The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

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By Craig Ruppert, CEO

When I look out at the crowd at MDD, I am awed by the amount of talent we have in the room and humbled that each of you have chosen Ruppert to build your careers. I am also reminded of just how much has changed in the almost 50 years since the company’s inception. As many of you know, it started out with just my brother Chris and I mowing yards in our neighborhood. Now, we have over 1600 employees in 25 branches. I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished together, and I know that with your help, the future is even more bright.

The more I think about how much has changed over the past half-century, the more I realize that the reason were able to get to where we are today is because our values—our commitment to growing our people and serving our customers and our community—have remained the same. Likewise, our people and our customers’ expectations haven’t changed, and we owe it to them to meet and exceed those expectations every day. The fundamentals of leadership and customer service are as true today as they were 50 years ago, but I think we all need a bit of a reminder every once in a while. These are just a few of the things I try to remind myself of as I look at our goals for 2020 and beyond:

What our People Deserve and Expect

  • “It starts with Us” – Just as our MDD theme implies, real leadership starts with self-leadership. Our people count on us to be predictable, and thereby dependable. By managing our own professional and personal lives well, we are setting an example for our teammates.
    • Time: Although there never seems to be enough of it, the reality is that we control how our time is spent. Learn to prioritize and be intentional in how you spend this valuable resource as you work to ensure that you have a good work/life balance.
    • Dollars: Take charge of your financial freedom by managing your budget, saving as much as you can, and avoiding or managing debt. My father-in-law once told me, “keep your wants simple” which I interpreted to mean that life is easier if you are both personally and financially conservative.
    • Health: This one might not seem work-related, but you can’t be at peak performance if you aren’t in good physical health. Get plenty of sleep and exercise and be intentional with what you put in your body.
  • Build your team carefully – The goal is to hire less and retain more. We know that what we do is hard work, and not everyone is cut out for it. If we find the right people, with the right attitude and willingness to work hard, then there’s a good chance they will stick around for the long haul.
    • Always be looking for people: Employees we’ve gotten through referrals generally have a higher rate of long-term success. There is no one better than an existing employee to be able to communicate the company’s culture and know if someone in their sphere of influence will be a good fit.
    • Start off right: The hiring manager needs to be the one performing the interview. Be sure interviews are thorough and check references. Once hired, be sure to set aside time to properly onboard and instill the Ruppert values in new team members. The first two days on the job are an essential part of making a good impression.
    • Train and Grow: Share knowledge, communicate often and give people the opportunity to take on more. Providing a clear path and good feedback along the way helps ensure long-term success. If you want to move up, you have to have someone ready to take your place.
  • Balance High Expectations with High Appreciation – We expect a lot from our people, but those expectations only get fulfilled if they feel appreciated and supported in accomplishing their goals. The easiest way to do this is with a simple “thank you.” It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s something you can start doing today.

What our Customers Deserve and Expect

  • High Quality – Quality can be seen in the details. It’s not cutting corners or hastily finishing something that requires precision. Allocate time for detail work so that it’s not an afterthought.
  • Customer Service – This encompasses everything that the customer sees and hears, which goes into building their overall impression of our company.
    • Image: We hold ourselves to high standards with our clean trucks, uniforms, etc. because it plays a big role in forming people’s opinion of our company. Our image should reflect the quality of our work.
    • Communication: Be proactive, upfront and honest. Take the time to meet face-to-face when possible.
    • Meeting Commitments: It’s a simple thing that makes a lasting impression and builds trust. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and if you make them, do everything in your power to keep them. If you can’t, be upfront and take immediate action to rectify it.
  • Good Price – Often, no matter how good our customer service is, this is the customer’s top priority. So before we can even focus on customer service, we need to ensure we’re offering the most competitive pricing available.
    • Do your research: A good rule of thumb is to get three prices on anything we buy so we can be confident we’re getting the best deal.
    • Know your job hours: In order to meet or beat that goal you must first understand what you’re working towards.
    • Look for ways to be more efficient: Every chance we get to save hours and cut costs is an opportunity to pass those savings on to our customers, which keeps us competitive and profitable.

Through my interactions with our customers and with so many of you throughout the year, I am blessed to see first-hand how our company values are being taken to heart and put into action. I’m proud of where we are as an organization and I appreciate the dedication, hard work and focus on continuous improvement that has gotten us here. By remaining true to our values and looking for opportunities where we can fine-tune our approach, I’m confident that we’ll continue to grow into our future as a result of our roots being firmly planted in our past.