Working From The Heart

By Dexter S. Kekua
Wednesday - November 16, 2005
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Hard at work at Heide & Cook, Dean Freitas supervises sheet metal worker Jayson Matsuda while, in the background, Alan Ibanes works on the drill press
Hard at work at Heide & Cook, Dean Freitas
supervises sheet metal worker Jayson Matsuda while,
in the background, Alan Ibanes works on the drill

It is said that a company is much like the workings of a human body. The head is the ownership or management of a company. Its brain sets the course and direction of a company. Its ears constantly listen to its employees, its market, its customers. Its eyes search for new ideas, new markets, detours and danger. Its mouth offers direction, instruction and encouragement.

The arms serve as the work force’s “manufacturing” division, taking direction from “above” to accomplish the tasks needed to attain company goals. The legs are the transportation department. Other organs act as conduits. For example, the lungs provide oxygen or the capital needed to succeed.

The heart of a company is that elusive, vaporous concept all managers try to define, then try to explain to their employees - unfortunately, often without much success. We have heard the TV and radio jingles, slogans, print ads and promotions, but none that I have heard really defined it - much less explained it.

So, what is “heart”? Rather than look at all those MBA white papers and self-help business books, we at Heide & Cook, being native Hawaiian owned and operated, turned to our heritage, our culture and our history. We talked to many “real” Hawaiians and discovered that what we were looking for was rooted deep in our past. We found that Hawaiians have a simple and concise saying: “i’ka pu’u wai,” which literally means “from the heart.”

Heart enables a company to do what’s right. But what is heart? At Heide & Cook, we discovered that our employees are our heart.

1) We concluded that the big “name brand” companies did not have the market on good people. We were drawing from the same gene pool for our people as the big guys. Then, we decided not to hire the first warm body. We strengthened our human resource practices. We began asking the right interview questions. We found people who wanted to work from their hearts, not just for a paycheck.

2) We discovered that our strongest and best employees were always our strongest and best employees. When we were short staffed, these were the people who stepped up to the plate. These people had “heart.” We needed more of them.

3) We decided that when mistakes were made, we would not dwell on who made the mistake, but rather on how were we going to: a) fix the problem - NOW; b) ensure the problem did not occur again; and c) incorporate the involved employee as an integral part of the solution.

4) We also realized that one of the answers to these sometimes vaporous and elusive questions is that it is our duty to fit the right people into the right jobs, for the sake of their own success, as well as the company’s success.

Then came the task of putting this “vision” of “i’ka pu’u wai” into words. Simple, yet difficult to convey. We are now in the process of translating it to all of our employees at every level. We feel it means, for example, that a receptionist answers the phone within two rings. It means drivers keep their trucks clean. It means treating people, customers, vendors and fellow employees as we would like to be treated.

The vision is not rocket science. Winston Churchill once said, “The further back in history you look, the farther ahead you can see.” The answers are there. We need just to look for them.

Heide & Cook is a full-service mechanical contractor and air conditioning service company.

Next Week: Nonie Toledo, VP and GM of Sprint Hawaii

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