Thursday, June 28, 2012

WHAT MAKES A COMPANY? This week's blog post celebrates the 30-year-anniversary of Shamrock. It is written by the people who have worked with Bob and for Bob. Friends. Employees. Business Partners.


"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in
moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge
and controversy."  - Martin Luther King, Jr.

                --- Shamrock employee, Jen Hall, provided this quote, and summed up who Bob is: his grace under pressure, his resilience, his dedication to doing good things for all people, when she said, "Bob, what you have done over the last 3 years to make your company and employees prosper in this weak economy is truly remarkable."

So, what makes a company? It's the person in charge. And Bob has made Shamrock the "rock" it is today. Celebrating our 30th anniversary is really all about celebrating the man who had the guts to go out on a limb and build something strong and powerful that's lasted through more than one obstacle, more than one recession, more than one catastrophe -- and more than one fundraising event, more than one family event, and more than one employee celebration. And, Bob, with his leadership and honesty (and excellent choice of employees!) always pulled us through.

As always, words speak loudest. Here are just some testaments of Bob's strength and business savvy throughout our 30 years of working with him:

"I remember when I first pulled up at Bob’s Euclid home to meet with him about us getting together and him bringing some guys to start a Shamrock Forms Cleveland office. I pulled up in my car in Euclid and Bob was in a T shirt and shorts. He had just finished trimming the grass at his front walk. In his hand was one of those manual rolling (lawn) edge trimmers and I thought OK, this is a hard working guy ."                                                                                                                                             
Neil Bennett, Shamrock Co-Founder and Bob's Mentor

"We are all privileged to have shared parts of this journey with you and applaud your leadership, integrity and success."
                                                                               Tim Connor, President - The Shamrock Companies

"My best memories have been the fundraisers where all of our Shamrock employees, customers and vendors got together to do something for someone else..... This is where Shamrock’s star was the brightest..."
                                                                                                      Maureen Meyer,Shamrock Employee

"You are an amazing businessman and more importantly an amazing person... You have helped and inspired many people and at the end of the day, that is why we are all put on this earth."                                                                                   
Kathy Lawlor, Shamrock Employee

Companies are perceived by their leaders. During these recent difficult times, many companies that we thought were strong have vanished. Under the leadership and guidance of Bob and his team, we have continued to thrive. Thanks, Bob, for always encouraging us to work through the tough times -- and the good times -- as a family. Cheers to the next 30 years of the Shamrock Family.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I am certainly concerned about the health and welfare of my family. That includes my private family and my family of employees. I've made significant plans to provide health benefits for my wife and children. And, as a caring CEO and a smart businessman, I am also concerned about the health and welfare of my employees, because they also are like a family to me. That's why I've been 100% behind my HR team's initiative to develop a Health and Wellness Fair, which we had, to great success, on June 14.

A lot of outside help went into this in-house Fair, such as participating vendors that included ING Financial Group, Benefits Resource Group (who sponsored a healthy lunch for all employees), Guardian, Medical Mutual and our local Westlake Recreation Department. But the biggest round of applause goes to the Shamrock HR team, who put this program together.

While my caring employer side knows it's imperative to provide support for the well being of our employees, my smart businessman side understands the practical issues, too.

A recent story in The Wall Street Journal (Employee Wellness) said that, "Despite the effects of the recession, many employers are spending more money on wellness programs that aim to help people eat right, get regular exercise, manage stress and quit smoking." Because research clearly shows that wellness programs make for happier, healthier employees.

Helping Shamrock employees to better cope with stress is a priority, too. The mantra at Shamrock has always been that we help one another out. When I hear of an employee who is ill, or has an ill family member, I gather the troops and we do everything possible to help that employee and his or her family out during difficult times.

I consider Shamrock to be a company that cares deeply about the health and wellness of its employees. It is who we are. But it also makes good business sense to have a healthy and happy group of employees. Recent studies indicate that:
  • Every dollar a company invests in the health and wellness intervention of its employees yields $6 in health care savings.
  • Well-executed company health and wellness initiatives are justified by the fact that lost workdays decline by 80%.
  • Employees that are healthy tend to stay with the company that cares about their health matters.
With the success of this in-house health fair, and the success of others we've had in the past, it's quite likely we'll be having more of the same healthy food and advice in the future.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WHAT'S THIS BUSINESS ABOUT SUMMER CAMP? Bob considers the positive aspects of business summer camp.

For years we've had new employees participate in an orientation to gain a greater understanding of our Shamrock. This generally happens six months after an employee has been with us. New employees experience a daylong session to learn about each department, how we integrate among departments to achieve specific goals, and how we effectively work with one another. Not exactly camp, but it does bring new employees and Shamrock veterans closer together; and it gives new employees a chance to ask questions to better understand how our business works.

We also have Fish Camp for new employees, which defines for them our Culture, Values and Corporate Philosophy. Fish Camp -- a total immersion into our culture -- is held once or twice a year, depending on the number of new employees we've hired that year. I always hear from employees how much they enjoy Fish Camp. It's fun, interactive and exciting.

In a sense, these camp-like experiences are a form of team building, similar to our summer events, which have included my favorite: a Shamrock Family Day at the Cleveland Zoo. We've also enjoyed Behind the Fence baseball parties at Indians games, and Family Day at Swings-N-Things Family Fun Park. Such types of events bring employees and their families together for a day that includes participating in a family-friendly environment, along with the opportunity to see people we work with in a more relaxed setting.

Some companies take team building one step further and have a structured business summer camp. These camp-like environments are usually off-premise and organized to include specific business goals and objectives with clearly defined end results. I like the idea of a planned summer camp and plan to give it serious thought for the future.

Thoughtful planning for this type of event is the most essential part, and I would want input from Shamrock's management team to decide the best use of our "camp time." For example, if we conducted a summer camp, it would be a good idea to decide if we want it to reward staff for a good year or if we want a program designed to overcome a specific situation, such as eliminating communication barriers between departments.  If our goal would be to build better relationships between departments, we might plan events that include formally mixing people from various departments in groups and/or at tables during mealtimes. If this isn't developed in the planning stage, employees might naturally sit with their department colleagues and friends, which would work against our objective.

It's also a good idea to determine if planning can be done in-house or if a professional business coach should be involved. For a simple day-away reward, in-house planning would definitely serve the purpose. However, if the retreat is more intense, it's a good idea to hire an outside consultant with years of planning skills that clearly match the desired outcomes we want to achieve.

Regardless of the objective for summer camp, I believe the retreat should be a pleasurable experience and a new way for employees to think about collaborating with one another to develop essential workplace skills such as leadership, trust, communication and personal growth.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ARE SUMMER INTERNS WORTH IT? In addition to the pleasure of having young, fresh faces to cheer up the workplace, Bob says "yes" to interns.

A good internship creates a classic win-win situation for everyone involved. The biggest benefit for interns is the chance to work with professionals in their field of interest. It also gives them an opportunity to decide if this is the best career choice to pursue. The employer wins, too. Most companies that hire interns say it provides them with the opportunity to select the best and brightest for summer help and maybe, future employment, while also increasing their company's community goodwill.

At Shamrock, we're lucky enough to choose from the best and brightest among young people seeking an internship. Actually, it isn't luck that gets us good interns. It's the fact that we treat them well.

We have one Golden Rule: Never Exploit or Neglect An Intern. Unhappy interns are like unhappy customers. They talk (a lot!) about a bad experience. This will have a negative impact on hiring good interns in the future. Negative reviews from interns may even impact hiring good employees!

We also make every attempt to set aside the time to mentor our interns, as well as provide them with an actual learning experience they can showcase on a resume. 

Finally, I believe interns should be paid for their work; it makes them better and more productive temporary employees. (We generally pay summer interns. Exceptions may be high school students and students who are obtaining credit for their internship.) If payment in dollars is not an option, there are other types of compensation... see my comments below.

Here are a few more sound and simple tips for a positive internship experience: 
  • Make your intern feel like part of the team
  • Emphasize the importance of your intern's work
  • Give interns new and different tasks to challenge them, and provide them with just one task they can own and complete from beginning to end
  • Show your intern how he or she is positively affecting the company
  • Give constant constructive feedback

In today's economy, some companies can't afford to pay interns. And because of a tight economy, many college students will accept an unpaid internship in order to gain experience that helps lead them to the job they want. Companies that only offer unpaid internships can develop a strategy to compensate student hires by offering interns an outstanding work experience. And if the work experience is worth an unpaid summer, word travels fast around a college campus. If an unpaid intern tells a friend or two how great his internship was, students will be knocking down your door for the opportunity.