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A Conversation with Ron Alvesteffer, CEO of SEI



ABOUT SEI:

Since 1986, Service Express (SEI) has been delivering on-site data center maintenance for mission critical servers. Through its strong leadership and vision, the company has been recognized as one of the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the nation and is also on the Inc 5000 List as one of the fastest growing private companies in America. SEI proudly maintains a 98% Customer Retention Rate by exceeding customer expectations with exceptional service.

Learn more at: seiservice.com
Ron Alvesteffer has a proven track record of achieving outstanding business results, by making the success of his team members his highest priority. How does he do it? Read on...

What do you feel are the key elements of a strong team?

In my experience, the best teams communicate clearly, debate fearlessly, and inspire one another to be better. They recognize one another's strengths, commit to the same non-negotiable cultural values, and make sure that everyone's voice is heard. They operate under the idea that "none of us are as strong as all of us."

Employee Achievement is your number-one strategic objective at SEI. When and how did it become evident to you that your business success is so closely tied to the satisfaction and success of your employees?

We realized early on that SEI's success is tied to the success of our employees. SEI's Vision to "work with our employees to help them achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals" was born from that ideal. We know that our employees are our greatest competitive advantage. If we take care of our employees, then they'll take care of both our customers and our company.

What programs do you have in place at SEI that help strengthen your teams?

We have several programs in place that strengthen teams at SEI and each one begins with communication. We believe that if it's important, then it's on the calendar. Based on that belief, our teams schedule weekly team huddles that serve as opportunities for our leaders to communicate company news and give individual team members the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification. We also believe in the importance of recognizing individuals. Every employee has read Strengths Finder 2.0 and they've taken the assessment. Everyone's top strengths are posted on the intranet and are displayed at their desks so that coworkers and teammates know how to utilize one another best.

What programs do you have in place at SEI that help strengthen your teams?

We have several programs in place that strengthen teams at SEI and each one begins with communication. We believe that if it's important, then it's on the calendar. Based on that belief, our teams schedule weekly team huddles that serve as opportunities for our leaders to communicate company news and give individual team members the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification. We also believe in the importance of recognizing individuals. Every employee has read Strengths Finder 2.0 and they've taken the assessment. Everyone's top strengths are posted on the intranet and are displayed at their desks so that coworkers and teammates know how to utilize one another best.

In what ways does your investment in individual team members build successful teams?

At Service Express, we recognize that every individual is different. People have different strengths, different goals, and they like to be recognized differently. Because both our culture and our teams are only as strong as the individuals who form them, we take time to ensure that our leaders invest in individuals by identifying their primary strengths, working with them on their goals, and by recognizing their accomplishments in a way that they appreciate.

What has been the most rewarding part of growing your team?

For me, the most rewarding part of growing the SEI team has been to watch as individuals and teams accomplish their Vision Goals and to see the tremendous impact that it has on them, their families, our customers, and our company.

How do you celebrate your team's successes?

We celebrate successes differently because people like to be recognized differently. Every team leader has an employee engagement budget to use as they see fit to recognize and reward. Some prefer to recognize team members individually and others may take their teams on an outing. We also have an internal social network where individuals often provide "kudos" to their teammates for a job well done. We've learned that there isn't a one-size-fits-all way to celebrate success.

What challenges have you faced in your efforts to cultivate great teams at SEI?

As SEI has grown, we've expanded our geographical footprint. Our biggest challenge has been to maintain "The SEI Way" of doing business across all of our offices. We succeed because we hire the right people who share the same non-negotiable values and who guard our culture despite distance. We have leadership training every quarter to ensure that SEI's culture and values are strong and consistent throughout the entire organization.

What roles do managers play in maintaining a positive culture and instilling it in their teams?

I've seen many different definitions for the word culture, but my definition is simply this: culture is what happens when the President is away. Culture must be articulated from the top, but is lived out in the day-to-day interactions of an organization. Leaders don't just talk about culture, they live it and they are intentional about building their teams with others who share those non-negotiable values.

How do you continue to keep your team building initiatives fresh and ensure that your programs maintain momentum?


Ensuring that our positive, people-focused culture is sustainable begins by hiring people who are a good fit for SEI and then guarding the culture that attracted them to SEI in the first place. We provide regular leadership training for our leadership team to ensure that they're meeting with their teams to go over Vision Goals, Quarterly 5/15s, ROIs and Scorecards (for more, visit ronalvesteffer.com/theseiway). We also listen to our teams and learn about what inspires and motivates them.

What is the best team you've been on and what was it that made it so great?

Service Express! I learned early on the effectiveness of surrounding myself with the right people and then investing in them. The SEI team is great because it's a team of highly talented individuals who bring very different perspectives to the table, but who share the same non-negotiable cultural values.

What advice do you have for business leaders who want to effect positive change in their work places and work culture?

My advice for business leaders who want to effect positive change in the work place is to enlist the right people who share your values and mission. High-talent individuals who believe that "good enough never is." People whose egos are for others and not themselves. If you don't have the right people in the right seats supporting you, you'll burn out before any real change can be realized.




Ron's Thoughts to Ponder #1

WE SUCCEED BECAUSE WE HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE WHO SHARE THE SAME NON-NEGOTIABLE VALUES AND WHO GUARD OUR CULTURE.



Ron's Thoughts to Ponder #2

CULTURE IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE PRESIDENT IS AWAY. CULTURE MUST BE ARTICULATED FROM THE TOP, BUT IS LIVED OUT IN THE DAY-TO-DAY INTERACTIONS OF AN ORGANIZATION.



Ron's Thoughts to Ponder #3

MY ADVICE FOR BUSINESS LEADERS WHO WANT TO EFFECT POSITIVE CHANGE IS TO ENLIST THE RIGHT PEOPLE. PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THAT GOOD ENOUGH NEVER IS. PEOPLE WHOSE EGOS ARE FOR OTHERS AND NOT THEMSELVES.


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