oneself and realizing the bleakness of the situation, the white flag must be raised in order to have a happy ending. Surrender is tough, especially for an entrepreneur who is taught to think positively. This part of step one is sometimes never realized due to an ingrained sense of self-confidence. I believe this to be the underlying cause of our own inflated egos. Many of us will follow the path right down to bankruptcy instead of admitting defeat. Although it may seem humiliating, it is necessary to admit our own powerlessness and take advantage of outside help.

Find a mentor

Find someone trustworthy or who has been successful in business to be your mentor. The unmanageability of the current situation must be shared. One must realize that a person who got into a bad situation probably cannot get out of it without some kind of outside help.

By being honest and realizing the true situation, one can begin the 12-step process. Setting your ego aside and accepting the humiliation of defeat are the hardest parts before asking for help from a mentor or outside source. All of these actions are counter-intuitive to the definition of an entrepreneur: self-reliant, decisive and confident. Throwing these notions away, if we can, will lead us to the success we really want.

For more information, contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or wstrickland@towerforce.com.

Also published in BIC magazine.

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Tower Force message on 2020 Coronavirus – COVID-19


 

To All of our employees and clients,

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to escalate in our country, we wanted to share an update on the steps Tower Force has taken to respond to the uncertainties posed by the coronavirus and serve the needs of our clients and employees.

The safety and health of our employees and clients is of utmost importance during this time. As such, we have invoked our pandemic policy and plan, which allows Tower Force employees to work safely, yet effectively, from remote locations and enables our field personnel to coordinate with our clients on ongoing work.

While no one can accurately predict the longevity of this pandemic or its ultimate economic impact, Tower Force will continue to do its part to keep employees safe and fulfill its commitments to our valued clients. We remain open for business.

Tower Force will keep you informed of any changes that specifically affect our organization. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team members below with questions.

We wish everyone safety and good health.

 

To view our pandemic policy and plan click here.

To visit the CDC website go to: cdc.gov

 

Sincerely,

Tower Force, LLC

The Pressure Vessel Specialists

281-506-7152

Imagine failing a turnaround before it’s even begun

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Imagine failing a turnaround before it’s even begun

Yes, it does sound crazy, doesn’t it? Yet that is exactly what scientist/writer Gary Klein recommends. I think it’s worth a try. Read on and then tell me what you think.

We all know what a postmortem examination is. In a criminal investigation, an autopsy is performed because the victim’s body will most likely hold clues to the cause of death or who did it. Postmortem exams on family members can also help us better understand some diseases and genetic tendencies and provide insights for possible cures for future generations.

On projects like turnarounds, we have postmortem exams, too. Accounting is a postmortem event. It tells us whether or not we came in on budget or how much we went over budget. We are supposed to learn from our mistakes and take the lessons forward, which works well in theory but is not done often enough in the real world. It should be done after each project so that we can take our lessons learned forward. It’s also important to make a habit of post-project evaluation and for supervisors and managers to share information. This helps to avoid making the same mistakes twice.

But what Klein is suggesting is that those who are about to be involved in a big project should imagine it has already occurred. He calls the method a premortem (as opposed to a postmortem) exam. His theory is that having participants ask “what might go wrong” before the project begins, rather than “what went wrong” after the project is completed, will provide helpful insights, strategies and better management opportunities.

Poppycock or ‘right on’?

Right about now, you may be saying, “Whitney, that’s just more psycho-babble,” or “Whitney, that’s just poppycock and you know it.” No, I think this method may have merit, and some research concurs. According to the Harvard Business Review, a study conducted in 1989 by three researchers found that “prospective hindsight — imagining an event that has already occurred — increases the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30 percent.”

Think about it: Many athletes use visualization techniques to train. When an athlete’s mind recalls the desired outcome or skill repeatedly, a sort of “mental rehearsal” occurs, confidence improves and, when the match finally occurs, the athlete’s mind and body are both ready.

With so many athletes reporting how visualization has aided their performance, it was only natural businesses began to use visualization to help build higher-performing teams. Today, there are companies that facilitate this training. One such company is named Winning Mind and has the tagline “Performance Under Pressure.” This company provides performance-coaching services for the military, sports and business.

Klein’s twist of visualization is different, however. It is his suggestion that, instead of visualizing a smooth and ideal project, you visualize a project’s abject failure and learn from that. He says everyone on the team should “independently write down every reason they can think of for the failure — especially the kinds of things they ordinarily wouldn’t mention as potential problems for fear of being impolitic.” He cites several instances where his method was tried and helped prevent colossal failures.

A different kind of risk analysis

You already do risk analysis prior to a turnaround, but Klein says his premortem approach offers benefits that other methods don’t. He says his method doesn’t just help teams identify potential problems early on, but also reduces the kind of “damn the torpedoes” attitude often assumed by people who are overinvested in a project. He also concludes that, by describing weaknesses no one else has mentioned, team members feel more valued.

Klein’s method may not be something you want to use, but it is my belief those of us involved in pressure-cooker projects that are as important and costly as turnarounds should always be looking for new ways to build better teams and improve our performance, so we never have to look back on a failed project.

For more information, contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or wstrickland@towerforce.com.

Also published in BIC magazine.

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Healthy companies have long-term vision

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Healthy companies have long-term vision

Two of the most important things a businessman can have are vision and the ability to communicate that vision. We’ve seen what happens to companies that simply react to market trends and temporary whims. An old proverb says, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”

People will follow if they know the reasoning behind the corporate vision. They need to know which markets you intend to dominate and why. Don’t just assume everyone knows that customer satisfaction is important unless you are constantly stressing why customer service is vitally important to the company’s growth (and to their own job’s future) and how everyone plays a role in the process.

Let employees know you want to create a good place to work. Tell them what is expected and what is not tolerated. And it is equally important that employees are empowered. We all want to feel important. People need to know they are helping row the boat. Tap into people’s competitive nature. We all like to be on a winning team, regardless of who actually made the game’s winning goal. Stakeholders like to feel like part of the team, too (stakeholders such as suppliers). They like to share in your success as well, much like a city or a college roots for their team and celebrates each win.

Don’t keep your vision a secret. Those providing equipment or services alongside you need to know your expectations, requirements and plan of action so they can continue supplying you with exactly what you need in the way that you need it, when you need it. Employees and stakeholders alike must be aligned with your company’s core values and vision. It is this shared vision that compels people to do something, change something or become something.

Here, in a nutshell, is what leadership with vision is and is not:

The vision must inspire, motivate and have strategic alignment. If the vision is blurred, people don’t know what leadership is trying to achieve, especially if it changes as often as the local diner’s “soup of the day.” People can’t “buy in” to what they don’t know.

Leaders/managers/supervisors must have good leadership skills and encourage idea/knowledge management. When leadership skills are lacking, companies are either micro-managed or too hands-off. Often, there is no leadership development program especially when leaders feel they are irreplaceable. Ideas and knowledge are guarded rather than shared and are often discouraged by “know-it-all” management.

The workplace is a nurturing environment where good work and creativity are recognized and rewarded. Poor leadership discourages rather than encourages, creating a culture of blame rather than focusing on solutions. Eventually, workers lose confidence in leadership and become resentful.

Organization has a smooth flow so bureaucracy is minimized and allows for fast decision making. Poorly run businesses are too bureaucratic and everything (and everyone) is overly scrutinized. Creative thinking is not tolerated, while bureaucracy is encouraged. Decision making must pass through many layers. Employees become defensive and disengaged.

Well-managed companies are transparent. When communication fails to flow from the top down and vice versa, uncertainty follows. No one knows what’s coming next because the rules may change midgame.

For more information, contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or wstrickland@towerforce.com.

Also published in BIC Magazine.

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Safety: Let’s practice what we preach

 

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Safety: Let’s practice what we preach

When you’re selecting a contractor to execute your turnaround or project, it is important to look at its attitude toward safety. Certainly, every project has its priorities, such as safety, quality, schedule and budget. But when safety is done right, the other three priorities quickly fall in line. If clients and contractors truly made safety the very top priority, they would see a significant improvement overall in their turnarounds. Much like sales is the driving force for companies, safety should be the driving force for all projects. Making safety a driving force ensures quality, which requires planning, which develops the schedule, which controls the budget. In the end, all the categories of a successful turnaround win when safety is put as the top priority.

When it comes to safety, there are three different kinds of companies. There are those that constantly preach safety and have a strong safety culture and the necessary safety programs in place to back up what they preach. There are other companies that preach safety but do not have the culture and programs in place to back up what it is they say. In other words, they don’t practice what they preach. Then, sadly, there are companies that are not concerned about safety at all because they are completely cost and schedule driven.

Execution contractors and subcontractors perform only as well as their clients. This is patently evident when it comes to safety. Plant owners who both preach and practice safety are a joy to work for and with. This applies to management and craft alike. Plant owners who fall into this category of preaching and practicing safety actually “lift” contractors up to their standards. Not only are the contractors “lifted up” to high standards, but they can take the lessons learned with them and apply those lessons to other clients’ projects — those clients that may not be so enlightened.

Those clients who fall into the second category of talking a good safety game but not practicing what they preach are the most dangerous to work for because the contractor does not know what to expect. The client preaches safety in all the documents and meetings, but things change when it comes time to actually execute the job. In these instances, there is often a disconnect between management and the field representatives. For many companies, if not all are on the safety bandwagon, the programs and processes put in place cannot work. The plant management may be in denial or have no knowledge of the fact that the safety program they think they have in place has been lost somewhere down the channels and is not making it into the field where the work is being executed. A good example of this type of safety culture is when owners keep contractors in the plant even though they are having major safety incidents. What message does this send to the contractors? And what message does this send to the craftspeople? It clearly says, “We tell you to be safe and careful while working in our plant so that we don’t have any incidents, but we really don’t care about your safety when there is a major safety incident.”

The third type of company, the one that is only motivated by cost and schedule, needs to be carefully evaluated as early as the bid process. This company puts contractors and/or owners in a “crapshoot” position. They may complete the job on budget and on schedule but, through its disregard for safety, this company could end up costing owners or the contractor “big time” through safety violations and incidents.

The solution is not an easy one, but we, as contractors, must nurture our own safety cultures and not rely on our clients. In every instance, we must empower our personnel to adhere to a higher safety standard even if our own standards are higher than those of our clients in some instances. It’s true that overall, our industry has become better at promoting a safe work environment than ever before in its history, but we can still do better. I believe all accidents are preventable and until we all get to that attitude, we need to watch ourselves and not rely on our clients to do it for us.

For more information, contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or wstrickland@towerforce.com.

Also published in BIC Magazine.

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The Key To A Successful Business: Hire Great People

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The Key To A Successful Business: Hire Great People

The single most important factor in running a great business is having the right people in the right places. The first thing needed to run a successful business is hiring great people. I want to give a few characteristics that Tower Force looks for during the hiring process.

Whitney Strickland, VP of Sales, Tower Force

  •  Integrity: Plain and simple, integrity is being able to tell the truth in a timely manner. The person is able to address his or her mistakes immediately, so they can then be resolved quickly. This person follows the rules no matter what someone else may be doing. He or she is able to stay on the high road, although others may be gaining unfair advantages by doing things the wrong way. Determining whether or not a candidate has this integrity can be a different problem. A good way to measure a person’s integrity is by knowing his or her past or finding someone who knows that person’s past. Sometimes you can know the person has integrity by his or her manner and your own gut feelings about the person. Being able to tell if someone has integrity is a skill that is developed over many years of hiring people.
  • Intelligence: My own definition of intelligence does not include a college degree or certificate from a fancy university. I learned more as a boilermaker working in the field than in any college course I could have taken. Some of the most intelligent people I have ever met were working beside me as a craftsperson or foreman in the field. Although intelligence is important in selecting great people, it should not be the foremost determining factor.
  • Positive attitude: One of my practices around the office and in the field is something I learned from a seminar with Ed Foreman. It is based on 12 principles of positive thinking. The principle I use most is “terrific day.” When someone asks you how you’re doing, you should always respond with a resounding “terrific!” — no matter how you may think the day is going. Hiring personnel who have positive attitudes and surrounding them with others who have positive attitudes creates a positive atmosphere. This positive attitude is only part of the equation. The ability to energize others with a positive attitude should also be a criterion.
  • Organization: Being organized is a definite criterion for a great employee. Organized people can do more with fewer mistakes, which saves time and money, but it can be hard to tell if someone is organized during the interview process. Usually, candidates are dressed properly and groomed neatly, so they may look good in the moment, but do they really live that way? One of my tricks for a potential employee is to set up the interview just before lunch. Then, at lunchtime, I ask the person to take me to lunch in his or her car. It is very easy to tell how organized someone is when you hop in the person’s vehicle.
  • Resilience: Last but not least, resilience is the ability to pick yourself back up after a mistake and learn from those mistakes. The ability not only to learn from the mistakes but also be able to regroup with positive energy and a good attitude is a trademark of resilience. Look for personnel who have had tough experiences in their lives and have overcome obstacles, which is a good indicator for resilience. The personnel who have this trait of resilience can make for great leaders within the company in the future.

These are just a few traits to look for if you want to hire great people for your company. The real trick to acquiring great people is to already have great leaders who hire those personnel.

For more information, contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or wstrickland@towerforce.com.

Also published in BIC Magazine.

 

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