What Makes an International Torch Award Winner?

What Makes an International Torch Award Winner?

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Jeremy Smith, President of California Pools, talks about what makes his company worthy of a Better Business Bureau International Torch Award.

By Sheila Adkins

As part of our quest to recognize excellence and award business leadership, each year Council of Better Business Bureaus awards its Torch Awards. In 2015, four outstanding companies received the Better Business Bureau (BBB) International Torch Award for Ethics — presented to businesses in recognition of best practices in leadership, character and organizational ethics. All four honorees were recipients of their local BBB Torch Award for Ethics.

Here, we caught up with Jeremy Smith, President of California Pools, to talk about his company’s code of ethics and what this award means to his team.

Adkins:
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about running a business?

Smith:
To look at your business through your customer’s eyes and see what is important to them. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day of business. If the business is successful it becomes even harder with the increasing workload and desire to deliver your product. Business is not just about products and services. It is a big responsibility to care for the trust that was given to you by a client. What is important to them should be the most important to you. Very rarely is the same thing important from one client to the next. So taking the time to find out what is most important to each and every client is crucial to the success of the business.

In my opinion, the key to success is very simple; do what you say you are going to do. While this may be a simple approach for some, in our industry it separates us from our competition by miles. If you can then find a way to deliver more than that, I have found you take a satisfied customer and make them an active cheerleader for your company. That little extra is not actually a product but rather creating a special experience for the client. The things we can give in business that costs no more to produce are our passion, excitement and gratitude.

Adkins:
What’s your top advice for creating a culture of ethics and trust in a business?

Smith:
First surround yourself with like-minded people. You are only as strong as your team. The success of a business depends on how well the visionary communicates his passion and drive to his team. During our interview process, I explain to our potential new team member that our company philosophy is not for everyone. We are looking for people who care and are committed to the customer. We then create a system where they are supported and empowered to make decisions to best service our clients. It’s important to explain because with these tools also comes great responsibility. We are not looking for the average 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. employees. We want people to be excited and passionate about their opportunities at work. That’s not a part time prospect.

We have created a number of types of rewards to share with employees. If you talk and demonstrate what is important to you it will become important to your team. For example: Online reviews are very important to our company. For every positive review with an employee named personally, [that employee] receives a gift card. Building relationships with our customers is the top company goal and if an employee is mentioned in a customer review then clearly a relationship has been formed and maintained.

Adkins:
Could you define your organization’s values and why these are so significant to your organization?

Smith:
We had a vision of delivering a high-quality product with a personal experience. To do this, our business philosophy is to grow business organically, as much as possible, through customer referrals. Thrilled customers will go out and spread the word about your company. To do this, you need to have a team that believes in the mission and each other. We have created a work place where our team feels that their efforts are appreciated and rewarded. Our business of tomorrow depends on the success of today. Realizing this is the key to our future success and growth.

Adkins:
If you asked your employees for three words to describe your company, what do you think those words would be? And why?

Smith:
We surveyed our 150 employees and these were the top choices: Family, Passion and Integrity. We are a family that is passionate about what we do on a daily basis and have integrity while doing it!

Adkins:
What are the biggest challenges facing organizations in your industry today?

Smith:
Finding good quality team members and trade partners that are dedicated to delivering the high level of service that our customers expect and deserve.

Adkins:
What’s the one thing you would like to share with potential business owners?

Smith:
Love what you do. That means you care for it, you desire for its good health, you take personal responsibility for its success/failures, and you have the strength to make the tough decisions that will better the business.

You don’t have to love every aspect, but passion is needed. Set a noble goal, more than just “doing it for the money.”

Adkins:
BBB is all about making business better. In your opinion, what does a better business look like?

Smith:
If you can’t conduct your business as if you are doing business with your family then you are not a better business. We treat each project like we are building it in our home or a family member’s home. Basically we go by the principle of the Golden Rule [One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself]. It is a simple approach but very effective.

Adkins:
What does the future hold or look like for your organization?

Smith:
The future looks bright for our company. We are continually exploring new ways to interact and build relationships with our clients through technology. The only limit to future success we see are the ones we put on ourselves. By always evaluating and looking to improve our product, how it’s delivered, and the relationship with the customer the sky really is the limit!

Adkins:
What do you value most about BBB Accreditation?

Smith:
It’s an honor unlike any we have ever experienced in business. We have been lucky to be recognized on a local and national scale for our product and services. Never before have we had the opportunity to be recognized for the way we approach business. It’s special and inspires us to more action with our team members, clients, trade partners and community.

Adkins:
Your organization has just won an International Torch Award. What does that mean to you and your employees?

Smith:
It’s an amazing award for our entire team. Every single employee and team member won this award. It’s through their daily efforts for the past 27 years that this was possible. We have taken a moment to celebrate and congratulate one another’s efforts. In turn, we have already spoken about the responsibilities this award comes with. With the honor we have raised the expectation bar even higher. We owe it to BBB and the community to demonstrate the meaning of this award in all of our actions.

Sheila Adkins is responsible for managing Council of Better Business Bureaus conferences and events that serve to promote BBB’s vision and mission and building greater engagement and involvement among business communities. She has over 25 years of association and nonprofit experience in event management, community outreach, media relations and internal and external communications.

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