No snakes! No slugs!

Business’ brightest stars hear ‘the right thing to do’ is usually what’s right for business

is managing editor of the Vancouver
Business Journal.

The Business Growth Awards is a time every year when we at the Vancouver Business Journal learn about ourselves. We examine more closely questions we ask ourselves all year long. Who is on the ground making things happen? What do we know about the region’s business climate? Which way are we headed? What are the indicators? Is there growth, and how is that defined by us and our readers?

The finalists for the awards, of course, are among the brightest stars. Many have well more than doubled their revenues and their number of full time employees. They represent a wide variety of industries from banking to sports equipment to “fast casual” dining. Some of the finalists, such as Bank of Clark County and Burgerville, have made a household name for themselves. Some, such as WACOM, have sewn up more than 95 percent of their markets. We see their products everyday in stores like Circuit City and Best Buy, but many of us don’t know their name, or the people behind the magic.

While it was fun and extremely satisfying to recognize our fourteen finalists and five winners, the “teaching moments” of the evening really came during the keynote speech delivered by Dan Moffat, president and CEO of New Edge Networks. A global force both professionally and personally, Moffat talked about the inside track to his company’s success – the substance behind the smiley-face pirate flag over Highway 14 we have all come to recognize.

My favorite parts of his talk had to do with handling his 350 employees. In an industry such as telecommunications where there is great upheaval, often with staff, Moffat has found ways to attract, retain and motivate his people.

Every six months, he gives each division in his Vancouver office $250 to redecorate their sections – and then hands out prizes for creative spirit. He leads by example, having participated in six Ironman Triathlons and encouraging his employees to compete in sports and stay physically fit.

Moffat’s “no snakes, no slugs” policy stuck with me long after the curtain came down. At New Edge, he said, they “kill snakes on sight,” weeding out employees who steal, lie, cheat, backstab and undermine the company’s spirit. And they weed out slugs, as well – employees who just can’t keep up with the Edgers’ ambitious goals.

Looking around at more than 200 people in the Hilton who turned out for the Business Growth Awards banquet, and listening to the hearty enthusiasm from each company’s table as their colleagues – and even competitors – were recognized, I kept returning to Moffat’s speech at the beginning of the evening, and its two overarching themes: GPW, or Great Place to Work, and “3-o’clock-in-the-morning-courage.”

The room – winners, all of them – was filled with leaders who have 3-o’clock-in-the-morning-courage and who cultivate a GPW for their employees. As Moffat said, the “right thing to do” is usually what’s right for business.

So, while we answer the question all year long: “Who’s out there getting things done?” Last week, we got a long look at who’s out there doing it right.

Borrowing one last time from the top Edger, as he looked around at those same businesses: “Takes one to know one. Congratulations! I salute you.”

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