Dan Barbee | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Dan Barbee

Background:  

Always Best Care Senior Services specializes in helping families with non-medical in-home care and assisted living referral services for elderly relatives. It serves elderly throughout the Sacramento region. Services include companionship, home helper and assistance with personal care.

The Mistake:

It was early in my career, when I became a “leader.” As you became a leader of larger and larger organizations, you tend to become disconnected from the actual people who are really doing all of the work – your front line.

I had received very good leadership training, much of it while I was in the Marine Corps. But over time, I had forgotten some of those teachings. Thankfully, I've had some very good mentors in my life to bring me, and keep me, up to date in employee management.

The first time that I had more than 100 employees, one of my mentors asked me, “Do you know all of your employees’ names?” I said no, as I had 150 of them.

But he was very clear: Even if I had 750 employees, I should know them all, and know the type of job they do. You should be able to rattle off the top of your head which ones are in the top 10 percent, and who are in the 10 percent that needs the most attention. This helps your employees realize that you are paying attention to them. Otherwise, they may get the feeling that they don't really matter.

You have to connect with every member of your team; every client that you have.

The Lesson:

One thing I've learned and have applied during the rest of my career is the basic thought that I'm no different than anyone else in the company. You have to connect with every member of your team; every client that you have. You have to be true to yourself and true to them, so that they know who you are and where you stand.

Many times, I’ve had employees that agree with my decisions, and I’ve certainly had ones who disagree with them. But they’ve told me, “Hey, I really appreciate the fact that you’ve been very upfront and straight-up with us.”

I really applied that during the rest of my career. And I now have people that I worked with for years who I consider to be lifelong friends. I was able to work with them in such a way that we became an incredible team. 

For example, I have a former employee who worked for me 25 years ago, who called me up recently to say hi, see how I was doing. I got to learn about his family and what they were doing, what’s he’s been up to for the past couple of years – it’s been a wonderful experience. That, to me, is the real reward.

 

Follow Always Best Care Senior Services on Twitter at @AlwaysBestCare.

Pictured is Dan Barbee. | Photo courtesy of Always Best Care Senior Services of Roseville.

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