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Posts Tagged ‘corporate culture’

YOUR Invisible, Inc.: Word on the Street — April 13th thru April 17th

April 17th, 2015 1 COMMENT
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

We recently welcomed several new, very talented employees to the Classic Family. And as is our custom, Mel and I sit down with these employees to check-in and see how things are going after about a week of training and immersion.

During this time, we take the opportunity to talk about “Who Classic is” both internally as well as externally to our customers/partners. In that discussion, we use the term “Invisible Inc” quite often. It’s a phrase that was spawned from our participation in EDPA ACCESS Meetings.

The concept is not new to us, just the name. It’s a tidy, descriptive term that encapsulates our mission, and one that became even more important during the recession as we saw competitors changing their business practices. It’s at the core of our business model. But, like any mission statement or corporate culture, you have to live it and talk about it if you want it to be second nature to every employee. It can’t simply be printed on a poster and hung on a wall.

What does it mean to us? More importantly, what does it mean for you, our trusted and valued partners?

WP_002413You only need to take a 10 minute stroll through our Production Shop, as I did this morning. As I walked the floor, I saw large, very custom, wood-constructed exhibits in various phases of the production process. I saw countless 10 x 10 and 10 x 20 hybrid exhibits being prepped in the Set-up Area. Most of which will be previewed with graphics before being sent to your customers. I saw cart after cart of pre-cut, pre-milled and pre-bent aluminum extrusion waiting to be packaged and sent to exhibit houses that will use the extrusion in their own in-house design-build projects. And, I saw 52 On The Move portable stools with end-user graphics applied to the seats ready to be packed into cases and shipped to a large upcoming consumer event.

So what is unique about that?  You see, most of what I just described will eventually be leaving this building with YOUR brand on the crates . . . or YOUR packing labels on the cases . . . or YOUR branding on the set-up instructions . . . or be used in YOUR final exhibit build that you are working on in your own shop.

Don’t get me wrong. Classic Exhibits is very proud of its Brand. Please know that. But we are even prouder of the opportunities we are given each and every day to boost YOUR BRAND with our products and the hard work of our remarkably talented people.

For years now, you have heard us preach about “Shared Success…Your Success is Our Success.” Through all that, we often joke about how, outside the exhibit industry, we are largest “most unknown” Exhibit Manufacturer in the North America.  🙂  It’s a  title we wear proudly.

YOUR Invisible Inc. means that if you are a Custom Builder in your market, you can also be a Pop-up Manufacturer and Hybrid/Modular provider. Or, if you are a Portable/Modular Distributor, you can also be a Custom Exhibit provider.

To all that continue to embrace our odd approach, thanks as always. I hope you have a great and restful weekend with your families.

Be well!



What’s Your Corporate Culture?

December 4th, 2011 4 COMMENTS

What’s Your Company Culture?

Corporate CultureEvery company has a culture, whether they recognize it or not. Some companies promote it as an asset. Others see it as the elephant in the room which no one discusses. Then there are those executives who speak about their culture using glowing terms like empowerment, self-actualization, and mutual respect. They talk about “open doors” when, in fact, their company could be a reality series. The infighting, politics, departmental espionage, and gossip would make a Survivor or Jersey Shore star blush.

And just like on a reality series, everyone is on their best behavior at first. They wear make-up, clean clothes, and say “Please” and “Thank you.”  They are hyper-aware of the cameras, but after awhile, they forget, and they react to the drama surrounding them. The drama doesn’t change who they are, but it heightens aspects of their personality, both good and bad.

Now imagine the same situation where the culture is established. A new person wants to do the right thing, wants to fit in, and wants to be professional and productive. Supportive cultures welcome that person. They see them as enriching the group and adding value. Each new person represents a necessary skill. And, in time, they reaffirm those values and add diversity to the team.

In dysfunctional cultures, the players are entrenched, and new employees are viewed as threats or possible allies. They quickly discover that to survive they must grapple with departmental politics and navigate petty personal squabbles, some dating back years. All too often, these cultures are hostile to change, blinded by departmental silos and antagonistic to customers, both internal and external. Work gets done but the emotional toll undermines the long-term prospects of the company since good employees leave and creative growth stagnates.

The DNA of the Company

Think of corporate culture as an organism rather than a policy. On days when there are guests, the group plays nice. No one has to be coached to behave in supportive cultures. It’s in their DNA. Impaired cultures are told how to behave and are reminded who will be allowed to interact with the guest. If it’s an important guest, they are told in no uncertain terms to act accordingly.

I don’t pretend to be expert an organizational behavior. Heck, I barely have a grasp on my own behavior. But I’ve worked for enough companies over the years where the corporate culture made the experience pleasant or punishing. What made one culture rewarding and the other a jail sentence? It’s never black and white. I’m not that naive. There’s no perfect company. They all have blemishes and some age better than others. Some start out caring and compassion and become borderline psychopathic. Larger companies often attempt to institutionalize the culture through training, mission statements, and evaluations. More often than not that works, but it can still fail if management ignores or undermines it through their own actions or inactions. HP’s recent fiascoes are a good example of a widely respected culture that has taken a beating over the past three years.

There’s a good chance you work for a small or medium company. There are three major influences on the culture:  the person(s) who owns or manages the company, the person who is the leader in the group (who may or may not be the owner/manager), and the bad apples.

Consider Your Own Situation

If you like your job, whether you handle embalming fluid, shuffle paper, or sell stuff, there’s a good chance you work for someone who sets clear expectations, supports your ideas, respects your work, and treats you as a responsible adult. You may not love every aspect of your job, it may not be the dream job you always wanted, but if your boss is respectful and competent and rarely exhibits a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality, you don’t dread coming to work every day.

On the other hand, we have all worked for the “satanic and/or incompetent nub job,” the boss with a tenuous grasp on human emotions, teamwork, and common decency.  This person just crawled from whatever swamp breeds these creatures and has learned to mimic, albeit badly, human behavior. These people make our lives a living hell, and unless they own the company, they don’t last long.

Since not all managers or owners are leaders, someone has to assume that role, either formally or informally within a team. These folks may be a good or poor manager; however, leaders typically don’t get to be leaders without the ability to “lead.” They understand how to motivate others and how to establish priorities and goals. Exceptional leaders not only model the behavior they want others to follow, but they also guide and coach their colleagues toward those model behaviors. It’s easy to confuse the concepts of “managing” and “leading,” but think back on your own experiences. We’ve all known great managers but poor leaders . . . . or great leaders but weak managers. On occasion, someone possesses both. Truly great managers or leaders are self-aware. They play to their strengths and promote those who possess the talents they don’t have.

Bad Apples Finally, let’s chat about the “bad apple.” Have you ever worked somewhere where you like your job, your colleagues, and the culture. Then, the company hires the “bad apple.” Suddenly, everything changes. That one person, for reasons unique to each situation, changes everything. They become “the conversation” whenever you and your colleagues chat. You discuss reasonable solutions about how to handle this person, but those solutions never seem to work. You try harder and like a greased pig, every perfect solution escapes your grasp.

What we fail to understand about “bad apples” is that each time we try to remove the bad behavior, or the brown spot on the apple, it always exposes more bad behavior. Not at first, but over time that clean surface turns brown again. Eventually, it’s all bad and all that remains is an even uglier core.

A human resource manager once told me, “We hire people for what they know. We fire them for who they are.” They may be incompetent or unethical, but much more often, they are simply not good matches for the group or the corporate culture.

Every corporate culture is different. And most are moving, evolving, adapting. Good ones recognize what works for their employees, their customers, and their suppliers. They build on it and strive to hire employees who add value and strategic diversity. Bad ones ignore it. They lack institutional self-awareness, and they blame internal dysfunction on individuals or market forces.

What’s your corporate culture? How has that culture manifested itself through the past three years of economic malaise? Please share your thoughts (or rants on previous bad cultures).

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100.

Word on the Street — May 3rd thru May 7th

May 9th, 2010 COMMENTS

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

What’s Your Corporate Culture?

Do your customers and stakeholders share your perception of your corporate culture? Too often, the answer is an emphatic “NO!”

I read an interesting blog post this week regarding American Airlines. Let me start out by saying that I am an “American Guy” when it comes to flying. I fly American Airlines almost exclusively. Having said that, this blog posting really made me reflect on my recent AA flights and realize a few things.

The blog posting, Becoming a Bus Company, is by Seth Godin. He mentions American as an example of a company that has let its standards and culture erode. It’s a symptom of companies (and cultures) under long-term stress. And certainly, no one would deny that the airline industry has faced repeated crises over the past 10 years beginning with 9/11.

When I think about recent flights I’ve had on other airlines, I realize that there was a more positive energy on those airlines.

In the end, it is a Corporate Culture problem. You have to shed your visions of the pretty ad campaigns on TV and print. Culture is not created there, rather it is created in the actually environment. What do people feel and see when they are in your workplace?

Don’t get me wrong, we all put on a little extra lipstick when we’re out in public talking about our businesses, but once someone walks through our doors, it becomes much more difficult to “hide” any product, people, and culture issues.

Ironically, someone sent me a video clip from Tony Robbins this week that talks about building Brand Culture.

What’s your Brand Culture and is it a key competitive advantage in the marketplace? As he mentions, you have to create a culture where others want to do business with you. Once they do, they stick with you. Its the Coke vs Pepsi argument. You either like one or the other right?

So, my beloved American Airlines, after this week and some reflection, you have a lot of work to do I am sorry to say. I will still probably keep flying with you, but with so many other options out there, I am not sure for how long.

What are some good and bad examples of Corporate Culture or Corporate Branding you have seen recently?

Please share your comments here.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! And a very special Happy Mother’s Day to my mom.

Be well and have a safe and restful weekend.

–Kevin Carty

Word on the Street — August 24th thru August 28th

August 28th, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Who is Classic Exhibits?

The headline this week is clearly self-promoting. But there’s a good reason. Last week, we talked about the upturn in business. This week, the upturn continued, so much of my time was devoted to orders, quotes, and production. 

During the busy season, I am frequently reminded, often by distributors, of all the reasons that Classic is different, so indulge me for a few minutes while I discuss “Nimble Manufacturing,” a core concept at Classic Exhibits.

Nimble Manufacturing  

We are a nimble manufacturer. What does that mean? In short, we are a not only a Manufacturer of Portable, Modular, Custom Modular and Custom Hybrid Displays, but we are also an Exhibit Builder. This is an important distinction that needs to be made when comparing Classic Exhibits to our competitors.

Do we design and manufacture “kits”? Yep!  Lots of them. In our humble opinion, we design and manufacture the most creative line of exhibit kits in the world. 

Being nimble is important. When you decide to be an exhibit builder and a kit builder, you have to be willing to be nimble, creative, AND reasonable. For example, let’s say your client wants a 10 x 20 Magellan Hybrid Kit, but they want it modified. They want the counter top lime green (not standard black), and they want to move one of the interior uprights 6″ to better fit their graphic layout requirements. We do it . . . and we do without major upcharges or ridiculous turnaround times. In our minds, why make it painful if it doesn’t have to be. In this case, we can get the laminate in a couple of days, and we have everything it takes to reconfigure the metal, so why demand a huge upcharge? If we have to air freight in the laminate, there may be a fee to cover the shipping.  But other than that, we should be able to build the modified kit without too much trouble and without creating a process and procedural nightmare. After all, we are exhibit builders.