Dave Plekkenpol, KR Wolfe
Building Community by Living Your Values and Taking Care of Your Teams
Director of Internal Operations
90% of our staff is remote. The technicians travel around the country doing our installs. When I was an installer, I was on the road 300 to 320 days a year. And so we were looking for a solution to be able to stay in communication with everybody.
Get to know Dave
How did you get started in communication?
Well, I am currently the director of internal operations for KR Wolfe. I actually started with the company 13 years ago. We were just a teeny company of about seven people back then. And we’re pushing close to 60 people now. I started off as an installer after I found the job on Craigslist. The company was basically nonexistent online at that time. You couldn’t find a website, you couldn’t find anything. You didn’t know if it was a scam or not! But it ended up working out. I’ve worked my way through the company since then, and now I handle all the internal operations.
You have used multiple mobile apps and channels. And you’re currently seeing great success launching your EMPLOYEEapp. What are your change management best practices for introducing a new tool?
Be open-minded. Change is inevitable. There’s only one constant in life and that’s change. So, you’ve got to be open-minded when going through change.
And having great support. Paddy (from theEMPLOYEEapp team) was so instrumental in making the transition seamless and painless. The documentation he provided, the support over meetings and phone calls—it’s priceless, absolutely priceless. And if you’ve got great support, these transitions are not difficult at all.
What tools and tricks do you have for other IC pros who want to create amazing digital content on a budget?
I handle all of our marketing across Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, as well as the stuff that we put out onto theEMPLOYEEapp. And there are some great open source apps out there. I use Inkscape and Gimp. Gimp is the open source version of Adobe Photoshop, and Inkscape is the open source version of Adobe illustrator. There are also awesome free graphics sites out there. I use Unsplash and Pexel, but there are countless others where you can pull down any kind of pertinent graphics.
And these are really the only costs that we have, and that cost is mostly for graphics we use on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We pay only about $29 a month to each one of those other platforms. Great content doesn’t have to be out of reach. And I’ve got no background in any of this. I just got thrown into it!
One thing your team does an amazing job at is living your values. What’s the secret—how are you doing that and why does it matter?
Our core values are not just platitudes and posters that go up on the wall. Our core values are inextricably bound in the DNA of the founders of the company and the people. It isn’t something that we just went to a book and pulled out and said, ‘oh, that looks cool.’ Right? We sat down in meetings and really thought about what was important to us. What do we believe in? What do we really live and die and breathe by naturally on a day to day basis?
And we came up with an acronym called QUEST. Q stands for quality. We are definitely quality focused. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. The U stands for understanding and caring. And that is an understanding and caring for one another, for the overall mission of the company, for our clients. E stands for exceptional service. Then the S stands for spirit, and spirit itself as an acronym standing for spreading positivity, initiating relationships, and inspiring teamwork. And all the acronyms come from basically our owner, Rachel. She was a University of Miami cheerleader. And so everything is built around cheers! And then the T is trust and integrity. Most of our employees are remote. We have to trust them to show up to the job, do the job correctly, submit all their paperwork, and so on—because there’s no immediate oversight. And if people aren’t on the bus with those values, if that’s not part of who they are when they’re hired, they’re not going to last.
So, communicating your values has to be intentional. We use theEMPLOYEEapp for various announcements, like highlighting recent projects, new customers, work anniversaries, birthdays, special events, etc. And then guys in the field post pictures of their boats, their grandkids and children, and all that kind of stuff. We really want people to share on a personal level, rather than just on a company level. So without ever meeting each other, we can get to know one another. And we have weekly team calls with all of our different divisions, and each week we focus on a core value. And that’s actually something I’m going to build into our app as well. If you’re not constantly reinforcing those things, they get pushed to the wayside and they become nothing but a platitude.
I worked for a really big fortune 500 company in the years prior to coming to KR Wolfe, and they had values. Absolutely. You couldn’t look anywhere in the facility without seeing it on a poster or a slogan somewhere. But did they live them? Absolutely not.
What advice do you have for other internal communications professionals?
Communicate. Just do it. And don’t worry about things being polished. Worry about communicating. What’s the point you’re trying to make and make it.
What we’re doing is we’re trying to build community. Right? We’re not trying to build a policy manual, we’re building community and you have to approach your comms as if you were at the bar, having beers with some folks or at a coffee shop and just sharing your life with somebody, you know? That’s really what it comes down to. If it’s not shared from the heart, nobody’s going to care.
Just don’t be afraid to jump in. You’ll learn, you’ll make mistakes. It’s part of it. When you make mistakes, poke fun at yourself and work through it.