Dave Veale interviews Geoff Flood, President of T4G as published in the Telegraph Journal, Thursday November 10th, 2011 (Photo: Noel Chenier/Telegraph-Journal)
“We do think, naively or not, that we can change the world” This is the quote above Geoff Flood’s bio on his company’s website. It is actually his statement and, I quickly learned, acts as a window on the attitude Geoff brings to his role as the visionary leader and president of T4G Ltd.
T4G designs, develops, and implements technology solutions that help its customers run their businesses better. Its philosophy is based on The Intelligent Application of Technology?, which uses a project-based approach to solve business problems and deliver measurable value to a long list of clients such as Sears, Bell and L.L. Bean.
According to Geoff, T4G has located its offices where smart people want to live and, as a proud Maritimer, he sees the concentration of employees in Atlantic Canada as a platform for supporting his company’s success.
Geoff Flood, president of T4G, says if the company had an organizational chart, he’s be at the bottom of an inverted pyramid.
I began our conversation by asking Geoff about T4G’s connection to this region.
A: We are about 275 people and we are national. We have offices in Vancouver, Halifax, Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John and we just opened an office last year in Saco, Maine. The head office is in Toronto where we started. But the concentration of employees is now in Atlantic Canada with a good number here in Saint John – around 80. We’ve been here for 10 years. We actually fork-lifted a part of the business from Toronto to Saint John about 10 years ago and it’s been a huge success.
Q: Can you tell me more about fork-lifting the business to Saint John?
A: The team in Saint John is the content team and they do content work for large retail. Sears Canada is our biggest customer right now. We just started work with Sears Roebuck, located in Chicago, but we do the work here. The work is a great fit for the workforce that was available in Saint John. I can safely say that the productivity is higher, the turnover is lower and these – along with many other factors – make it a smart move to be here.
Q: How would you characterize your leadership style?
A: That is a good question. We use a servant leadership model here. In a typical business there is a hierarchy and if there was one in this business it would be an inverted pyramid and I’d be at the bottom. The people on the front lines need to know that the servant leaders report to them. So decision making in a flat organization happens a lot differently than it does in a hierarchical one.
Q: So T4G has a flat structure?
A: Very flat. It’s a roles based organizational design, there has never been an org chart in the company. And there won’t be an org chart until I’m gone.
Q: How is your company organized within this flat structure?
A: T4G is essentially a portfolio of what we call the business units. A business unit looks like 15-25 people led by a person or a core group of people who write the book of their area of expertise, who have the leadership ability, the entrepreneurial ability, the ambition and the drive to build a business doing what they love to do.
Q: How do you support and nurture the success of each business unit?
A: T4G provides the platform, takes care of the overhead while providing the context and the culture and those things. People are free and clear to go and do what they do best. We need to be a low-cost producer from the point of view of eliminating bureaucracy and all that nonsense that gets in the way. It is cost, just pure cost, and we don’t want anything to do with it.
Q: What are some of the most important components of success in your business model?
A: We don’t talk about it in a holistic way very often, but you have to have a number of conditions that need to be operating all the time. Think of it like this – if there were three legs on the stool to represent how things operate, one of them is, we run our business on a set of values and principals. Second, we run the business by the numbers. And the third leg, people in the business “report to their commitments.” Those three things need to be in place.
Q: Tell me more about the importance you place on company values.
A: Most companies have value statements and they pay lip service to them – it’s simply a marketing statement. We believe that, like everyone else’s values, it’s not only morally and ethically the right way to run a business, but it is also a very efficient way to run a business. We also believe the only true test of anything you do is success in the marketplace.
Q: What do you mean when you say people in your business ‘report to their commitments’?
A: Every employee has a role description published online detailing how their role contributes to the achievement of the strategic objectives of the company. It’s a very carefully constructed statement and it’s a statement in the form of “I am going to do this so that this result occurs.” It is a commitment to achieve the result. This is public, so we say you report to no one else but your commitment.
Q: It sounds like creativity is critical T4G’s success, how to create an environment that nurtures this?
A: In our business, often a dumb idea is the kernel of genius, spurring creativity and innovation. And if someone was too shy or was somehow prevented from putting their ideas out there because they thought it was dumb, we’d lose it. You need to let the idea killers know that we are going to hear what everyone has to say.
Q: How would you finish the following sentence “A leader’s job is to …”
A: A leader’s job is to provide conditions where people can perform and excel. Employee fulfillment is most important in our platform. We tell everyone – you come first. The company is important, we are important, the success of the company is important to all of us, but you need to be happy.
Q: What advice would you have for business leaders who want to endure?
A: Well, I think you’ve got to get the fundamentals right. You have to have unquestioned integrity in everything you do.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com.