As you can imagine, Gohlke Pools has grown substantially since Gene Gohlke and Bert Moore decided to start building pools in Denton, Texas in 1958.
Although the growth has mostly had a positive impact, there have been some downsides. One of the most glaring: As we have become a larger company with more business, staff, facilities, etc., it has become very difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with everything behind the scenes that needs to be done in order to operate the business.
In particular, we experienced trouble keeping up in three areas in which we have always felt that we excel: community involvement, workplace culture, and property maintenance/updating.
We have just reached a point where management is too busy to do all of the background work and make all of the decisions that need to be made. In addition, we have found that oftentimes management is not the most qualified to make the best decision due to someone else in the company having more knowledge in a particular area.
Nick Day, our general manager, recognized this and came up with a plan: He believed that by setting up a structure of committees, we could solve the two biggest roadblocks to getting things accomplished — lack of time and lack of knowledge. This would, in effect, delegate the issue to a group that has more time and qualifications, freeing management to work on other matters. It seemed like a win/win situation.
Being a Methodist, I was very familiar with committees and the downsides of them — it takes too long to get anything done, it’s hard to get everyone to agree on a meeting time, etc. Therefore, I was a bit resistant initially. But I decided to give it a chance.
Here’s a breakdown of how.
We started by asking for volunteers and encouraging department managers to participate. We staff each committee with five to 10 people, typically all ages and experience levels. Most committees meet monthly or quarterly, usually first thing in the morning, as it is the easiest time for most staff members to get together.
In most cases, the committee is empowered to make final decisions. If they need to spend money on a project, management would need to approve it. But it would be rare to reject a recommendation from a committee.
We found five areas that we believed would be better served by employee committees:
Community Involvement: We have always believed that giving back to the community is very important. Although we had good intentions, time would pass without us doing as much as we felt we should. Sure, we would write a check, but oftentimes providing manpower is what is really needed. Through our Community Involvement Committee, we reached a number of goals:
• Built a bridge for a charitable organization that has a creek running thru its property in order to allow those being housed to access the other side.
• Provided free pool care for two charitable organizations.
• Deliver weekend/holiday meals to elementary school children regularly.
• Organize our quarterly trash pick-up at our adopt-a-spot.
• Organize our Salvation Army bell ringing events.
• In addition, we now have a Charity of the Month that we highlight and promote at our Monthly Meeting.
Workplace Culture: Workplace culture has become so important, and we have certainly seen the positive impact of having a well-established one. It seems that the younger workforce is much more aware of its importance. Therefore, we figured putting one of our younger people in charge of this committee would be beneficial, and it certainly has been.
This committee has been responsible for setting up quarterly social events for the team, expanding the breakroom, and starting to provide continental breakfast each morning to our entire team.
Legal: We have a key staff member who seems to thrive in the area of legal matters. The fact that his son is a well-respected lawyer made him the perfect person to lead this committee. This group’s job is to help us stay out of legal trouble and, if we do get into a situation that threatens to go to court, they take the lead to find a solution. In one case, for example, the committee chair took over when a client refused to make final payment. We were at a standstill — they claimed a defect; we did not agree and thought the monies were owed. He found a resolution by working with the installer and manufacturer of that particular product to assure the client there was no defect so they made the payment.
So far, this group has been proactive in looking through our contracts in order to tighten up the language and has also provided input and coaching on potential legal issues.
Duncan Street — Warehouse: We found that our warehouse was in need of maintenance and a property design update, so we formed this committee to navigate that project. The group redid the parking configuration, planned for sand/gravel/topsoil pits, changed out all of the office lighting to energy efficient lights, planned and implemented the installation of a gas tank for onsite fuel; and performed an overall organization of the property to improve efficiency.
Dallas Drive — Store/Sales Office: Our retail store and new pool sales office had become dated. This location is truly the front door/window to our business and needs to present a favorable image. We knew that we needed input from some of our younger staff members to help us stay relevant.
This group arranged for repainting and remodeling of the building and had the parking lot resurfaced and restriped.
Race Car: Several years ago we entered a car in a large local event, the “Day of the Dead Festival” coffin races. We were successful in the race, and our staff believed it was worthwhile for us. Several wanted to enter again, but we had given our car away to a high school shop class. So an ad-hoc committee was formed to build a new car and put together a race day team.
The group had weekly meetings and put the work in to design and build a race car. The event took place over the Halloween weekend, and we had one of the fastest cars in the field, but mainly we had a great time at the event.
Overall, the move to a committee structure has been a very good decision. Not only has more been accomplished, but it seems that the decisions have been much better and more timely than management could have accomplished on its own. It’s helped us perform to our potential and truly live out our values.
In addition, it has provided leadership opportunities and built morale by involving our team members in the decision-making process.