Authority Magazine (October 2019) — I, Jason Malki, had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Plummer, Jr., the President and CEO of Our Town America. A U.S. Army veteran and Certified Franchise Executive (CFE), he has more than 20 years of experience working as a senior-level franchise executive and IT professional in the direct marketing industry. For more than 45 years, Our Town America has been providing new movers with traditional hospitality by mailing warm housewarming gifts from local neighborhood businesses in a premium welcome package.
Thank you for joining us Michael! More than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
I believe that more than half of the U.S. workforce is unhappy because the majority of Americans aren’t living out their dream career. Life can take many unexpected turns, and employees may find themselves in a different role or even different industry than they truly desire. As a result, employees can feel unsatisfied or unfulfilled by their careers.
Additionally, I think employees often feel ignored and unappreciated. As a leader in my company, I try to make a point to lead by example, go the extra mile and always make sure my employees feel acknowledged and appreciated.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and well being?
An unhappy employee can drastically affect the morale of the entire office. Their dissatisfaction and unease can be contagious to those around them. This general drop in mood will inevitably impact productivity as employees feel less motivated to get their work done. As productivity slows, company profitability will plunge.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Care — At Our Town America, we care greatly about the well being of our employees. We want to be there for our employees for major life events — the passing or sickness of a family member, a birth or a major operation — and offer support any way we can.
- Communicate — We like to keep the lines of communication open and encourage employee feedback. I love to hear what we are doing right and what needs improvement.
- Boost Morale — We like to do catered lunches for our staff and encourage them to eat together. We also like to coordinate fun activities to liven things up every now and then.
- Team Building — It is very important for our team to work together to accomplish goals. I like to encourage team bonding through fun out-of-work team experiences like go-karting, top golf or arcades.
- Stay True to Core Values — Finally, we started as a family business, and as we’ve grown, we’ve kept those original values. We are committed to ensuring our employees are happy and healthy, and our customers receive the best possible service.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
Big change starts small. A broader change in the culture regarding work culture can start in your office. I like to lead by example and mentor my employees to nurture a positive work culture. Not everyone will be eager to embrace the change, but those that do can make a difference, even if it’s slowly. Change can take time.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I prefer to lead through mentorship. I explain the goal and help find a solution, but I encourage the individual to accomplish the task themselves. Many times, I’ve been surprised and impressed by the creative solutions my employees propose. It’s very rewarding to watch my employees take on new challenges successfully.
Additionally, I do not believe in micro-managing. It’s unrealistic to expect an employee to grow and learn if you do everything for them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been very fortunate to have many amazing people surrounding me, but one of my biggest supporters was my father, our founder. He was my best friend up until the day he died. Growing up, he taught me to always try to do the right thing for the right reasons; don’t be tempted by an easier path, but instead, keep your eye on the long-term goal. His mentorship helped me become the business leader I am today, and I am incredibly grateful.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At Our Town America, we do it every day, one mover at a time. We are all about building relationships. We regularly reach out to our clients in need, like during recent hurricanes, snowstorms and floods to see how we can help. Through the nature of our business as a new mover marketing franchise, we have a connection to hundreds of communities across the country. When a community is in need, we turn out in force. We have volunteered at food pantries and collected donations for the holidays. We know the importance of community and practice what we preach in a very tangible way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Show me your friends; I will show you your future.” I love this quote because in life, as in business, so often your success is linked to the relationships you have built. It is incredibly important to surround yourself with driven individuals who will challenge you and push you to be your best. When we look to bring on a new franchisee or team member, I keep that quote at the forefront of my mind.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would encourage everyone to do the right thing even if no one is looking. Take responsibility for your actions and step up to face challenges head-on. Don’t wait around hoping for someone to come along and handle a problem — you are someone, and can do it yourself!
Written by Jason Malki of Authority Magazine