The reviews are in

One of the challenges Imagine Communications has faced over the years has been how to keep our entrepreneurial soul while growing the business in a sensible manner. Like most startups, when we first opened our doors we did everything on the fly. After a while, we realized we would need to develop internal systems and processes to operate more effectively, but not so many as to strangle our creativity which is, after all, the reason clients hire us in the first place.

Over the years, we implemented regularly scheduled weekly team meetings, an employee manual (with actual policies, no less), a job tracking system and numerous other procedures, while still keeping  such benefits as flex hours, work from home days, a team health and wellness program, day care and a really generous holiday schedule that includes everything but Groundhog Day. We’ve learned that balance is the key, and most days we do a good job of navigating that fine line.

The type of culture and environment we’ve created doesn’t work for every business, but it continues to serve us well. Arguably our most impactful initiative was the creation of an annual performance appraisal for each member of the Imagine team. (Actually, “creation” is a bit of a stretch. We begged, borrowed and stole the best parts of existing evaluation forms before adding our own twist.) The format measures competency in nine key areas, including quality, job knowledge, communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, ethics and initiative. The evaluation consists of a report written by the employee’s immediate supervisor and edited by one or both partners, followed by a 60- to 90-minute meeting in which we address each area in great detail. It’s an excellent opportunity for honest give and take (the evaluation process works both ways) and has never failed to produce positive outcomes. It usually comes with a well-deserved raise, so there’s a tangible reward at the end.

If your organization doesn’t participate in an annual formal review process, I can’t recommend it highly enough. All of us need to know where we stand, and this valuable exercise does just that in a constructive way. The results speak for themselves.

Brian Rouff serves as managing partner for Imagine Communications. Email Brian at brouff@weareimagine.com.

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