A Vision Of Empowerment

By Corey Matsuoka
Wednesday - April 19, 2006
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Just havin’ fun at SSFM (left to right): Kevin Nakamoto, Wendy McLain and Corey Matsuoka
Just havin’ fun at SSFM (left to right): Kevin
Nakamoto, Wendy McLain and Corey Matsuoka

When the economy is good, businesses prosper and everyone benefits. Hawaii’s economy has created great opportunities for SSFM and has kept all 108 employees quite busy.

This was not always the case. When I joined the company eight years ago, the local economy was not as robust. I had just returned from Kyoto University doing research for my master’s thesis in structural engineering, and was hired by Michael Matsumoto, the company’s president and CEO. It was his vision at that time to infuse the office with younger employees to balance the veteran engineers who had years of experience.

His vision is already beginning to reap dividends. The newer employees have been given a range of opportunities to grow professionally and develop leadership skills and today, almost 10 years later, many of the younger employees have moved into middle and upper management positions.

When I first started, my boss would say, “SSFM is a great place to work. After three years here you get six years of experience.” That definitely seems true, and I feel that I’ve been on the accelerated course. A few years after joining SSFM, I was dispatched to serve as the sole engineer in our Saipan office and later volunteered to help start SSFM’s Hilo office. After getting married, I decided it was time to come home and assumed the leadership of SSFM’s Project Management and Environmental Planning Group.

Throughout my journeys and various responsibilities, I have been lucky enough to work for and with great managers, and tried to take the best of each to make up my own managerial style and to integrate it into SSFM’s corporate culture:

1) First and foremost, do the right thing. This one statement serves as a guide in many different situations. If you make a mistake, do whatever it takes to fix it. Be impeccable with your words, say what you mean, mean what you say and fulfill your promises.

2) Empower your employees. At SSFM, our employees are given a tremendous amount of responsibility and the resources to make things happen. It’s very exciting to know that at SSFM, you will go as far and as quickly as your desire and ability take you.

3) Become a part of the community. With offices on every major island in the state and throughout the Pacific, SSFM tries to provide our employees with the opportunity to work where they want and be available for our clients at the same time. Just this past year we have participated in the Christmas Lokahi project, Habitat for Humanity’s Build-athon, Kapa’a Elementary School’s Popsicle Bridge Building Contest, provided internships for high school students from Roosevelt and scholarships for University of Hawaii Civil Engineering students.

4) All for one and one for all. Walk into SSFM’s office and you won’t find any isolating cubicles as we stress openness and team-work. Everyone has the same size desk from the student intern to the group managers, as no one is better than anyone else. Corporate goals, strategies and financial information are also available for everyone to review and provide recommendations. Along with our open-door policy, we also have quarterly business summits for all of our project managers.

5) Do high-quality work, on budget and on time. We have been in business since 1959 and instilled this in our corporate culture since day one. SSFM also has partnered with companies of similar mindsets in Hawaii, the continental U.S. and in Asia to provide our clients with the best possible solutions to their projects.

6) Provide a good working environment. Contrary to popular belief, engineers like to have fun too. And I mean normal fun, like ping pong, karate, parties and Toastmasters, all of which are provided for at our office. Outside of the office, SSFM also sponsors softball and basketball teams.

Today, as part of SSFM’s management team, I want to perpetuate that same empowering environment and culture. All of these activities are designed to open the world to our staff as well as help prepare the next young generation of project managers, planners and engineers.

Next Week: Anthony Pfaltzgraf, Executive Director Kalihi YMCA

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