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  • Valley Innovators

Providing Outlets for Talent to Flourish

Open-book management is one of the foundational elements of many successful companies. Haven’t heard of this style? It’s based on the theory that when employees are given relevant numbers, data, and goals from a business they can do their job more effectively because they can completely understand the business.

In the spirit of transparency, it’s a great style.  And for me, it’s important to have a team that understands the business deeply, not just employees who clock in and out every day.  In startup life, this rings even more true, as every employee is critically important to the viability and success of the business.

To achieve true employee empowerment, I like to open the books and share our corporate vision frequently. When given a clear look into how and why the business operates, you start to build a team that is truly invested in the success of the business and understands the key levers for success or failure.  I’ve found one simple way to accomplish this is a weekly team meeting where we communicate metrics and reinforce our mission to the entire team. The meeting also provides employees with a platform to ask clarifying questions or provide feedback.

So now you’ve explained what success looks like to the team and how you’re going to measure performance, but what happens next?  You need to be ready to give your team the right educational tools to succeed. At Fresno First Bank, we see the value in various continued education opportunities in the form of programs/certificates, conferences, and customer insights.

Continuing education for work is really valuable if it’s the right program. This year Craig DeShields, the Bank’s senior loan officer, graduated from the Pacific Coast Banking School. After three years, a thesis, and intense situational simulations, everything that Craig can bring to the team has grown exponentially. It’s a great program and our team is proud of him.

While your startup may not be ready for that level of employee education, a simpler approach is having your team attend industry conferences. This has a few benefits: (1) enables your team to build relationships that can be critical to the business (e.g. new business opportunities or recruiting), (2) refine your elevator pitch as you describe a value proposition to others, and (3) learn about new product or management trends.

In order to maximize your investment on conferences, if you have multiple employees attend, have them avoid overlap of content sessions.  My goal is to have employees come back and share what they’ve learned with the team, which enables us to build a larger collective learning from each conference and get a better ROI.

Integrating educational programs and our open-book management philosophy has enabled us to empower our employees for success.  What tactics have you implemented to create an open book culture or help your team succeed?

About Steve Miller

Steve Miller co-founded Valley Innovators with a mission to bring more entrepreneurial success to startups in the Central Valley.  Steve is also President & CEO of Fresno First Bank and has more than 20 years of commercial banking, retail banking, operations and sales/marketing experience. Miller was born and raised in Orange County, California, and is a graduate of Columbia University where he earned his bachelor’s degree. Before joining Fresno First Bank, Miller’s career highlights included several years with HSBC Indonesia running its small business portfolio for the country, and six years in Malaysia at Alliance Financial Group running its business banking division. During his tenure at Alliance Financial Group they were awarded the Best Small Business Bank in Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East in 2013 and 2015.

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