Final word with Bryan Croft

Happy staff = successful company.


All the research – and all of my experience – shows that happy employees make for more productive employees which in turn results in a more successful company. Not rocket science and just common sense you might say. Perhaps, but it’s not always easy to know where and how to start. 

I am very passionate about the culture of the company I work for and about the people in it, and I firmly believe everybody who runs a business should feel that way. Two years ago, I put together a spreadsheet with all our employees’ names, their spouses’ and their children’s names and I set out to memorise them. I determined that Holmes Custom – the company I lead – is responsible for the livelihood and well-being of all its employees and their families, so I should know every single one of them. At the time, we had 189 staff. Today, that number is more than double, so it’s a lot to take on. 

Taking the office away from the office

Often, enjoying your work becomes a lot easier when you spend a bit of time outside of work with the people you see on a daily basis. As such, we are always mindful to provide opportunities for team-building events. Bowling nights, a trip to a Jumbo Shrimp game in Jacksonville, our annual Memorial Day picnic and Olympics – team-bonding at its best. We also get involved in the local (and wider) community and try to give back with beach clean-up days, Red Cross blood drives, McKenzie’s Run and Haiti 180. 

In 2017, for example, I travelled with two other employees to Haiti for the sixth year in a row to deliver supplies to schools and people in need. The experience for us as a team is one that we will never forget. We also bring back a healthy perspective on life when sharing our adventures with the rest of the team upon our return. Quit complaining that the vending machine is out of Red Bull is what I’m saying – some people don’t have clean water to drink! 

During the December holiday period, we push for gross revenues of $1 million or more in a month, and we reward our employees at various sales levels because it’s hard work to make that figure happen. At various thresholds, staff earn prizes – starting with smaller ones like doughnuts in the breakroom, all the way up to $100 bills and free time-off days. 

We even brand this month internally to get everyone on board and rallying behind the cause. Last year we called it ‘The Holmes Stretch’, the year before it was ‘The Million-Dollar Month’. In 2017, we are calling it ‘The Holmie Hustle’ (cue Van McCoy’s 1975 song The Hustle). The team even created a video featuring employees answering “What does the word hustle mean to you?” to build excitement. 

Rewarding employees is not always done with prizes or money, however, and I think that’s important because otherwise you are on a slippery as well as expensive slope. Praise and public recognition for a job well done can be just as – even more – impactful and greatly improves company culture. In 2014, we started a Ninja award system whereby employees can give other staff a Ninja for a particular action that pertains to one of our core values. 

The Ninjas are handed out on certificates and many staff display them proudly on their wall. At our monthly ‘All Hands’ meeting, our HR manager highlights some of the most notable Ninjas in any particular department or area. It causes a ripple effect that is exciting to see as a CEO. People step up, they want to become better and they want to be recognised. Once that type of culture and attitude is in place, it becomes engrained and it drives a company forward. 

Culturally, we are a diverse company. We have employees at Holmes Custom who have been with us for over 40 years and they work right next to the recent college graduate –  always an interesting learning experience both up and down the generations.

Praise and recognition

Being the CEO of a company is not just about developing the business plan and monitoring the finances, but investing time in the people who will ultimately contribute to those decisions anyway. I make a point of knowing everyone’s name, taking new employees to lunch, appreciating each and every one of the people who work in my company. When employees are truly valued, they are happy and a positive company culture naturally builds, with or without the bowling, the picnics and the financial incentives. 

Bryan Croft is President/CEO of Holmes Custom. Holmes Custom was founded in 1954. It makes customised and personalised signage and stamping products in Jacksonville, US.